Inside, the new Xbox One console exclusive (also available on Windows 10) hit the Xbox One and Windows store for Xbox & PC users everywhere back on June 29th.  The latest installment from PlayDead Studios, the developer known for smash indie-hit Limbo, Inside brings back the Limbo familiar 2D puzzle-platforming design but features many gameplay enhancements and continues to build on the developer’s iconic art-style.

Arguments For

  • First and foremost, I believe Inside to be an improvement over Limbo in every way. So if you enjoyed Limbo, I think you’ll enjoy this game very much and if you weren’t so hot on Limbo, I think many of your issues have been addressed.
  • The successful formula hasn’t been broken. Run left to right, jump button, interact button are all used to complete the stages and puzzles as you progress forward.
  • Inside doesn’t put so much emphasis on the death animations as did Limbo. It’s still jarring, but not in the spectacular fashion that was present with Limbo (that ultimately became the attraction for many).
  • The incredible art-style from Limbo is here and even improved. The game definitely carries the same dark, creepy tones and shadows but Inside also explores the gray areas and adds just the right amount of bland red and yellows to make it fresh.
  • Camera angles are just superb, as in “best in class” good. Watching your character from different zoom levels and vantage points as you move left to right is perfect and shows a level of polish much higher than than most games.
  • Puzzles are inventive, even intuitive, but never too hard to stall the progress of the player.
  • Due to the creativeness found in the puzzle and hidden area designs, Inside’s progression and timing is executed almost perfectly. The game never hits a dragging lull or wear out it’s welcome. The beats are consistent and by the end I felt I had a complete experience.
  • Puzzles are vast in variety and never really feel duplicative which is impressive considering the simple two button control scheme.
  • Inside provides punishment beyond Limbo’s many deaths. During my play through I only died a handful of times, but there were plenty of occasions where I missed a jump and had to repeat a section of the game. I credit PlayDead for finding a new way to reward and punish players beyond die-start over.
  • Narrative is found in the environment and left up to the player for interpretation (more on this later…)
  • Inside kicks off with a great opening cinematic that will grab your attention right away.
  • Incredible Environment. Inside will take you through many environments and display many different things to interact with. Not a world beater considering the game’s short length, but Inside constantly feels new the entire time and doesn’t sit in one location too long.
  • Hidden areas and alternate endings provide incentive to return and complete the game again.
  • The sonic wave puzzle is great.
  • This is one of those exclusives that amplifies why you purchased a specific platform.

Inside

Arguments Against

  • The game’s narrative is going to leave more questions than answers, especially with Inside’s ending.
    • While this can be considered a + for some and a – for others, I mention this in the “cons” section because the majority of the game feels like it’s building up to some final revelation. What actually occurs towards the end made this reviewer question the entire journey to get there and whether or not it was worth it. Add in a sprinkle of magic / unrealistic happenings and the tension-filled story from the onset begins to breaks down.
  • Backtracking. There will be moments when the player misses a jump or needs to complete a puzzle that requires looping through an entire area more than once. Not a complete deal breaker, but these moments were the most “un-fun” of the game.

The Value:

Inside can be played on Xbox One and on PC via Steam for $20. Considering the game is brand new from the developer that already delivered on the Indie-platformer recipe with Limbo, I can’t even make a case to scoff at the $20 dollar price of admission. The game isn’t long by any means (3-4 hours for most) but the experience provided is easily worth the asking price.

The Verdict:

Inside is ultimately a mystery and might provide you more entertainment discussing the game with others than it does to complete. I very much enjoyed both my purchase price as well as the experience and look forward to more content from PlayDead (hopefully not 6 years from now). When one evaluates a video game at the basic level, Inside has everything you can ask for. Fun gameplay, intuitive design, offers something fresh and new, and adds in great visuals and in my opinion underappreciated sound design. That said, while Inside provides a lot of polish, it is not without flaw and I believe the ending will make or break how people remember Inside. I believe those that consider themselves “deep-thinkers” will love to debate what Inside means as a game. Opposite of those, will wonder if the game meant anything at all.

Inside Review

My recommendation is to play Inside before Limbo if you haven’t played either as Inside is easier to complete that its predecessor. If you played Limbo and gave up on it, I think Inside is worth your investment and your time. But if you played Limbo and didn’t like it from the beginning, skipping Inside isn’t a bad idea.