Inside is the newest monochromatic game in developer Playdead’s catalogue. Released originally in 2016, the game was renowned to be the best independent game of the year in many different gaming industry circles and award shows. The leading awards were independent game of the year, best art direction, and best camera in a game engine. All of these awards rang correct and true in 2016, but what about the port to the Nintendo Switch that releases on June 28, 2018?
The protagonist, an unnamed young boy. The setting, a dark, surreal, and dangerous landscape filled with mauling dogs, maniacal scientists, body-exploding sound waves, and water-breathing sirens. The 2.5D adventure begins with the protagonist trudging through the darkness, falling down hills and slogging through shallow pools of fetid water. The setting only increases in tension as the game progresses. Destroyed buildings, decaying forests, and massively intimidating factories are all in store for our brave young boy.
The art direction and graphics are simply beautiful, reminding me of the classic Batman: The Animated Series title cards displayed before episodes begin. Dark grays and blacks permeate every inch of Inside, but it is still easy to see what is happening on screen. The atmosphere is palpable, with danger lurking around every corner and taking new and interesting shapes every several minutes. The lack of background music only adds to the wonder and surreal aesthetic, while sound effects for actions and the occasional cue punctuate the mood.
Along with the ever shifting dangers of this macabre world, the gameplay mechanics change and adapt in stride. While the types of puzzles and challenges the young boy faces can be attributed to two basic concepts of timing and simple physics, the way they are delivered varies. For instance, early in the game it is practiced to push and pull objects in order to reach higher or farther vantages. Later, it is expounded upon with additional methods of solving puzzles like pushing a hanging log to the right position, setting off a propelled block, jumping to hit a button to activate something else, while making it back to the objective before the cycles end. The change in gameplay mechanics and ways to lose your life keep the game fresh and it never feels like you’re just doing the same thing over and over.
My favorite part of the game takes place in an area that requires 19 people to stand on a pressure plate to unlock a gate. This is accomplished by using the mind control helmets scattered about the world to manipulate the brain dead people that stand around like lifeless androids. Utilizing their help, the young boy can accomplish tasks he couldn’t before such as pulling or pushing heavier objects, getting a jump boost by being propelled by his mind-controlled crowd, or land safely from a fall that would have normally killed him by landing in their arms.
While Inside is now almost two years old, the port to the Switch is nothing but spectacular. While playing through the game in the couple of hours it provides, the game ran smoothly. There were no hiccups or glitches or bugs of any sort. There is a big advantage to playing the title on the big screen with the Switch in the dock, however. I felt the image and art was better represented on the television rather than the Switch screen itself. This doesn’t take away from the fact that the natively running hardware isn’t pretty to look at, it definitely is, but there is a noticeable difference when comparing the two options.
While the game is short, the journey is worth it. The art is breathtaking and the gameplay is fun and unique, with some puzzles and enemy encounters that might make you think for a minute before a successful solution or escape. There are several hidden glowing orbs in hard to reach places that can trigger the alternate ending if all are found in a single playthrough. This is a welcome addition, but the immediate replay value is still pretty low for Inside. That being said, this title is a great revisit every couple of years for the art and presentation alone. Once the adventure has been experienced, you’ll be thinking about it constantly, which is enough to warrant a purchase, especially if you have never experienced Playdead’s fantastic title.
Life long video game player with diverse tastes in genre. Tactical RPGs, JRPGs, FPS, and Survival Horror are favorites, though. Follow me on Twitter @vebystry and let’s talk games!