For all intensive purposes, Inside was a game that Play Dead had to have brass balls to make. Not only are they making an extremely avant garde piece of media, they’re also making it purposely confusing and obfuscating the ending as well as they possibly good. I’m going to tell you this right now, if you hate films like Inception that have a deliberately ambiguous ending and deliberately confuse you as an artistic choice, this is NOT the game for you. This review will be absolutely spoiler free as well, so have no fear on that front.
Inside is a puzzle (and occasionally platforming) game that forces you to consider the world around you to find the solution. The soul successor to Limbo, a well received puzzle game of the same depth, Inside seeks to forge a new identity. It attempts to step out of its predecessor’s shadow on many occasions, however, thematically it can feel extremely samey. Don’t get me wrong, the deliberate lack of plot makes this feel like you’re playing a painting. Art style aside, we’re thrown into a world that makes no sense, following a young boy that we know nothing about.
If you’re good at context clues, you can pick up on whats going on pretty fast. If you’re a generally clueless individual who is looking for answers to be handed to you, this game is going to frustrate you to no end. There are no instructions. There are no tutorials. There is no explanation of what is going on, you are left to your own devices to figure it out. I love this idea. I love well designed puzzles that can be quickly solved with a bit of thought. I like that it forces people to overthink, and fail the puzzles due to that. In my experience, the simplest solution is often the correct one.
To speak about the art design requires it’s own topic line. The art is absolutely stunning. The gray overtones matched with the bleak world make you truly feel like you’re in a dystopian future without ever labeling it as such. What Inside does so well is set an ambiance, and make you ask “Why? Who? What? Where? When?” and then deliberately not answer any of these questions. It’s an extremely elegant, artistic piece that required a lot of thought and courage to put out to market. They understood that while many higher brow-ed tastes would be piqued at the idea of a game that is (for all intensive purposes) up it’s own ass…many would not be pleased. Both ideas are okay. I think that if you like the avant garde style of film and media, this game will definitely resonate with you.
Available for $19.99 on Steam and various other platforms right now, I think Play Dead has made a charming, artistic puzzle game that has limited replay-ability, but a lot to learn. It’s interesting to see how the puzzles play out, but once you’ve completed the game once, there’s not much content to return to. There is an alternate/secret ending, but it’s a bit of a dud. Ultimately, I recommend picking this game up if you’re the pretentious type interested in a game that’s a bit pretentious, or if you’re looking for something interesting to keep your eyes glued for an afternoon in.
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