Platforms: Xbox One, Windows 10
Reviewed On: Xbox One
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Release Date: 29 June 2016 / 7 July 2016 – Windows 10
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Indie games have come a long way in recent years, so much so that they kind of outshine the triple-A releases to some degree. Playdead, the studio behind the critically acclaimed Limbo, has been hard at work on INSIDE, its latest creation. We loved INSIDE from start to finish.
INSIDE follows a story of a young boy who is on a mission to get into some freak mind-control factory. By the looks of things, human civilization is over, and a corporation has taken humans, or developed humans, for work purposes. Certain humans walk around like normal, while some wear masks, and some are zombie-like objects that you can control with a special contraption you put on your head.
As you venture as the little boy further into the depths of the game, you go from jumping on the rooftops, to swimming in what seems to be a sunken factory. Nothing can really describe the game’s biggest asset, which is its personality. INSIDE has one of the best art directions we have ever experienced in a video game. Every trickle of rain down a gutter has been perfected, and every cloud of dust that kicks up when you land on the a factory floor, has been created with insane detail.
Like Limbo, you have very little skills in the game. You can jump and climb up ropes, ledges, and ladders, and you can grab and pull things around. So when it comes to the puzzles, this is what you have to work with. The puzzles are never too complicated, and often you will solve them pretty fast. Puzzles range from stopping a barrier to help you proceed through a dangerous sound wave, or using air power boxes to reach a ledge. All this is done in the gorgeous dead environments with no help from anyone but yourself. Saying that, there comes a few times where you can use the aid of the zombie-like humans around the area. Putting on a strange helmet, will grant you control of these creatures, and you can use them to walk around and push and pull things for you.
As much as we enjoyed every puzzle, we could not help but feel that the game is as empty as its setting, with only a handful of puzzles throughout the 4-hour story. The rest of the time, you are walking through the world, or escaping dogs, or strange mermaid creature who eat you alive. These parts are represented in a chase scene, where you have to get to the other side, or cleverly distract the dogs or mermaid swimming towards you. Even these chases are masterfully crafted to the exact moment of escaping with your life. This is where INSIDE gets its thrills from as you are always on the edge of your seat just hoping for safe passage through one of these intense chases. There are other moments in the game were you are avoiding a spotlight rather than a flesh eating human-like fish. But these are far and few between.
The biggest strength in the game is also its biggest weakness, and that is its story. We cannot help but feel that its mysterious tone and story, is playing it safe. Too many games are leaving stories up to self-interpretation, and INSIDE is one of them. Many moments and locations in the game, do not gel well at all, which makes it feel like a mismatch in the development process, rather than an actual “Journey 2012” moment. At times we felt that INSIDE was trying a little too hard to be like its predecessor, especially given that you have 4 hours to try to figure out what is going on.
INSIDE is definitely something completely new. You cannot fault it on its spectacular use of sound design, or setting. It’s a heart wrenching story about a boy on a journey to do something that is not portrayed correctly, and that we can forgive. Hopefully his real reasons come to light soon, as we are dying to know what in the world is going on in the INSIDE.