Playdead’s Inside takes many cues from Limbo and makes them better – from sentient obstacles to a bizarre ending, you remain tense, nervous and edgy all along the game.
When we first played Limbo, what really resonated with us was the simplistic idea coupled with cinematic elements that created the forlorn, melancholic survival saga. The premise was simple – you guided your protagonist through a series of bizarre obstacles, skip through outlandish objects and creatures always attempting to kill you, and survive by solving a set of puzzles. These puzzles would be solved by moving blocks, making strategic jumps and other such actions.
Inside is a spiritual successor of sorts to Limbo. The idea remains the same – you guide your unnamed protagonist through a shrouded forest-y area that seems to have been militarised. The plot, which has not been clearly defined, has a range of varying explanations depending on what you feel.
The cinematography resides in selective colour, with your hero’s blazing red shirt often shining in the streaks of sunlight every now and then. What’s marvellous is the acute attention to detail – from the movement of the hero’s hair due to the inertia of a jump to the rumble of dust as he runs, it is a perfectionist’s dream. Even in the end, the drone-like limp men are animated to perfection, and so are the hidden secrets.
You go through a range of obstacles that will need you to hide, make a jump at a specific time, push boxes to fill up ditches, or block them, avoid bomb explosions being directed at you, and so on. It is pretty much impossible to make the stretch from start to finish at one run, as the game is designed for you to die. However, there are ample checkpoints to ensure you do not keep returning to respawn points. Certain obstacles require such minute attention that the number of times you die at these points can become a bit irritating.
As you keep going here, you tend to realise how Inside does not rely only on shock value to give you feet-shuffling, white-knuckle moments. The tense soundtrack uses a lot of ambient whispers to tighten the atmosphere, and you almost feel like you have been doused in a world that only has one exit – the end of the mystery at the end of the militarised contraption. Here, too, attention has been paid to minute details – you can hear the protagonist pant as he lands lightly, or the faintest splatter of water as rocks skid off a slope in front of a water body that you must cross discreetly.
The magic of Inside lies in its subtlety and timing. Cues and hints are not verbal or textual – everything is hidden in what you see, through the rays of light, or a certain object, and so on. The game beckons your full attention and is reinstated when you come across the more complicated puzzles.
We played Inside on the iPhone and Apple TV. Surprisingly, playing it on Apple TV was a really smooth affair – you use the touch controller to move, and hold it down to drag items. On the big screen, Inside looks even more splendid than on phone, and the eerily melancholic soundtrack thaws away at your subconscious.
Playdead’s Inside really makes you think, particularly with its open-ended conclusion. You are free to form your inferences about how the boy gets in here, why he reaches the eventual conclusion, and what on earth is he doing here in the first place. Whichever conclusion you assume, though, is going to be a bit unsettling if you happen to play it in the middle of the night, and start drawing parallels to the Bildungsroman of mankind.
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