INSIDE [Review]: And Now I’m On The…
Do you remember the game, Braid? It’s an old by today’s standards, 2D platformer that kinda sparked the term “indie darling”. It had innovative puzzles and a really good story. It got great reviews, tons of GOTY nominations (maybe won a few? Don’t feel like checking), and made it onto its fair share of “Year’s Best” lists.
I’m well aware that Braid was far from the first big indie title, but it’s the one that sparked this movement of annoying “I only only play indie games/am sick of big AAA titles” players.. In their defense, a lot of their points are valid. Many big franchises and titles feel rehashed, as if they barely come up with new concepts. But good godwhohatesgeeks do they often sound like sanctimonious little twits — epecially now that the market is flooded with indie games, and one can say the same about the thing they love so much.
Seriously. So many indie game reviews will have the same keyphrases: distinct art style, clever puzzles, platformer. Yet these genre tropes are also what make it all the more impressive when a platformer with a distinctive art style and clever puzzles deserves actual praise and shines through.
Enter Inside (unintentional pun), the latest from Playdead, who also brought us the fantastic Limbo.
When the aforementioned Braid kept popping up on reviewers’ Top 10 lists, I confess I rolled my eyes–until I played it. It didn’t turn me into an “indie guy”, but it made me more receptive. So when Inside released just a few days ago on the Xbox One, I remember thinking: A) Oh! It’s that E3 game from the Limbo guys! Already?!, B) Wait a second *while reading reviews*.. 10, 10, 9.5, 9.5, 5/5, 10, and C) Wait, 20 bucks? Well this is happening *clicks on “Buy Now”*.
I’ll try to talk about the game without spoiling anything. Funny, because it’s a hard game to spoil minus two or three key moments (this might sound boring, but I promise it’s not!).
Story: First off, there’s zero dialog. Ever. And no dialog to read either, at any point. But the story is.. mysterious. Enthralling, dark, bleak.. and–just when you get a bit of hope–how it ends up can be either bittersweet, depressing, or the punchline to a long, dark joke depending on how you see it. It’s incredibly open to interpretation.
Characters: There are only two characters to talk about in this game: A) The Kid. You’re a kid that just wants to find some freedom, or screw the ones that were holding him captive. It’s hard to tell, but it’s hard to not root for the kid that has adults after him with orders to shoot on sight. Oh, and said adults also seem to enslave people by turning them into brain dead zombies.. or something. B) The World/Environment: Playdead showed us with Limbo how good they are at making an environment as important as the main character. With Inside, they show us that they’ve mastered said art. The world has this almost constant sense of “calm before the storm”; an eerieness and unsettling vibe that can best be described as a near-constant state of tension as you try to evade and later infiltrate the corporation — or government? — that wronged you. I also like that it’s hard to make out what happened in the world (i.e. a huge tsunami-type event).
Gameplay: You get two buttons, jump and interact. That’s it. The rest is, well.. a platformer with clever puzzles (yay for self-aware recalls), though not as hard as the ones found in Limbo. And I can’t finish this review without first relaying a few tips. First, get your timing right. Audio cues are very important in one part in particular; and overall, visual cues are vital, so be observant, epecially in the underwater levels. Messing with the brightness setting can certainly help, in addition to stacking up on some patience when dealing with the “water enemy”.
Wrapping up.. if you love action games, are not a fan of indie games, and hate when games are short (this is about 4-hours), stay away. If you want something that feels truly unique, like indie games, platformers, puzzles, and want a story that is interesting and will keep you thinking about it long after you’re done playing, get it. You won’t be disappointed. Besides, it’s 20 bucks. We both know you’ve spent that or more on movies you regret watching.