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Inside (PC) Review

 
inside header logo image
inside header logo image
inside header logo image

 
At a Glance...
 

Formats: Xbox One & PC
 
Genre: ,
 
Year:
 
Publisher:
 
Developer:
 
Final Score
10
10/ 10


User Rating
1 total rating

 

We liked?


  • Exceptional game design
  • Engrossing narrative
  • Visually spectacular and cohesive vision
  • Well executed and immersive audio/soundtrack
  • Beautifully realised game world

Not so much?


  • Odd moments of instant death than can feel cheap


Final Fiendish Findings?

The world of Inside hasn’t been created for you to explore. The world of Inside has always been there, seamlessly existing alongside our own. It’s a totalitarian vision of a world of our own creation driven by the uniquely human struggle between freedom and control. It’s these subtleties that elevate this beyond a game.

0
Posted July 9, 2016 by

 
Full Fiendish Findings...
 
 
I

need to confess this up front – I loved Limbo! I still dip in and out of the game even today, owning a copy on five separate platforms. An absolute high point of the last generation, Limbo brought Playdead’s unique sense of style and immersion to life.

So, six years later, we have Inside. A title that, for such a high profile indie studio, appeared pretty much out of the blue at the Microsoft E3 conference this year having only been hinted at in scant screens and muted announcements previously. So what have Playdead managed to produce after six years… I mean after that amount of time you’d expect a masterpiece or a patched together trainwreck, right?

INSIDE_05

This review of Inside is going to be frustrating for both you as the reader and me as the recounter of my time with the game. Why? Well this is due to the fact that I really don’t want to tell you anything at all about Inside. I want you to experience it first hand, as intended. I know that sounds cheesy and a little hyperbolic, but this time it’s essential. Many games arrive for review with embargo notices and notes from the developers. Inside arrived with a plea “Please don’t talk about the puzzles or the story” – and that is telling in and of itself.

So, in broad strokes, Inside has you control a boy, much like in Limbo. This child is older I’d hazard than the character in Limbo and, due to no longer working in shadows, feels more relatable and real. In fact the entire world of Inside feels impressively and repressively real throughout. Every scene in the games four to five hour play time looks to have had hundreds of hours poured over how it looks, moves and sounds. Whereas Limbo was more flat looking, almost like a shadow theatre, Inside’s world composition is a deep and multilayered construction that just drips with style and real-world looks.

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The game has a very strong aesthetic. It uses greys and white tones to great success whilst injecting colours when suitable to do so. Stop still and the scene on the screen in front of you could easily be an artist’s rendering or movie still. In fact it’s so much more than that – a great example without giving anything away is to just stop as you’re guiding a character through the water. Just stop and watch the bubbles and small particles of water move around as your light catches them – it’s just such a pure visual experience I couldn’t help but be impressed. Having just played through Ratchet & Clank (2016), Uncharted 4 and Doom (2016), all three technical visual marvels of this generation to date, I have to say that Inside is the best looking game I’ve ever seen. A cohesive vision that invokes the visual look and tone of titles like Eric Chahi’s Another World (Out of this World in some regions) or a sequence from the music video for Pink Floyd’s The Wall pt2.

So the game, without specifics, has you essentially moving from left to right. Whereas Limbo was heavy on exploration in the first half and heavy on time-sink puzzles in the last half Inside has been exceptionally designed to even out progression. The game will see you exploring whilst making your way through mostly simple logic puzzle – move crate, jump on grate, swing through door etc. The game does have its share of minor head scratchers but these are usually easily overcome with logical thought and a few minutes of checking your environment.

INSIDE_02

 

What really makes Inside a step above even Limbo to control is how the game teaches you to play it. I say that but it never really “shows or teaches” you anything it just organically pushes you towards solutions and mechanics so subtly that you’ll not even realise. This is a sign of a seriously well thought out game design. Speaking of the game design there are some truly stunning moments throughout the game. Some exceptional ideas that have you rethinking how you approach and play a game. I can’t say what, or how, but you’ll audibly go “wow” at multiple points in the game just from the design alone.

As well as a massive achievement in design and visuals, Inside also manages to use its minimal soundtrack and incredible foley work to enhance the experience more. I wish I could tell you why and how… oh how I really wish I could explain how a thudding sound made me just cringe with it’s real world accuracy.

It’s an amazing accomplishment that a game can be both beautiful, gentle, nurturing, brutal, sadistic and bloody all at the same time. Having recently squashed faces and torn out vital organs in Doom I have to say some of the sections of Inside were far more harrowing and graphic in nature. It earns the 18 rating assigned to it.

INSIDE_01

Final Thoughts

So I’ve blathered on about everything and nothing. I’ve told you this is possibly one of the best looking and designed games to come along – certainly in recent times. It makes Limbo look like Playdead were knocking out a prototype.

Inside does have some issues. I wasn’t a massive fan of the ending (maybe because it actually ended!) which almost felt rushed or not fully fleshed out. It may also have been that the ending didn’t fit in with how I saw the game resolving. This is more about my acceptance of events than a true criticism of execution.

Some may also complain about the short play time of under 5 hours (I finished in 4:45 with about 60% of the discoverables). I qualify that these are likely to be the most impressive 5 hours you’ve ever spent with a game of this type and cost to minutes played is never a good comparison to solely base your decisions on.

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I’ve re-written my conclusion several times. I’ve changed my score many more times than that.
People get hung up on scores. If it’s full marks people get bent out of shape – “Oh this game got a 10/10 but it has some issues, how does that work?!”. Truth is that Inside isn’t perfect. It could tighten a few things here and there. It could be amended. Yet what Playdead have given us here is a masterstroke of design, of art, of sound and of storytelling.

The world of Inside hasn’t been created for you to explore. The world of Inside has always been there, seamlessly existing alongside our own. It’s a totalitarian vision of a world of our own creation driven by the uniquely human struggle between freedom and control. It’s these subtleties that elevate this beyond a game.

A contention has always been “Are games art?”. I’ve mulled it over many times throughout my (so many!) years of playing games. The obvious answer has always been “of course they are”. I have no qualms in saying that Inside is an incredible piece of art. Inside is a moving masterpiece of animation and sound that, thankfully, is also an exceptionally designed video game.

The product under review was provided by the creator, manufacturer, publisher or their PR representative free of charge and without caveat. Please see our site review policy for more information.

Family Fiends Findings?

  • Rated 18
  • Sombre overtones and repressive atmosphere
  • Visceral deaths and life threatening real-world situations  

Zeth

 
Zeth is our EU ninja and Editor in Chief. He's been writing about video games since 2008 when he started on BrutalGamer. He's pretty old and has been a gamer since he played Space Invaders as a young boy in the 80's. His genre tastes lean towards platformers, point-and-click adventure, action-adventure and shooters but he'll turn his hand to anything.