INSIDE (Switch) Review – Inside Greatness
Platforms: PC, Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PS4, Xbox One, iOS
Release: 28th June 2018
Once in a while, there are games where I never truly got around to playing, despite massive exposure and praise. Even though Playdead´s Limbo was one of my favourite indie games when I played it for the first time, their follow-up title INSIDE somehow never managed to land in my library. So a Switch port may not have been the necessity for the game itself but finally allowed me to have no excuse but to check it out.
Awakening in a giant, dark forest as a tiny boy. No background, no intro, nothing. Just like Limbo, INSIDE is a game completely reliant on its atmosphere and style to create a visually stunning yet terrifying world. Starting out similar to Playdead´s previous title, we once again have to control a boy, helping him to escape from dozens of pursuers, of whom we know nothing. Not why they hunt him or how he even ended up in this forest all by himself.
This time, however, our journey doesn´t just lead us through a forest but slowly unfolds an obscure world before our eyes. From abandoned farms inhabited by crazy-seeming animals, to giant cities where humans command almost puppet-like creatures in oversized facilities. Throughout the 5-6 hours of playtime, the game sends us down a rabbit hole of an almost surreal seeming world. Every new environment seems more and more fictional, claustrophobic and frightening. Why? Because very foundation of it is something we´re all very familiar with: Oppression. When the worker puppets are guided to their destination, freed from own will or any desire, solely following their masters, doesn´t it remind you of the typical work day in a way?
INSIDE is a beautifully designed game, because it manages to capture a world of emotions everyone feels or felt at some point in their lives. It´s definitely a dystopia of our current world but an unremarkable well-done one, exactly because Playdead created something truly beautiful with their artistic talent. Instead of Limbo´s minimalistic black and white style, this game features a far more refined 3D style. The grey colour palette still achieves the same effect as in Limbo but combined with the benefits of a full-blown 3D game, it´s just so much more powerful. The lightning, in particular, can create some truly unique environments full of dark and bright contrasts and sunlight being overshadowed by the huge structures. When the background is now also filled with trains, wandering puppets and alike, the whole world becomes so much more lively. Essential for a game effectively trying to portray a society, rather than a creepy forest.
The only downside of the world-building may be the fact that almost everything related to the plot is stored in capsules, often hidden away in optional paths. In order to fully understand the society and message of INSIDE, it´s pretty much a necessity to find those. However, since some of them are actually quite well hidden or easy miss, you either spend a significant chunk of time on those things or ignore them. While it certainly stays true to Playdead´s style of never supplying too many information and keeping the artistic vision at all times, I still feel somewhat burdened by the fact I couldn´t experience everything this amazing world has to offer. Though that may lead to some replay value for those interested.
On the other hand, INSIDE shows just how naturally a game can implement puzzles and create a very satisfying pacing. Like Limbo, it´s not actually a walking simulator but a 2D puzzler, just a better one. What´s the striking feature this time around is the fact we can control those hordes of puppets ourselves once connected to special devices spread throughout the world. The extra manpower is then used in creative ways, such as moving a cart by using them to push it. Every new area offers new, creative ways to use this mechanic with new gimmicks added on top.
Those are also the “hardest” segments of the game, especially when you learn even puppets can use those devices and have to juggle with all kinds of stuff. So naturally, Playdead didn´t stuff the game with them, instead used them rarely but as difficulty spikes, in order to create a natural gameplay flow in each new chapter. Always beginning with super easy “move this to get past” before flowing into some bigger, more complicated riddles and climaxing in action-packed chases and run-aways. As a result, INSIDE never truly feels exhausting or repetitive since everything is so well timed.
As everyone may know, INSIDE is amazing in every single regard, even capable of overshadowing Limbo in every way. It´s a well-paced, gripping trip into a world that seems abnormal and familiar at the same time, dominated by an art style to fall in love with. Even the Switch port is a pretty flawless thing, only suffering from a long load time in the beginning and pretty much never again along with some well-balanced battery drain. Unless you already played it, do yourself a favour and pick it up.
[A Review Code was provided by Playdead]