Press Start: 'Inside' is my favorite nightmare
From the moment I started up “Inside,” Playdead's new side-scrolling puzzle game, I knew something was off.
Starting off in a gloomy forest, I began moving to the right, and it was immediately apparent how much “Inside” plays and feels like Playdead's first release, “Limbo.” But while both games feature similar unsettling aesthetics, “Inside's” atmosphere was somehow more visceral, bleaker and more disconcerting.
It hit me later what the game reminded me of: a nightmare. I was in a bad dream I couldn't wake up from, but that's just as well; I didn't want to awaken.
Like “Limbo,” “Inside” features only three controls: the thumbstick for movement, a button for jumping and another button for interacting with objects. The simple gameplay is easy enough for anyone to pick up the controller and play.
The puzzles, while requiring foresight and planning, aren't terribly difficult. I beat the entire three-hour game in a day without having to take to the Internet to find a solution, and I found plenty of hidden collectibles on the way that presented fun challenges of their own. At the end of the game, the controls become much harder to deal with. Whether it was done on purpose not, I found it annoying.
While some game mechanics (such as moving a box in order to reach a ledge) are repeated, Playdead designed “Inside” so it wouldn't feel repetitive. Whenever I used a skill or mechanic to do something I'd already done in a previous puzzle, enough was changed to make it feel new. I'm sure I could play the game over from start to finish and still appreciate its freshness.
Plenty of challenges were based on trial and error. With no clues as to how the game works, it sometimes took a few deaths before I learned how to properly navigate a jump or time my sprint to avoid a pursuing dog. Whenever I failed, I suffered a brutal death that only solidified that lingering nightmarish feeling.
No text or dialog exists in “Inside,” leaving its story and absolutely crazy conclusion ambiguous. While “Limbo” had a more straightforward tale gamers produced solid theories about, “Inside” goes so off the rails that I'm eager to see how anyone can derive meaning from it without input from the developers themselves. It will be interesting to see what the internet hordes come up with to explain “Inside” and its insane ending, which alone makes the game worth playing.
Like a nightmare, “Inside” is full of anxiety-inducing moments. From nearly drowning to avoiding lethal spotlights to blending in with a crowd of zombie-like civilians to shake your pursuers, “Inside” got me sweating a few times. Every high-octane moment is enunciated by a stellar soundtrack that ties the whole thing together.
“Inside” is the best bad dream I've ever experienced. Solid and sometimes overly easy puzzles are unusual and avoid repetition. A great soundtrack adds to “Inside's” gloomy and forlorn atmosphere. The conclusion left me reeling and questioning everything I'd just experienced, making for a fun game I won't soon forget.
Final score: 8/10
“Doom” was reviewed on the Xbox One with a digital copy provided by the publisher's PR agency, fortyseven communications.
Video game columnist Jake Magee has been with GazetteXtra since 2014. His opinion is not necessarily that of Gazette management. Let him know what you think by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, leaving a comment below, or following @jakemmagee on Twitter.