First announced at E3 in 2014, Inside is an arcade adventure meets platform puzzler from the makers of Limbo. There are many similarities between the two games in terms of aesthetics: Inside features the same kind of beautifully backlit 2.5D scrolling vistas that gave Limbo its distinct look, and also echoes some of its mechanics and design elements.
It's a game about escape – or rather, evading capture. Early on, the unnamed, unarmed young protagonist finds himself wandering through a forest at night, avoiding the attentions of what seem like guards by running and hiding in the shadows. What eventually becomes clear is that something horrible is going on, and that some kind of mind control experiments are being conducted on people. There are no cut scenes telling you this, or indeed any dialog, however. The story is simply articulated through your actions, and what you see. It works really well, ensuring that the game has a thick air of mystery about it. Where are you? Who exactly is the enemy? What are they up to? And, indeed, what are you doing?
Like Limbo, Inside is a very dark game that almost feels like it's rendered in black and white. Elements of color are used here and there for effect, but for the most part this is a monochromatic game. It gives it a distinct look that's very reminiscent of developer Playdead's first release. Light is used very cleverly, and there are even several puzzles involving shadows.
So far, and I've been playing a full copy of the game, the action has been absolutely superb. The platforming is tight and responsive, and puzzles are varied and interesting. There are a lot of environmental brainteasers that have really ingenious solutions that aren’t immediately apparent, but deliver great "ah-ha!" moments when you figure them out, making the game feel rewarding and very satisfying to play.
What I'm really enjoying is simply the way the game unfolds as you progress, starting you out in the wilds, but eventually taking you into what feels like a huge, sprawling factory that's filled with machinery. Playdead have done a marvelous job creating a really mysterious, yet fascinating environment, and exploring this labyrinthine, dystopian complex is incredibly addictive. I just want to know what's around the next corner – and where the game is going to take me. Without giving up any spoilers, the proceedings have taken quite a few weird twists and turns, and there have been some really crazy moments that I just did not expect - but were utterly brilliant.
I know I'm being deliberately vague at this point, but with the release of the game just around the corner, I don't want to give too much away. Plus I'd be spoiling much of the game if I did – Inside's best moments are intrinsic to its gameplay and story, and to reveal them would be to ruin their surprise. All I can really say is that this is one of the best platform puzzlers I've played in years, and it's really gotten its hooks into me. I enjoyed Limbo a lot, but I think this is the better game!
Inside is a timed exclusive that will be released first on Xbox One on June 29th. The PC version will be released on Steam a little more than a week later on July 7th. No other versions have been announced as of yet.
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