IntroductionInside is a 2D/2.5D parallax-side-scrolling game, found on a dark story about a young boy as his ill fate reaches depths only seen by few. Developer Playdead brings to you an adventure that borders philosophical greatness and artistic ingenuity, providing arguably the best story in recent video games. Around every corner is a puzzle or death-defying encounter that will keep you on the edge of your seat and maybe even jumping with panic. You can buy the game on the PlayStation Store, Xbox Marketplace, and Steam for $19.99.
StoryIt's important to note first, nothing regarding the story is explained for you. There is no voice narration, written narration, voice acting, or any other methods of explanations regarding the plot aside from the pure visual greatness it offers. It's designed to play out a story that can be easily understood with its beautiful gameplay and looks, but the deeper meaning within the game is completely left up to you to interpret. Some people may think it's about freedom, or life, and others, maybe, leadership.
The game begins as the faceless and nameless protagonist boy slides out of a small cave into the woods. Scared, lost, and feeling helpless, he knows the only way to survive is to keep moving. A short distance away will display military-like guards, equipped with guns, flashlights, and trained canines, escorting a truck full of people and patrolling the area. Creeping past, switching cover to cover in stealth, you make it as far as you can. The intensity quickly skyrockets as they give chase through the woods to find you. Upon narrowly escaping the barrage of bullets and vicious dogs (if you can), you'll enter a farm area with masses of slaughtered animals.
Progressing further will lead to even more chaotic and heart-pounding events to unfold ultimately pushing you into a facility of some kind. From here the only direction to go is down, so delve into darkness and find the purpose of your adventure. It's a beautiful story that flows effortlessly from one scene to the next, never breaking immersion or distracting you from working out in your head what you believe is the meaning to it all.
GameplayIf you have ever played Limbo, also made by Playdead, you'll already be somewhat familiar with the overall feel and concept of Inside. Throughout the game, you'll encounter platform puzzles that will gradually grow in difficulty, but not necessarily complexity. And that's a great thing. Only one time in the game did I feel I was putting a little more time into a puzzle than it probably should have taken, and that was when I had to collect enough brainless rubber-band-like guys (At the beginning, you will have to wear a glowing helmet to control the brainless people's actions, but in time, they will follow you naturally and react to what you need rather than be controlled by you) to weigh down a pressure plate. But not due to complexity, but just the running around rescuing them from their respected cages took more time than other puzzles.
Sometimes you're tested on your timing to get from point A to point B to avoid being killed by dogs or swimming creatures, sometimes you're tested piecing together the right objects to reach new places such as pressurized boxes that boost into the air, and occasionally it's somewhere in-between both concepts. The boost to self-esteem you get when you finally figure out which specific actions are required to move on (or how to get past the sonic booms that will make the protagonist explode if not in cover) will be such an exciting feeling. The game changes things up every puzzle, so you slowly gain knowledge from completing previous ones and use them to your advantage whenever a new one blockades your immediate progression.
There're three controls in total for the game. You move the kid with the left analog stick from side to side, the "X" button to jump, and the "Square" button to grab/pull/press different objects (for Xbox One players, jump will be the "A" button, and the grab button will be the "X" button). I've heard there was a fourth button for "pause" which would then bring up the main menu but never experimented with it as my playthrough was in one sitting; and there was no chance I was going to put my controller down until the end.
The design of interacting with objects is beautifully implemented into the game. You can either jump onto the objects or simply run past them as if they were not in your way. Additionally, you can grab them from any side, or move them in any direction you wish with the utmost of ease. This adds dimension to the overall look and feel of the game. The physics, another major contributor to the immersion of the gameplay, is incredibly smooth and realistic. Objects and characters fall, move, react, and interact with everything else within the game just as you would expect from top-tier development.
The deep darkness of the game comes out the most during times of death. There is a variety of ways the boy protagonist can be killed (or other characters in the game), and although sometimes comical when you see it occur repeatedly during a difficult puzzle, it is sometimes graphic. Some of the deaths you'll experience (even though you will experience them all your first playthrough) will come from being shot or strangled by the guards, being mauled by one of the vicious dogs if you make one mistake, being pierced and dragged by machine harpoons, sonic booms obliterating you into pieces, and falling down from great heights. The scariest encounter, in my opinion, is a toss up between the dogs and something malicious residing in the waters (you'll know what I'm talking about when you play it).
Sound and GraphicsThe environments you will progress through, enemy characters, and the main protagonist boy have all been created with a gorgeous quality of sound and design involved. Environments carry with them the eerie tones of death and loneliness. The game is not flooded with music like you'd typically find in other games, instead you'll find very attentive audio regarding sound effects, such as the boy panting for air while running, the sound of pure aggression as dogs bark and chase you, and an array of environmental sounds that increase the dread of impending deaths. There is no true voice acting in the game, but for a good reason. The game provides a beautiful template for the story to pop and make sense.
Although built as a side-scrolling adventure, you'll find a great amount of depth when looking and moving around the incredibly well-layered environments. The camera works to highlight points of interests outside of the main movement line when needed, and enemies will use the depth of the environments to chase you. There is a lot of detail in every area you progress through, and often times you'll forget it's a side scrolling game because of this. All characters lack faces in the game and are simply a blank head with hair and sometimes hats. This works to illustrate mystery and curiosity throughout your adventure as well as keep a consistent dread for enemies throughout the game. Looking into the smallest details regarding graphics, you'll find beautiful work dealing with the rain drops (especially when hitting a lake surface), dust particles in a lit area, and the blood gushing deaths you'll succumb to occasionally.
ConclusionInside provides a truly special gaming experience. The story is captivating from beginning to the end and never lets up at any point in-between. The graphics have an incredible amount of detail no matter which area you are going through, and the layering of environments makes everything feel like a truly living world. The controls are among the most simple controls you can find in a game, but through the diverse gameplay, they are always used to test your thinking in new ways and puzzles.
This is one of the best experiences I have had in a long time, and I cannot praise the game highly enough for the philosophy behind the story, which in my opinion is what sets games apart from each other. A single playthrough will last about 5 or 6 hours, and replay value is dependent on the player. The ending will either be frustrating to some, or amazing to others, but regardless of how much you choose to look into the true meaning of the games story when you finish, it will be a rewarding experience to have played at least one time in your life.
|+ Amazing story with deep meanings|
|+ Gorgeous visuals and immersive environments|
|+ Flawless gameplay (no bugs in my playthrough)|
|+ Puzzles are subtle, challenging, and fun|
|+ Simple controls|
GAME SCORE: 9.5/10