In 2010, players were graced with the unforgettable Indie game Limbo, which left a lasting impression and shone a light on the Indie gaming scene. Six years later, Playdead has returned with their sophomore project, improving on everything that made us love their work with Limbo. Inside is everything I wanted from this spiritual successor—and more.
Although the 3 to 4 hour playthrough is rather brief, it is filled with dozens of wondrous moments and always kept me questioning the plot. If you have not played through Inside, you can’t have any idea what it is truly about. With constant plot twists, the absence of a backstory, and several events and themes that force the player to use their imagination, Inside allows for an incredibly ambiguous yet satisfying adventure.
Ambiance is the key to Inside. Some moments are beautiful, some are depressing, and some are downright terrifying. There is no tutorial or dialogue, only an eerie OST that will haunt you in your dreams. Together, these elements set the dark tone for Inside’s lonely world. It is refreshing to play a game that respects my intelligence. Not once did Inside ever tell me what to do, what to press, or even where to go. Playdead respects their players and trusts them to complete the game without holding their hand. Inside’s setting and threats are actually pretty terrifying. Even though you play as a young child, you are not safe from vicious dog attacks, appendage removal, and electrocution. This dark and depressing world will make you feel alone, but that is just a part of the charm of Inside’s beautiful narrative and frightening ambiance.
Mechanically, Inside is incredibly sound. Whether you are platforming through dangerous environments or making use of your surroundings to complete a puzzle, advancing through the world always feels exciting and unique. Progressing through this world will require you to overcome several diverse puzzles, but thankfully they do not feel out of place. Almost all of Inside’s puzzles are impressively integrated with the narrative, giving players legitimate incentive to progress through each situation and figure out how to overcome every obstacle and puzzle. While the controls are incredibly simple, only giving the players the option to interact (X) and jump (A), the puzzle variety is diverse and constantly changing. This allows for unpredictable and fresh gameplay throughout the whole campaign.
When it comes to aesthetic, Inside surpassed the already high hopes I had going into my playthrough. While it may have taken Playdead six years to complete this project, it is clear that this time was well spent creating a world with immense detail and a beautiful art direction. Limbo had a fantastic art style and made great use of their monochromatic color scheme, but Inside has easily improved on that previous style with an improved color range and the integration of 2.5D visuals. Although the world is dark and depressing, there are elegantly placed splashes of color and carefully created environments that give subtle hints to the lore of your surroundings. The environments are filled with plenty of detail that gives Inside supreme polish, creating one of the most impressive worlds in any indie game.
With such a compelling and threatening world, it is only fair that Inside possesses somewhat of a challenge. While it may not be hard as its predecessor, it still does provide players with several puzzles that require a decent amount of thought and trial and error. You will find yourself drowning, getting eaten, and being mutilated countless times throughout your playthrough, but this challenge makes overcoming each puzzle even more satisfying.
Inside is one of those games you simply just have to play. Don’t watch a full “let’s play”, avoid their wiki, and stay away from any spoilers. It may be short and leave little room for replayability, but it is a haunting experience that takes a wonderfully interesting approach on storytelling. Inside is something that should be experienced by all gamers. Playdead has somehow created an even better product than the one that made them famous, and I cannot wait to see what they create next. Hopefully, we won’t have to wait for over half a decade until we see their next project.