Review: Inside (PS4)

2016 Golden Minecart Awards:

  • Best New IP (PS4)

Formats:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One
  • PC

Format/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
Title: Inside
Format: PSN (3.64 GB)
Release Date: August 23, 2016
Publisher: Playdead
Developer: Playdead
Original MSRP: $19.99 (US), €19.99 (EU), £15.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: M
PEGI: 18
A copy of this game was purchased by the reviewer.
PS Nation Review Policy

Many people loved Limbo, the first game developed by Playdead. Both that and the new one, Inside, have a minimalistic approach and feature a variety of puzzles to overcome. However, the similarities end with their look and gameplay design.

Gameplay:
Inside has you control a small boy with a plain red top. You must guide him through the two and a half dimensional side scrolling environment with only move, jump, and grab button commands at your disposal. You still have to use the analog stick to push, pull, and even turn things that your little character grabs, but it all feels natural and works exceptionally well. Never will you scream in frustration because you pressed the wrong button.

You embark on a frightening journey of discovery with ruthless men and savage hounds desperate to stop you. Your nameless character will die, and often in very gruesome ways. Thankfully, you never have to retrace many steps, as the unseen checkpoints are frequent and forgiving. Some deaths feel as if they need to be witnessed in order to comprehend the fear and anxiety that your hapless character is going through.

There were many times when I caught myself holding my breath as my defenseless character, that I shall call Red because of the color of his top, was a hair’s breadth away from certain death on many occasions. An anxious uncertainty would rise as I forced Red to dart into the light and the gaze of the evil men, knowing that a frantic chase would be on.

Every puzzle is refined and well-crafted to the point that some feel organic in their solution. The natural way in which your character reacts to the surroundings makes it feel as if you are in control of a Spielberg classic. Although the brutal outcome when a mistake is made often makes you wince and feel sorrow for the innocent boy, which is more akin to a few recent horror films.

There are no cutscenes or pauses for loading – it’s one harrowing and unforgettable journey from start to finish. Do not fret, as there are obvious moments to take a breath and admire the dystopian world and the automatic saving means you can quit whenever you wish.

… I will be coming back to this game for quite some time …
Although I can see no reason why you would want to quit as I desperately wanted to play through the entire game in one sitting. It was only because of family commitments that I was unable to do so. Well, in all honesty, it’s a longer game than I expected, so that too played a small part in needing to finish off the game another time.

The need to play again, or at the very least, load certain chapters to find the hidden orbs in the hope of unlocking the secret ending means I will be coming back to this game for quite some time. Sadly, there is no Platinum trophy, which in my opinion is a travesty for a game of such high-caliber.

Visuals:
The atmosphere and artistic design for Inside are part of what makes the experience so special. So much is told through the gestures and actions of the people and creatures in the game. It never feels like canned animations with Red and other people stumbling over boxes and furniture. Even something as dramatic as leaping from a cliff looks wonderfully real.

The use of color, or lack thereof, plays a massive part in drawing perspective and focus to what the developers want you to see. An almost insignificant thread of yellow might catch your eye and draw you in to investigate while the sweep of torch light in a blanket of mist will send shivers down your spine. Every single area tells a story and I recall plenty of times where I paused to take it all in.

… it becomes sickeningly perfect …
The perfect use of scale also weaves a chilling sense of terror and foreboding, it rarely feels like Red is walking in a flat two-dimensional path as the backgrounds seamlessly blend and snake into the foreground. The understated changes in the camera angle and distance to Red make the moments of action feel satisfying and dare I say, epic.

The developers at Playdead cleverly scale the scenes of pure and utter insanity, so it all stays in a bizarre sense of reality. Were I to describe some of the puzzles or happenings later in the game, you would think I and the game itself were totally crazy. When you think it cannot possibly get any stranger it does, but it also works so well that it becomes sickeningly perfect.

Audio:
Subtle and brief music cues and the small sounds of footsteps on concrete or splashing through muddy puddles are mostly what you will hear. There are other noises and unearthly sounds that attack your comfort levels and give you chills at just the right times. Because of those it is a good idea to keep the volume up high.

So much is done with the restrained silence. At times, it can make you feel calm and safe, then fearful and apprehensive. It also gives the rare moments of music more impact and dread. You will hear muffled shouts and gasps from people but there is no speech, and in all honesty, there doesn’t need to be.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is singleplayer only with no online component.

… easily one of the best games I have played in a long time …
Conclusion:
Inside is something very special indeed. A perfect and crazy journey with exceptional puzzles set in a dystopian world where beauty and humanity seep out from the strangest places. It evokes the same questions, feelings, and thoughts as the classic writings of Philip K. Dick. When you consider all that is done without a single word being uttered or text shown, this game is even more impressive.

I am left with questions, most of which I surprisingly do not wish to be answered. You will figure things out as the game progresses and you aren’t going to feel cheated like the outcome of Lost, Prometheus, or the end of this sen

All joking aside, Inside is easily one of the best games I have played in a long time and it deserves your attention. The gameplay and puzzle mechanics rarely feel contrived, which is a difficult task to say the least. It will provoke thought and discussion amongst your peers while an ache for answers will make you want to seek out the other ending or at the very least, make you stop and think.

Score:

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Written by Chazz Harrington

Chazz Harrington

You can find me on everything: PSN, Twitter, Wii U, Origin, Steam, etc using my universal ID: ChazzH69

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