I’m quite happy that I was able to avoid spoilers and coverage of Inside when it first came out, otherwise I wouldn’t have come away from its scenes and revelations with the same amounts of shock, horror or confusion. Inside is a story-driven experience that relies on sights, sounds and player interpretation, but it breaks up the lack of vocal narrative with puzzles that range from cleverly crafty to simple cases of timing and positioning. That said, this won’t be a game that you’ll return to time and time again unless you really want to try and decipher its mysteries or find hidden achievements. For me however, Inside is a one-and-done affair that didn’t leave me necessarily entertained and eager to start up a new game right away, but I’m still glad that I was able to see what the fuss was about.
Inside has puzzles to solve in terms of gameplay, but most if not all of its story is a puzzle in itself and is told through scenes or clues that’re left in the foreground, background or environment. Without any narration or blatant subtitles, it’ll be up to the player to figure out what’s going on in this apparently dystopian society. Some questions are much, much easier to find answers to than others, but unlike other games that go to bizarre, lunatic-fringe levels of madness, Inside leaves just enough breadcrumbs and hints so you’re not left scratching your head to the scalp. I wasn’t able to solve all the hows and whys the game threw my way, but I was certainly able to at least come up with theories and guesses based on the evidence presented. At one point I started to wonder if this truly was a story about a child trying to evade an awful fate, but I urge you to experience the story on your own terms and take my viewing with a sizeable grain of salt.
The game has its share of platforming and puzzles, but while either element aren’t able to hold a candle to Mario and Portal, both elements have been crafted and polished to be naturally effective without leaving open space for bugs or glitches to make you cry foul. When making a heroic leap onto a rope to escape danger, said leap has just enough height and distance to make it happen. When manipulating a machine to act as cover from an environmental hazard, the timing is just open enough to allow safe traversal. When death reared its ugly head and I was forced to reload at one of the generously placed checkpoints, I knew I had failed to grasp a puzzle element or my execution during an escape didn’t cut it - My fault, not the game’s. Save for how difficult or easy you find the puzzles to be, this keeps the game moving and won’t keep you hung up for long, and I clocked out at just under three hours upon completion.
My only real complaint about the game (and is by admission an absolute nitpick) is that Inside isn’t really ‘fun’ to play in terms of player input and skill. Like I mentioned at the start, I didn’t walk away from Inside wishing to play it again because I personally only do so for games that I find fun and enjoyable enough to merit repeated or returned playing. With that said, I’d have to wield a scalpel and slice the game into ribbons to find much to complain about it. The uses of lighting, sound, visuals and storytelling did all the heavy lifting for a game that had the simple goal of telling an eerie tale broken up with platforming and puzzle sections - And it did its job without any fluff to get in the way… Even if the ending felt rather limp (and had me worried the credits sequence was broken).
There’ll be those who want to play games for the gameplay and not have much care for story-driven experiences, and no amount of praise will convince you to try Inside. My complaint about the game not being ‘fun’ is weak in the knees due to how well crafted, designed and paced the whole thing is, and for those ok with a one-and-done kind of experience will find themselves enjoying the few hours on offer. There are achievements to uncover if you’re the type who’s fond of digging those things up, but after my first playthrough of Inside I can safely say I’m done with it - And it gets a thumbs up from me.