NOTE: I played Inside on an Xbox one and competed the game over the course of three and a half hours. The following review is SPOILER FREE.
I'll be honest, I never played Limbo. I know, I know.. I do plan on playing it one day and if it is anything like Inside, that day will be very soon. Inside is Playdead's follow-up game that fans have been eagerly anticipating for nearly six years, and rightfully so. The game is beautifully artistic, engaging throughout, and a bit spooky as well.
Inside starts out by dropping you right into the world. No cutscene, no tutorial, no exposition of any kind. For me, this was such a pleasant surprise. It has been too long since a game has allowed players to simply just play. As soon as I noticed Inside's nature of exploration and environmental story telling, I knew this was a special game.
MASTER CLASS DESIGN
The pacing is excellent. The game essentially teaches you what to do by presenting you with an obstacle and crafting a situation which seemingly suggests what you should do to progress. I haven't played a 2D platformer with this much thoughtful level design since some of the classic NES and SNES games. Every time a new mechanic or concept was introduced, I seemingly knew what my options for engagement were. The amount of attention put into teaching the player through natural experience is astonishing. I never once felt like the solution to a situation was unreasonably presented.
Inside is a true achievement in design. No puzzle is ever too difficult or too easy. The progression in difficulty accelerates at a perfect pace, as if the game knows exactly what your skill level is at a given time. Puzzles are abundant and and rewarding. Every time I completed a puzzle, I had a slight moment of self-indulgent ecstasy. If I ever felt like I couldn't figure out what to do, I would step away and come back later. Chances are, the solution was obvious by the time I came back to the game.
EERIE, CREEPY, FRIGHTNING
Throughout the game, you play as a young boy running from various threats. The game oozes creepiness throughout. The fear of being caught is serious when death animations are as terrifying and punishing as they are in this game. There's just something about watching a young boy get torn in half that causes me to shut my eyes and look away. Creatures like the mermaid character add an exhilarating amount of suspense to the game when trying to complete puzzles or make it through obstacles in time. There were several occasions during my playthrough where I found myself jumping and shouting while attempting to evade a potential threat.
STUNNING WITHOUT COLOR
The environments and animations are absolutely incredible. Blacks, whites, and grays make up the majority of the color palate and are used to present gloomy woods, deep-dark waters, and rusted buildings. There were times when I would just stop and admire the environment around me. Even though there isn't always a whole lot on the screen, something about the game's art style draws so much attention to the environment. Despite being so vapid in color, there is so much pop from the shading and lighting.
The game does include other colors, but they are less common to the eye. Generally colors are used for fire, buttons and random objects that you may or may not be able to interact with. Smartly coloring a few things here and there helps to bring attention to certain objects, and keep the otherwise basic color palate fresh.
QUIET AND LOUD
As I mentioned before, Inside features zero direct story of any kind. There is not even a line of text or a single word spoken. The game does not have a soundtrack. Instead, Inside plays off the strengths of its desolate and lonely world to let the silence speak for itself. There is of course the sound of footsteps, jumps, gasps, and such, but that is it. This allows for what little audio is provided to stand out like a sore thumb. Anytime sound is being made, you know darn well what it's coming from.
Inside is a masterful experience that I strongly urge any Xbox One or PC owner to play. Even if 2D puzzle-platformers are not your forte, Inside still offers an experience that most gamers would be more than thrilled with. This dark and twisted adventure packs more awe in its three hour story than most games do in an entire series. If you have any desire to play a fun, rewarding, beautiful, bit-sized, and artfully crafted game, Inside is where the search ends.