Six years after the release of Limbo, developers Playdead return but will Inside stay in the shadows or bask in the limelight.
From the first minute you’ll spend with Inside two things are immediately evident, Limbo and it’s success has played a big part in the creation and Inside is bigger, better and even more impressive than Limbo in just about every way.
Controlling a small boy wandering through a thick forest, things immediately feel familiar, timed jumps and puzzle like progression entwined in a deep and engrossing atmosphere memories of Limbo come thick and fast but Inside feels bigger and better in every area.
From every individual animation, the way the camera pan’s out smoothly to lead up to a conclusive moment, and the perfect balance between audio and visual which helps to direct you discreetly without the need for any sign-posts, text-boxes or hand-holding, controls are beautifully simple, meaning everything is easy to handle and deaths are down to the challenge and not a users incompetence.
Using the now old-fashioned system of trial and error, you’ll find your way soon enough but in the meantime you will die, and some of those deaths are impressively portrayed, many feature their own animations and each feels fresh, unlike some of the more challenging titles (which even include Limbo to an extent) you’re unlikely to be seeing the same death dozens of times, because of the well balanced nature and progression.
Dying is often more guidance than punishment, showing you what went wrong and hinting how to make things right. Race into the open and end up face-down in the dirt and you’ll naturally be a little more cautious next time around, and likewise if you hang around too long, maybe trying to move a little quicker is the way forward.
There’s a wealth of puzzles from simple timing, platforming or tactical movement and for each style of puzzle neither feel over used, moving from outdoors, indoors, under-water and coming across animals, creatures and zombie-like humans there’s plenty to take in as you interpret your own background to what’s in front of you.
Graphically things look good, very good. Sure there’s not the AAA facial detail, but this is far more atmospheric than most games you could think of, and it’s all portrayed in a very realistic backdrop behind a somewhat surreal foreground.
Unlike the silhouettes of Limbo, Inside gives the nameless boy a red sweater which often stands out discreetly among the dull greys, and blue’s that often sit behind.
Writing this review one word that continually comes into my mind is ‘balance’ from the animations, the level of detail, puzzles, platforming, deaths, checkpoints and the audio-visual mix, time and time again the only description that comes to mind is perfectly balanced.
With 6 years since Limbo it feels like a long wait, but Inside makes you wander why developers release a game every year or more when Inside launches in such a beautiful state.
In this day and age it’s rare a game doesn’t receive a patch in the first month, but Inside is the one game that wouldn’t surprise me if it never required an update.
Often both the visual and audible clues help you progress, the bark of a dog, the grunt of a pig or the hum of a nearby vehicle, mixed with the flash of torch or headlights will each help in some way, as explained before you’ll still die, because it’s not always obvious what the game is trying to tell you until it’s lead to your demise at least once.
This certainly isn’t a negative issue, you’ll look back time and time again, knowing step-by-step what you had to do to progress through an area, and equally it will be perfectly clear how previous deaths have helped you reach this point.
Thankfully there’s never much repetition, a range of challenges each quite different to the next. While certain areas are revisited nothing seems like it’s been overdone which always leaves you wondering where the game will head next.
Through the forest and into a strange military style complex, it feels like the story isn’t quite sure of it’s direction either, but piece by piece the jigsaw comes together and after little over 3 hours, things mostly make sense but like Limbo before it, Inside still leaves plenty to your own imagination and interpretation.
Three hours certainly isn’t an impressive lifespan of the game and this alone prevents a perfect 10, however it’s worth noting that the perfected balance throughout the game will leave little doubt in your mind when considering a second playthrough.
Everything within the game feel so perfectly suited, from the graphical setting to eerie sounds, the platforming leaps to the failure induced deaths, there’s more than enough to keep you hooked through the duration of the story and possibly most of a second play-through.
The end is unexpected and to an extent unfathomable, but most of all it perfectly concludes an unforgettable experience.