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Review: INSIDE (Nintendo Switch)By Insanoflex At 03.07.2018 21:57

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Since Playdead's LIMBO, the concept of an innocent youth in a scary world that is also a minimalistic platformer has been done to death; some of which have gone so far to rip off the silhouette style art direction wholesale. Alberto & Otto, Dream Alone, Monochroma, forma.8, Toby: The Secret Mine, Boor, and so on... it has been an endless stream of copycats and imitators, and while some have turned out okay, most are derivative and dull. By the time INSIDE had come out in 2016, Playdead really had to prove to everyone that it was going to be more than just another LIMBO. The premise was going to be similar again: plain kid in another decrepit and oppressive environment with no means of self defence.

Just how is INSIDE different from the rest of its kind? It is much more polished and refined compared to most other similar platformers and it has impeccable art. It does have a strong commitment to its themes within the narrative but some of these qualities are impossible to discuss without having to spoil so much of the surprises. Much of the conversation about this game will always be sparked by one its endings. There is no way around it; this is one of the most defining qualities about INSIDE. Without having to say too much, INSIDE can be shocking at times. Sometimes to a comical effect that might not be the designers' intentions... but it all meshes together beautifully in spite of everything. The best way to describe it is like George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four final few chapters became Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira. Some of the visuals are both nightmarish and are so extreme it gets close to being pretty funny. In a way it almost becomes an anti-twist.

Gameplay-wise, INSIDE is very consistent with Playdead's predecessor, LIMBO. Puzzles are crafted well and are never too challenging, so long as the person holding the controller is paying attention to what is on-screen. Expect a couple of deaths that might seem like they were caused by some trial-error-design, but upon closer inspection the reason for failure is always attributed to user error. INSIDE is airtight with its polish and environmental puzzle design; not a single piece of geometry is out of place and even the colour is carefully considered to guide the human eye where the director wants. This, though, is a very by-the-book cinematic platformer. Not counting the bizarre final moments, INSIDE is pretty safe for the most part and is not terribly special or different compared to similar titles. Tariser Studios' Little Nightmares is the closest comparison in terms of production quality, but those developers innovated by expanding the gameplay from standard 2D platforming to embracing 3D.

INSIDE only comes halfway by utilising an effective looking 2.5 dimension, which makes certain escape scenes nonsensical in the context of the story. Obvious alternate routes are inaccessible since the game still operates under the logic of being two-dimensional despite the 3D visuals suggesting so many more possibilities. There are frequent moments where the protagonist will have not much to do other than to simply stride forward and the player to absorb the atmosphere. It doesn't always make for interesting gameplay but it sure does look amazing.

When INSIDE gets down and dirty with its take on puzzles and focuses on its theme of "control," or more specifically "mind control", it really hits its stride. Some of the much later sequences are diabolically constructed and can take quite some time to solve due to the multiple steps required. Respawns are quick and checkpoints are generous, so it rarely becomes annoying to have to re-do some parts of a puzzle.

Beautiful art direction and believable character animation is something most people will take from INSIDE. Compounded with the music and flawless sound design, Playdead nails atmosphere perfectly and proves that it is a real master of what it does. The composer has openly expressed how he was inspired by horror films from the 1980s; specifically synth score that was commonly used by John Carpenter in his films. Anyone who is a fan of John Carpenter's The Thing will undoubtedly pick up on a few noticeable musical cues that imitate that same sound of dread incarnate. Like Little Nightmares, this is a tour de force of sight and sound that never gets interrupted and successfully becomes a game that is fun to watch and play.

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Final Score
[i]INSIDE[/i] is one of those kind of games where the developer made exactly what it wanted and was very deliberate with how it would be presented. Not all choices may work and the overall experience is over far too quickly: lasting about three hours, with no real replay value to speak of. Gameplay is very standard for its genre, with only some minor substance to make it stand apart. The one thing that makes [i]INSIDE[/i] stand out will always be its insane climax - but is that enough? There is a hidden alternate ending that is both disappointing and poignant, which also has a meta fourth-wall breaking element to it that really makes the experience feel so much more depressing the more thought that gets put into it. The Switch port of [i]INSIDE[/i] is very solid and runs excellently, looking comparable to all existing versions. This is one of the better adventure style platformers that emphasises the visuals to get its point across. It always feels like Playdead could have done a bit more with the gameplay by making it longer and having more complexity to some of the puzzles. Most people will feel completely bewildered when it is all over.

7

/10

User Comments
#1 The Strat Man - on 04.07.2018 at 23:41

Fantastic review.

This is one of my favourite games of all time. It's such a poignant experience, which left such a lasting impression on me that I'm seriously tempted to pick it up again on the Switch.

Particularly since you could hand the system over to someone for an evening and likely have them get through the whole thing. Then you can both speculate over the story and its meaning Smilie Glad to finally have this and Limbo in the Switch library.

( Edited 05.07.2018 00:42 by The Strat Man )


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