This week a brand new indie title snuck up and took the gaming world by storm
Well, we say “snuck up”, but Inside, the spiritual successor to 2010’s Limbo from developer Playdead, has been on the radar of many gamers looking for something a little bit different for a while now.
Now it’s finally here, and after a slew of amazing reviews, we thought we’d give it a go for ourselves.
And what can we say? The game is an amazing blend of artistry and atmosphere.
It’s an experience best enjoyed cold, so if you can stay away from gameplay videos and the like, you’re advised to do so (though maybe you can get away with the following trailer?).
It’s an amazing little title, and one that proves (if proof be needed) that video games can truly be art.
Starting with the fact that…
It looks wonderful
Never has a game with an almost exclusively monochrome palette captured the imagination so much.
The dark tone conveyed by the overwhelming amount of blacks and greys on offer contrasts brilliantly with artistic uses of white light.
The brief flashes of colour are used sparingly to give weight to certain scenes, yet despite a lack of visual flair, it still manages to look amazingly gorgeous.
Maybe it’s the fluid animations – not just in the characters but in background changes in the environment – that give the world a real-world clout, or perhaps it’s amazing effects like the way rain drops splash off the surface of a lake.
Either way, you’ll be stopping to admire these sparse environments more than once, we’d say.
It will challenge your expectations
Too often in this day and age, games can be spoiled by the influx of Let’s Play videos, trailers and all sorts of promotional rubbish that make up a press campaign.
Trust us when we say you want to avoid them at all costs with Inside if you can.
Even if they don’t give away crucial plot points, they’ll spoil everything else: puzzle solutions, challenges, stunning graphical vistas, and even the atmosphere of the game itself.
It’s much better heading into Inside with as little known about it as possible, with the game not wasting any time in introducing you to characters or events, and instead asking you to figure them out for yourself, challenging your expectations in a way only good art can.
It controls you as much as you control it
Inside is probably best descibed as a “puzzle-platformer”. You move from location to location as a world and narrative unfurls around you, completing puzzles to help your progress to the next area. But it’s the design of these puzzles that really strikes you.
They’re so well designed into the environments, so (for the most part) logical, and so subtle, that a lot of the times you don’t even realise you’re completing a puzzle; you’re simply progressing through the game world.
That’s not to say there’s no challenge involved, and you’ll be left scratching your head at every turn. But the fact the game bends you to its very whim just as much as you’re submitting your input, is a sign of a great work of art.
It will surprise you in new ways
This is where we veer dangerously close to spoiler territory, so we’ll be very light on detail for a moment.
Suffice it to say that exciting gameplay mechanics and features are sprung upon the player with regularity within the game’s opening half-hour.
One mechanic, that is used quite a lot throughout the title, was as deftly hidden in plain sight as some of the game’s puzzles mentioned before. When we noticed signifiers in the background as to what we were supposed to do, it was a genuine ‘oh, snap!’ moment.
It can evoke powerful emotions
A couple of the game’s slower moments involve you guiding the character (a young boy seemingly on the run from an anonymous threat), through some environmental puzzles involving some precision on the part of the player; avoiding spotlights, that sort of thing.
Get one of these wrong, and you’ll meet your demise, resulting in a death scene you’d not normally expect to be so traumatic.
It gets quite grim at times…
It’s totally unique
The atmosphere is one of the major selling points of Inside, and it’s the kind of game you’ll be thinking about long after the credits have rolled (we’re still trying to make sense of it all a day on).
Eerie, unnerving, odd… whatever you want to call it, there’s no denying that the feel of the game is just downright strange.
Always artistic, but never pretentious, Inside is one of the most intriguing games we’ve played all year, and well worth the modest price tag of about £15.
If you like your indie titles (and even if you don’t, it’ll probably change your mind), Inside is a must play for all gamers. And maybe one for fans of art to check out too.
Inside is out now for Xbox One. PC players can grab it from July 7