From the developer that created Limbo, a powerful exploration of depression and loneliness built in a heavily stylized black and white side-scrolling puzzle game, Playdead now brings us their highly anticipated follow-up, Inside. Inside bears quite a few similarities to Limbo: a dark atmosphere, a vague plot, same general gameplay style, a lone and lost main character, and plenty of strange moments that stick in your memory long after you’re done. At the start of Inside, your character begins in an open field, and before too long, the game brings about obstacles and challenges to introduce you to the gameplay, like the best side-scrollers of the past have done. A tree in the way? Jump over it. A long gap and chain? Swing across. A high obstacle with a crate next to it? Move the object and make stairs. You’re on your own in this game. Not just in the sense of your character in the plot, but also in the sense that there isn’t any handholding. In a world with overwhelmingly long and tedious tutorials, that approach is a breath of fresh air.
The biggest standout with Inside is its style and the way in which it ties into the strange and vague plot. The game is visually (and nearly in every way) a step beyond its predecessor, Limbo. The lines and depth are smoother, there is a touch more color, the lighting and shadows are haunting, the change of camera distance is smooth and artistic and the character designs are more intricate, even in their purposeful exclusions. Your character has no facial features. Instead, the distinguishing characteristic is a red shirt, which draws your attention when the screen contains more characters. It is enough to create a connection. Playdead has a knack for making game that grasp its players’ interest and intrigue. Before you know it, you get sucked into the world of Inside. You care for the character, who is surrounded by so many dangers, and hope for their survival. With every new area comes an odd addition to the mystery world’s history and culture, pulling at your curiosity as to what the hell is actually going on here, to the point where even after completing the game, you’ll want to restart in hopes of filling in the missing pieces.
Inside’s soundtrack, composed by Martin Stig Andersen and Søs Gunver Ryberg, is minimalism at its finest: quiet in moments where our minds need space to process what is going on and more active in moments of time constraints and heightened stress. In all honesty, you probably shouldn’t be playing any other music when playing this game (unless it’s your second or tenth playthrough). So, instead of creating a playlist to play the game to, this is playlist to listen to after completing the game. Not quite a palette cleanser, but more along the lines of a reflection playlist to help you absorb everything that just happened by creating a similar emotional space.
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