Released For: PC (Windows) , Xbox One
Reviewing: PC (Windows)
DRM Versions Available
Released On: July 7th, 2016
MSRP: $19.99 Steam Link
Copy Provided By Game Developer And/Or Publisher
In the dark and morbid world of Inside, you play as a boy hunted and alone traveling in an increasingly gloomy world.
On the gameplay side of things, Inside could best be described as a dark, narrative driven 2D game with platforming and lite puzzle elements in a dystopian world. You play as a young man in a red sweater wandering around in a dark and somber world. The main part of the game is it’s unspoken narrative. To that end, it’s story is told visually rather than in narration. It doesn’t explain its rhetoric, rather it gives the player all the visuals they need in order to theorize or guess at what’s happened or happening. It’s narrative is heavily implied through its visuals, and Inside excels at providing the player with a visually gorgeous and murky world to wander through.
As for it’s puzzle and platforming elements, the puzzles have a nice ramp in difficulty while the platforming is kept to a base for the gameplay itself. It’s nothing challenging, and is mostly use as a base to understand puzzles while integrating itself into the more complex puzzles seamlessly. A few select puzzles have that ‘how was I supposed to know that’ feeling, but it’s kept to only a few fairly long puzzles that require more time to study. You’ll also on occasion meet certain enemies, but simply trying to describe them may ruin the initial experience, so we’ll simply leave their description in terms of them being interesting and indicating to the world they’re in.
There’s also the reactionary world to briefly mention. The world is physics based, but that doesn’t properly describe what we mean. The world itself reacts to what the player does in a really immersive feeling and (to some degree) things that genuinely surprised us. The amount of just raw detail in the reactions and the movement is astounding. In one area for example, we jumped off a certain section thanks to the aid of certain entities [trying to remain spoiler-free here]. What surprised us was that when they were in a pile and we jumped back, that not only caught us, but each one slowly lowered us to the ground. It’s that kind of minor and in some ways meaningless detail that combined with the game, mean more than they could in any other game. It’s that kind of reactionary and somber world that truly brings the game to a level above it’s previous attempt at an innocent creature in a dark world.
Visually, Inside is both beautiful and disturbingly opaque. The game has a constant gloomy, dim overcast hanging overhead it’s visual cues and somber imagery. It’s skies are often hazy, it’s lighting is often dark and murky, all the while overhanging it’s dark and visually disturbing scenes. Inside does a rare thing, in which it manages to keep a cohesive and beautifully dark visual style throughout the entire game from the first moment that you put your hands on the keyboard or your hands on the controller. There’s a sense of atmosphere and a sense of depth to Inside that many 2D games simply can’t manage. It’s beauty is even more defined by it’s muted, murky colors, while the character is in a deep-red vest, adding to the character standing out from the background. It’s visually appealing in it’s somber tone, and is visual eye candy if pseudo dystopian or science fiction like imagery is appealing to you.
There’s also a lot of visual cues to the game that tell it’s story. As the story plays out, you learn more about the red-sweatered hero and the world surrounding him. Nothing is told in an explicit manner. Without a spoken narrative, it’ll ultimately be up to the player to piece together and wander around in the dystopian setting and try to understand the story, and it’s way of telling you visually the story of what’s going on leaves the player, not the character to have a reaction to the events unfolding.
The audio is simplistic. Without anything other than an ambient overtone, Inside leaves only some minor sound effects to accompany the player. While it would have been nice to have some kind of musical accompaniment, the lack of music leaves many scenes far more somber than they might have been had there have been music playing trying to artificially play at the heart strings.
The controls are well done. With an extremely simple keyboard and controller layout, it plays just as it should without any controller hindrance.
As for settings, they’re barebones. You have an option for resolution, audio, and that’s about it. The controller commands aren’t rebindable from our testing with our Xbox One and Xbox 360 controllers, but the keyboard layout is fully rebindable. There’s also no option for FPS, but the game ran at a constant 60fps even during recording and more ‘visually intense’ segments regardless.
In the end, Inside is ultimately a road trip story of a young man going through an increasingly more dystopian and more horrific world filled with dark and foreboding imagery. It’s narrative is dark, it’s world detailed, and it’s puzzles simple but interesting. While short at four or five hours in length, it’s a game that begs to be played and is clearly an indie darling. Maybe it tries too hard to be dark in some segments and maybe it tries to implement puzzles just a little too often, but they’re minor complaints in an otherwise highly enjoyable and disturbingly gorgeous game that we’ll throw our full recommendation on.
[EDIT] We were unaware at the time that the game had Denuvo. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have reviewed the game or would have at least made that public on the review. 9/30/2017
- Story / Narrative
- Character and overall level design
- Excellent atmosphere
- Well designed audio ambiance
- Some may be turned off by the MSRP
- The game tries to implement puzzle or puzzle like segments just a little too often