The long awaited spiritual successor to PlayDead’s masterpiece LIMBO, that manages to outperform its predecessor.
|Console||PC, Xbox One|
|Genre||Platformer, puzzle, horror, indie|
|Purchase (PC)||Purchase from Steam.|
|Purchase (Xbox One)||Purchase from Microsoft.|
Let me start off by saying: if you loved the indie game LIMBO, then you HAVE to go play this game! You HAVE to.
GET IT NOOOOOOW!!!!
On a side note, review time.
For those who have yet to experience Playdead’s LIMBO, it is an indie puzzle platformer that came out six years ago. The game was well received by nearly all major review sites and consumers. Despite its minimalist approach, it was a game that used a simple art style and an oppressive atmosphere to pull you in.
The story details weren’t stated outright, but rather shown to you as the player. The game was known to be brutally difficult to first-time players, as well as brutally violent due to the numerous ways that your main character can die. While the game was pretty short, it managed to show its journey without overstaying its welcome.
The game had earned its place as being among some of the most recognizable indie games in recent memory; with the likes of Super Meat Boy, Cave Story, Undertale, Braid, Minecraft…
But rather coming up with a sequel, PlayDead decided to recycle some ideas from LIMBO to present a fresh, yet familiar, experience. And this is where INSIDE comes in.
As soon as you start the game, you will immediately notice the similarities to LIMBO. You are a little boy beginning his journey at a forest. We don’t know who he is or what he plans to accomplish, so the only way to go is the way forward.
Some gamers don’t like a lack of dialogue or descriptions when it comes to telling a story through a video game. So INSIDE may not be for everyone, as any conveyance of story here is purely from a visual standpoint.
Just like its predecessor, INSIDE has a distinctive art style. However, it uses 3D models instead of 2D cell animation. Despite that, the 3D models especially work well to this game’s advantage.
This game is SO gorgeous to look at. In nearly every frame, you can see subtle details in the environment and particle animations at even minor areas. The animations are so crisp and I have never experienced any drops in the frame rate. There is a lot of soft lighting that helps accentuate the grim visuals. The environments strangely feel so natural and vibrant in a dark, gruesome setting.
You will notice that the game is in full color instead of the monochromatic color scheme used in LIMBO, but you will undeniably see a LOT of gray in this game. I have never seen a game that can employ such normally dull colors like gray and brown in a way that makes them so visually pleasing.
I especially love the fact how the art style and animation act as indicators on how to play the game too, which I’ll get into in a minute.
While I personally prefer LIMBO’s sound design, INSIDE is also pretty strong in this department. There is rarely any music, but mostly environmental ambiance. Unlike LIMBO, INSIDE breathed more like into its characters. Animals you come across have their distinctive sounds and even the little boy and other human characters along the way have some grunt sounds.
The reason I liked LIMBO’s sound design more is that the lack of voices help add to its “silent film” look and I find its soundtrack more memorable. Regardless, the atmosphere is still powerful here.
Hell, some enemies can recognize even subtle little noises your main character makes. I find this so unprecedented in a 2D platformer, yet so very clever.
INSIDE has the same exact controls as LIMBO: all you can do is run, jump, and push/pull objects. While much of the game is a lot of empty space just so you can take in the environments, there are plenty of physics-based puzzles to solve along the way whenever you come across obstacles.
While I did come across some hiccups in LIMBO’s controls in the past, INSIDE feels more precise and fluent. I rarely die from delayed controls here. Instead, I died mostly because I didn’t come across the right solutions to certain puzzles which led me to my impending doom.
This may disappoint some people, but I don’t find INSIDE’s puzzles terribly difficult. This might be because I am familiar with how brutal LIMBO can be, so I saw some of the surprise traps coming.
I also did notice that INSIDE doesn’t seem to pull off as many surprises either. Part of the fun about LIMBO is having to spend some time trying to solve difficult puzzles (often, finding the correct timing), though they can be frustrating to the point where you just give up and look at a walkthrough for a solution.
