‘Beauty on the Inside’
What’s there to say about Inside? Maybe I could go on profusely about how much polish and attention to detail developer Playdead put into their six years of development? Or better yet, I could talk about the experience that haunted me-figurtively and literally-after playing this game. Inside is more than just an “indie” game, its thought-provoking and powerful if open-minded.
Inside is the spiritual successor to Playdeads 2010 hit Limbo. The reason Inside feels like a spiritual successor to Limbo is due to there being two similarities; a lonely boy and puzzle-platforming. Don’t let this fool you, Inside improves upon what made Limbo great, in fact, it may even surpass it. Inside tells the story of a boy making his way through a seemingly oppressed society that is vary reminiscent of different media such as Pink Floyd’s: The Wall and Schindler’s List. Along the way he becomes drawn to a mysterious project.
Playdeads ability to evoke emotion is quite interesting; mostly because Inside has no dialogue. Instead, all the emotion and storytelling is done through the environment. From the beginning up until the very end Inside goes through a vast array of different environments. Even though there are different sections that make up Inside not all of them tell a concrete story. That’s why Inside is so fascinating; the world at which is presented is not fully explained, leaving the player to figure out what is happening.
Within the first ten to thirty minutes of playing I went through many emotions; a sense of emptiness and fear is what usually stood out. This is largely due to the presentation. Unlike Limbo, Inside has color added to its environments-though it’s not The Sound of Music colorful-it still fits appropriately with the aesthetic the game is going for. The use of black, grey and dark blue in the environment made me feel vulnerable like the boy, and added a sense of tension and dread that felt inescapable.
This inescapable tension becomes even more unnerving with the score. Martin Stig Andersen’s droning music provides an atmospheric experience that only builds the more the game progresses. During my playthrough, I found one moment in particular that married sound with gameplay making for an awe-inspiring moment that stayed with me.
Now, back to talking about color; one of the stand-out uses of color is red-which happens to be the boys shirt. This clever design choice draws the player’s eye toward the center of the screen making the boy easier to find amongst the bleak surroundings. The same design choice is used to highlight points of interest; because Inside is an atmospheric game dealing with numerous environmental puzzles, these points of interest are used just enough as a waypoint to move the player onto the next objective. That’s not to say the puzzles found throughout Inside are hard to figure out, in retrospect, the many puzzles of Inside are significantly easier to complete compared to Limbo. While Limbo’s palate is largely black making it difficult to figure out puzzle solutions; Inside is visually easier to understand making puzzle solving more rewarding.
Simply put, Inside is one of the best games this year; and a must play. Inside may not have as many challenging puzzles as its predecessor, but that is easily overshadowed by everything else. Inside is a smart example of a game firing on all cylinders, and Playdeads dedication to development over the last couple of years clearly shows. Combining atmospheric environments, a thought-provoking story and a haunting score; Inside is truly a work of beauty.
*originally written on July 11, 2016