INSIDE review: A disturbing yet compelling platformer

Michaela Nadine Pacis
INSIDE review: A disturbing yet compelling platformer
Inside is a terrifying, suspenseful, and compelling game that will suck you in its world in its first few minutes

Inside (stylized as INSIDE)
Platforms: Xbox One, PC (reviewed)
Price: $19.99

INSIDE is not exactly for the faint of heart. The 2D puzzle-platformer from Playdead is quite similar to Limbo, another Playdead game. But it’s not exactly just a creepy game with a more detailed art style.

It’s a terrifying, suspenseful, and compelling game that will suck you in its world in its first few minutes and will keep you playing until the very end.

No handholding here

It starts out simple. After a quick loading screen INSIDE immediately takes you to the main game without even teaching you its rules of engagement or showing you a menu.

A faceless boy slides down from a hill, panting. Immediately, you get to move the kid with the usual keys. It doesn’t show you any instructions and you’re forced to go with your instincts from the get go.

The atmosphere is dark and there’s a nagging feeling of danger as you begin your quest in a forest. You get acquainted with the mechanics through each challenge the game presents you. The boy leads you to forests, fields, warehouses, subways and more, and none of which is particularly safer than the other.

There are places where all you need to do is run as fast as you can and avoid obstacles. There are others where you have to use different objects such as boxes, cages, and chains in specific ways in order to get out. There are also other disturbing methods to escape like using animals to do your bidding.

As you face these challenges, you quickly realize that this game is an excellent source of nightmare fuel.

No dialogue either

It’s difficult to put into words how terrifying and nerve-wracking this game is without giving away some severe spoilers.

INSIDE pulls you in despite its lack of dialogue or any basic explanation of the boy’s story or what has happened to the world he exists in.

After your initial experience in the forest, it all goes downhill where sanity is concerned. There are many twists and turns along the way that you will hardly even realize you’ve already invested a few hours and are nearing the end of the game.

It tells its narrative through the puzzles you encounter. The details in its challenges and its mechanics reveal how twisted things are in the boy’s world. These bits and pieces may either be in the form of unique tools you can use in the puzzles, the backdrop of your challenges, or even the way you enter or escape a level.

Sometimes these are in your face, and will not need any sort of deciphering to figure out. Other times, these are smaller hints that can also be used to form your own version of INSIDE’s story.

These revelations can range from jaw-dropping moments of witnessing the darkest side of governing humans to eyebrow-raising scenes of meeting an odd mythical creature. These will keep you curious and interested as you play through the game.

Filled with suspense

The game keeps you engaged through its challenging and nail-biting puzzles.

INSIDE’s obstacles will keep you tense all throughout. Several times I had to stand up from my chair out of impulse because of the many close calls that I’ve gone through. These close calls will not depend on your skill level. The puzzles are built to keep things as tight and tense as possible.

None of the puzzles feel repetitive, nor do they feel ridiculously easy or impossibly difficult to understand.

Some of the challenges are deadly for the boy and failing them might cause you to squirm in your seat.

INSIDE seems to have only a few boundaries when it comes to pushing and hurting the boy you are helping.

Though the animations of the game are simple, and despite the fact that the visuals are minimal compared to other, more violent games, there is something about INSIDE’s execution of those “Try Again” moments that are just spine chilling.

Could it be because the victim is a scared boy if you fail?

A game that will keep you guessing and thinking

From the start to the finish INSIDE will lead you to ask many questions about the boy, the world, and the entire story.

There is depth in terms of the narrative of the game and it will probably take two playthroughs for you to piece it all together. And even after you break the clues down, you will still be left with some questions to mull over.

While it is set in a dystopian world with slightly unbelievable concepts, some of its concepts can be treated as metaphors for situations in the real world. Freedom and control are definitely underlying themes that exist within the game but there are more compelling ideas that exist that will urge you to reflect.

Overall INSIDE is a brilliant and moving game that plays with your curiosity and sympathy. It’s also unique in a sense that not a lot of games can successfully pull off INSIDE’s way of leading you in your quest. You rarely see a game that successfully combines simple controls with creative, non-repetitive challenges and compelling storytelling.

Despite the dark themes, I highly recommend that you pick up the game on Steam or on Xbox One, and share it with your friends so you can all mull over this masterpiece’s story. –

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