I never had that problem with INSIDE, though. So if you’re expecting something uber hard, you’re probably not going to find it here.
Regardless, these puzzles are very cleverly designed. Combined with the visuals, finding the puzzle solutions is a breeze as long as you pay attention to the character and environmental animations. This can be from using platforms to duck and cover from a giant spotlight to using strong, metallic walls as cover from extremely powerful fluctuations.
I also appreciate some of the new gameplay elements. Originally, the boy from LIMBO could not swim. But the boy from INSIDE can, but only for short bursts. You can also have some allies assist you in getting past certain obstacles that would otherwise be impossible to solve by yourself. The stronger emphasis on water-based puzzles and teamwork help make this feel like a fresher game.
I should also mention that the game has a somewhat different tone from LIMBO. While both games have a dreamlike feel to them, LIMBO comes across as more surreal and abrupt. Its strange transitions to different environments feel like you’re in some other dark world, while everything is set out to kill you. It definitely feels like a trip through Hell.
INSIDE, on the other hand, feels more like a trip through a science fiction dystopian society with some touches of horror to it. You can pretty much tell what is out to kill you in this game, as well as harmless entities. And this game has quite a bit more friendliness to it than its predecessor.
There are definitely other humans like you. Some will attempt to kill you immediately. Some are willing to you (though possibly not out of their own will). You may also find other entities that will help you, surprisingly enough.
Regardless, both games share similar motifs. Remember those mind control maggots from LIMBO? They’re in this game. You will also notice the similar architectures of the urban environments and the mysterious transitions between the forest and the city.
INSIDE, however, seems to want to place a bigger focus on the human nature in regards to its visuals and storytelling. While you won’t find anything particularly groundbreaking here—maybe even nothing conclusive—, the game’s twists are well done and they culminate to a horrifying conclusion.
Perhaps you heard rumors that INSIDE’s ending is particularly shocking. I’m going to confirm…
Yes. Yes it is.
I won’t spoil it. But let’s just say… you’re going to meet with a terrible fate.
For those who did manage to complete all of LIMBO, you would know that game had a secret challenge you can complete in order to get the last achievement of the game. Mostly, for bragging rights.
I didn’t even get HALF of the achievements during my first playthrough of INSIDE. I DID notice that one of the achievements was called “The Last One,” though. Perhaps there is a similar challenge somewhere. I also read of a secret ending, but I’ll leave it at that.
So with that said, pick up and play it. INSIDE is a worthy successor to LIMBO and a beautiful treat to the eyes and ears.
And before you say I’m just brown-nosing the developer, I paid for the game at full price and didn’t get any review copies beforehand. Which is fine by me. I trusted my gut that this game is going to be special. And my gut was right this time around.
I played INSIDE in one sitting as soon as it came out on Steam. Then I proceeded to write this review soon after, just to spread the word on this game the next day. All in several hours, people. I just enjoyed it that much, to the point where I couldn’t turn it off until I reach the very end. So, definitely pick up this one at some point. PlayDead managed to come up with another masterpiece in indie gaming.
So, interesting bit of trivia. INSIDE’s soundtrack was actually recorded through a real human skull. No, seriously, look. That’s actually pretty damn spooky. You’d probably want to play this whole game with some good headphones on.
- The new gameplay features are a welcome addition to the old gameplay of LIMBO, keeping the puzzle-solving fresh.
- While the puzzle-solving isn't as complex, it still manages to let you try different things without butting your head against the wall.
- The visuals are flawlessly executed, with vibrant animations, appealing art style, and subtle animations.
- The visual storytelling here is pretty straightforward. Combined with the art style and animation, they instill suspense and discomfort.
- Like LIMBO, the game is quite short and will last only a few hours for one playthrough.
- Also like LIMBO, the game has an ambiguous ending left up to interpretation.