Inside, a critically acclaimed masterpiece, has finally made it to the ever-growing list of indie games on Nintendo’s latest console. I was one of the unfortunate folks who had never played this game by Playdead when it was first released in 2016. Naturally, I knew nothing about the game and went into it with huge expectations, yet the game not only exceeded my expectations but also left an everlasting impression.
To put it into simpler terms, Inside is a puzzle-platforming game. Platforming as a loose term because here you don't perform incredible aerobatic movements which are usually common in this genre. There is no air-dash nor does your character jump eight feet into the air. You play as an ordinary unassuming boy in a red shirt, running away from dangerous assailants in an eerie dystopian country. The boy is extremely athletic, can jump and run well, but he does so only within the boundary of human limits.
You have to guide the boy in his escape from watchful enemies towards an unknown destination. As a two dimensional side-scroller game, you have to run left to right across a linear path, but the game masterfully implements the background to add more gameplay elements and surprises. The objects in the background can be more than just a part of the scenery in Inside. For example, enemies can hide in the background and will chase you throughout some parts of the game. This seamless interaction between foreground and background creates a new exciting dynamism that is not usually found in typical sides-scrolling games.
Running is not the only solution to solve every obstacles you face in the game. Many obstacles presented in the game require thoughtful approach. The puzzle pieces are not too hard to leave you scratching your head. The amazing thing is that almost every piece of the puzzles feel intelligently designed. The puzzles are created in careful deliberation so that they never outstay their welcome.
The game is not divided into individual stages. The entire game is constructed as a single continuous stage with no loading screen in-between. However, there is not a moment of dullness or repetition because each section is thematically unique and artfully crafted. Although the game is pretty short, the locations and the oppressive atmosphere will last longer in your mind even after you beat it.
The most astounding thing about the game is the animation, which is uncannily organic and realistic. You will be enticed by its brilliant life-like animations the moment you take the first step in the game. The attention to details is exquisite. Even the death animations are so intense and chilling, like when the boy fails to outrun a bloodthirsty hound and gets his throat ripped off while flailing his hands helplessly. The realistic animations draw you closer to the protagonist and make you sympathetic for him.
The game gives you no explanation whatsoever in its narrative. There is neither dialogue nor any on-screen instructions. There is no explanation about why this protagonist is on the run and what his goal is. The storytelling is elusive, cryptic and extremely short as well. If you are not fussy about missing secrets and details, you could play the entire game in about three hours, so it has a very little replay value. The ending, while it is mind-blowing, will leave you with more questions than a satisfying answer. Finding all secrets rewards you with a secret ending which is even more metaphorical and puzzling than the standard ending.
During my time with Inside, I did not experience any technical issue. There is no bug nor horrible dip in frame rate. The port runs perfectly on the Switch in both docked and handheld modes. I think the latter mode is perfect to play Inside as a smaller screen makes the graphics more crisp and sharp. Inside has all the markings of a timeless gem. It is a fascinating experience filled to the brim with rich atmosphere, a mysterious story, an intelligent game design and stellar art direction. It is a short game that will leave a permanent imprint on your mind.
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