Upfront; I am a big fan of Playdead Games and their previous and debut game 'Limbo.' So I wasn’t heading to 'Inside' without a little bias. Even with that in mind I’m confident that anyone will take something away from their experience with 'Inside.'
The game has been out for a while on Xbox Live but without an Xbox, I have been patiently waiting, so as soon as I saw it was available on iOS I handed over my entry fee without hesitation – even before I was done with the free preview.
'Inside' is an incredibly polished game, one that is clearly a work of love from the developers. Despite its simple framework of a 2D (some may say 2.5D) side-scrolling platformer, it is packed with depth and detail that belie its wonderfully subdued & bleak art style. As in it’s predecessor it’s full of physics based puzzles that balance perfect levels of mystery and logic. Not once was I forced to step away in anger or frustration, and often I experienced moments of orchestrated epiphany.
'Inside's' plot is glorious in its apparent absence. The game only hints at a thread of narrative that the player must weave and sew up with their own imagination and preconceptions. But it is all the better for it. I have always admired and adored narratives that leave holes to be plugged by their audience, and ‘Inside’ is massively sympathetic to this.
The lack of a traditional narrator is somewhat fulfilled by the games art style. Dominated by greys and accentuated by reds 'Inside's' visuals aren’t encouraging a mood of optimism. Despite its cool surface, if you take a moment to admire the games beauty, and you will, especially in moments that celebrate its excellent use of light, you notice exquisite detail in the environments and models. Maybe not in the traditional sense, in fact the style is a kind of low-poly watercolour texture, but in the way that each scene features background players in the form of period computer monitors, forests of electrical wires and cavernous industrial spaces. Again, while there isn’t a narrator or definitive plot, the clues are there to be read if you care to look.
All this ambient story telling is accented by the excellent adaptive animation. Characters react to influences from the player and their environment in an organic but weighty way that helps anchor the bleak setting that surrounds the protagonist and his place within them.
I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to encourage people to play ‘Inside.’ My only caveat would be that if you are running an iPhone 6s (the oldest supported device) then make sure you’re by too far from a charge point. I played through with a 6s and although I didn’t experience any performance issues, my phone became very warm and drained through a charge very quickly.
Even though I managed to play through ‘Inside’ in only a couple of days, each and every moment of that play through felt incredibly crafted. I will be playing through again and I can not wait to see what Playdead is working on next.
Words — Jack Sadler
Pictures — Playdead Games