Inside Review: Crawling
Kalvin Martinez / Jul 28th, 2016 No Comments
The “sophomore slump” usually stems from the high watermark of an introduction that creates unfair expectations. Whether it is an album, film, book or video game, being great right out the gate can make followups pale in comparison. Having a killer debut can almost be a detriment.
Developer Playdead came out of the gate swinging with Limbo. This made expectations ridiculously high for its second game, Inside. But Inside doesn’t succumb to the sophomore slump or any jinx. It is a creepy, unsettling and thrilling atmospheric platformer with moments of absolute brilliance.
Run. There is nothing else going through your head but the need to run as far and fast as you can. The price for failure is lying face down in the wet ground with a smoldering bullet hole in your head. Soon, all you can think about is running and those dogs snapping their jaws at the heels of your feet. It doesn’t matter — the only thing you need to be concerned about is finding an exit and a way to catch your breath.
Once you’re able to collect yourself and let your heart rate settle, you start thinking about what you’re going to do. Something deeply wrong is happening. It is hard to say exactly what it is, but the same goons chasing you are rounding people up and turning them into mindless husks. Now all you can think about is what you’re going to do to stop them, or if you even can.
Inside’s story is told in subtleties, requiring players to pay close attention. Figuring out what is happening comes down to noticing the tiny details around you. Much of the context for the story takes place through moments occurring in the background and the environment. There is a great joy in piecing together the mystery, and it all comes together by the end.
Speaking of endings, Inside’s ending will have you feeling some type of way. There are two endings actually, but one requires finding every secret in the game and likely will have to be experienced after a second playthrough. Thus, the organic — or maybe bad ending — has the game taking a sharp turn. It answers a lot of questions, but ends on an ambitious note that stirs up odd feelings.
The secret, or good, ending is the more natural conclusion, but doesn’t answer as many questions. Both endings need to be experienced to get a better appraisal of what is happening in Inside and to get the right pay off.
Inside places players at a disadvantage, with the need to overcome overwhelming odds. From the outset, you’re chased and hunted — not by anything supernatural, but by authorities and their fierce dogs. Your first challenge is to survive in the face of a superior force. The consequence for slipping up is a gruesome death.
The stakes never get lower, but the challenges become more bizarre and somehow more unsettling. What Inside does best is create a foreboding atmosphere. Thanks to such a tense, terrifying opening (and the game’s superior sound design), everything that follows feels oppressive and players sense that the worst could happen at any moment. Much of this is done through clever uses of sound, like the banging of a door, and key moments of lighting.
In terms of gameplay, Inside builds upon excellent platformer mechanics. The controls are super tight and precise, making movements and jumps feel superb. It doesn’t rest on being just a good platformer; the game adds plenty of fun twists to the formula. Without spoiling too much of what you’ll experience, there are plenty of underwater sections that might be the best underwater areas of any game.
The puzzles, obviously, are where the game shines. It is hard to discuss the puzzles without revealing solutions, but some of the best puzzles involve the game’s most unique mechanic. What makes Inside truly inventive and novel in terms of puzzle design comes from a mechanic that requires players to exert control. These sections force you to think in a more plural sense and consider how the environment can be used to your advantage.
Much of what makes Inside such an engrossing experience is the element of surprise. Not knowing where the story is going or what could happen leaves you anticipating the worst. Even though the game is full of unsettling and spooky moments, it also has its share of wonder and whimsy.
Inside is tautly wound with every moment leaving you with a sense of dread. At what moment will something truly awful happen and how will you deal with it? The story is evocative and told brilliantly through small, subtle moments. By the end, something will be stirred up within you.
Inside was reviewed on Xbox One using a code for the game provided by the developer.
tags: Inside , Inside review , limbo , playdead , review