In order to prepare for Playdead‘s newest release Inside, my wife and I played through their previous release, Limbo. The stark comparison was really great because I got to see how much the studio has grown between the two. Mechanically they are very similar but the amount of pure polish on Inside sets it far, far ahead in my book. Before I go much further, this review will not be spoiler free so go play Inside and come back. It’s only about 4 hours and here’s a spoiler for this review: it’s completely worth every second.
The narrative is what will draw people to this game and for good reason. The puzzles themselves really aren’t that complex in my opinion and I only had to sit and think about a few of them and then the solution came rather quickly. They are fun and require you to think outside of the box most of the time. The best part about them is that some make you tense up like nothing else. The design often uses incredibly close calls to make you feel like you’re watching a horror movie or riding a rollercoaster. Since you are able to get through the challenges pretty fast, the pace of the game keeps you moving. It’s honestly satisfying because you are just driving yourself toward the end to figure out what the heck is going on in this game.
The visuals provide a great sense of depth and that goes a long way compared to Limbo. You will often notice things going on way off in the back ground or little splashes of color in the incredibly gray and bleak world they create. The scale is just staggering at some points, it’s easy to realize that you truly are just a child moving through an adults world. Another visual element that is shocking in this game are the deaths. If you thought Limbo was bad, wait until a dog gets a hold of you or you accidentally step into a bright light. Like stepping into the pit at your first hardcore show, it’s freaking brutal. Prepare yourself.
Okay, now let’s get to the incredibly intriguing narrative that Inside tells as you venture from the woods into the depths of an incredibly messed up factory. You really don’t know anything except what the game wants to tell you and they don’t explain a ton, leaving the ending up to interpretation. You don’t even know what your character’s motivation is, only that there are some adults who DO NOT want you to accomplish the end goal. Starting off, your character heads from the woods towards a factory and solves various puzzles along the way. Once inside (heh) you figure out that there are mind control helmets that allow you to control what seem to be zombified workers. You also find extremely scary, long haired, water girls that want to drown you. They all seem to be part of experiments going on in the factory and at one point you even join a line of zombies that must perform tasks to pass a test.
The whole time you don’t know why or what it truly going on and honestly it isn’t ever revealed. Eventually, after a brief submarine adventure, you receive the ability to control zombies without the helmets and the ability to breathe underwater. As you continue through, you eventually make it to a giant blob of people that is being observed by scientists and it sucks you into its grossness. Now able to free itself with your help, the person blob rampages through the factory, which is particularly satisfying after having to avoid all conflict as the child. The blob makes it outside after taking a few casualties and rests in the sun as the credits roll. If you’re like me, you’re wondering, “What the crap was that?” The popular theory is that the blob was controlling you the player, the whole time in order to obtain it’s own freedom. The end.
If you come to Playdead for a perfectly laid out story, then you’ll be disappointed. However, if you like some mystery and a beautifully stylized game, you’ll be very happy, like myself. The puzzles weren’t frustrating but remained interesting, the visuals and feel were satisfying, and the narrative was intriguing. Although the story was incredibly strange and there a lot of questions unanswered, the overarching story felt complete. What more could you want? Not a lot. I give Inside a 5 out of 5 zombie friends throwing me into the air.