There are games and there are good games and there are games like Inside. Yes Inside very much belongs to a special category and cannot just be branded as a side scrolling platformer. It is far more than that. Very rarely have we ever come across a title that puts you or rather translates you into an imaginative world that really feels eery and alive. Yes Inside is frantic and yet not too horrific. It balances every element out clearly and delivers a chilling experience that keeps you hooked up for a good few hours. You are playing as this little boy who is exploring and as well as trying to escape an unreal world, yet a world that feels real. Through the course of the game you constantly wonder what this world is and who those people acting weirdly are. The game doesn’t really put you in heroic situations but rather mostly in helpless situations where you run for your life, solve a puzzle to move on or being chased by a mysterious underwater girl (oops Spoilers!) who at first sight was frightening! The narrative and the game play itself is so enthralling that you are leaning towards the game and wondering what’s going to happen next. The game’s minimalist design approach is the key as it lets you to easily get hooked. The visuals really need to be talked about. Playdead’s artists have crafted a world and atmosphere that you can fall in love frighteningly. They are artistic, stylish, subtle and believable in every regard. The spaces are lit wonderfully that lends to the master level design. You are always drawn onto something in the levels. Subtle lighting cues hint that there is something. The game’s level design though works on the fundamental platforming and puzzle solving mechanics, are done masterfully. They never overwhelm and keeps you going with a fine balance of platforming and puzzles. The puzzle themselves are never too complex or over thought, they just allow you to think through for a bit and then proceed. What I really liked or rather enjoyed is how the game provoked failing so you can come back and try it a few more times before you get it. The solution to the puzzles are right there in front you and you just need to guess it right. At times I took a few good times of try and was able to get it –no mind bending stuff though. I felt the game borrowed some inspirations drawn from Half life’s level design where narrative unfolds through the player and level designs let the player uncover the mysteries.
Inside portrays emotions without any sophisticated animations or voice overs- in fact the game doesn’t have any voice overs at all except for the sound fx and the little audio cues here and there. Background music score is the real showstealer. It captures the mood putting you into the world of Inside in no time. The game starts off in a calm note with no music and then it gradually starts to take over but yet in a subtle manner. Nothing is over done in Inside, everything is carefully done like a good orchestra where every piece plays its role – be it the visuals, animations, sound designs, camera design, music and such. Inside is a game which gets it fundamentals right; an area many of the modern games, even good ones suffer from. One of the key principles often over looked in many games – famously regarded as the ‘The Three C’s- Character, Camera and Controls- the backbone of good games. When you pick up a game this is what you most care about, the rest can fall in place later. Inside get these core principles right and in fact nails them! You see a boy with no facial features, running, leaping and gasping for breath – all looking and feeling real. You can relate to his emotions. You see the camera effortlessly panning onto the action on the scene as though someone is capturing all these for you from the opposite end. Controls although very basic with just run, jump and grab – gives you enough to play with a clever level design. It doesn’t feel snappy and feels very precise and responsive. Its these elements that complement and leverage each other that brings life into Inside. It hooks you in and keeps you at the edge of the seat. In fact I didn’t know when the game had actually ended and honestly I didn’t want it to end. The design is so minimalist that the game doesn’t even hint or give you the slightest clue that you are done. I reached a point and thought there was more to it, desperately mashing the buttons to see if I can move only to see the credits rolling on the same screen and I was yelling out loud -No!!! Let me play for some more time. I know the Playdead guys are not conventional but trust me a DLC or an expansion pack wont really hurt!
Playdead has out done themselves with Inside from Limbo and has yet gain made the Indie developer community even prouder. Pat on the back to them.! They also did make Unity proud for having a such a gem of game on their engine! They have made a classic that will be remembered for years to come!