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Playdead’s Inside, the studio’s follow-up to indie darling Limbo, is very much in the mould of its predecessor: a story told without words, a tale of fear and discovery, an adventure through gorgeous and sometimes alien environments. It has the charm of a Pixar short with the brutality of cage fighting, puzzles that are smart yet make the player feeler even smarter. Inside delights from start to finish, tying all the above together with effortlessly simple controls that never put a foot wrong.
You control a young boy, clearly on the run from something, even if that something isn’t clear. And that is more or less the premise of the game: run from the badness that’s trying to get you. You’ll run and jump as you make your way across the glorious game world, but this isn’t a precision platformer. In fact the experience is closer to what are now commonly referred to as ‘walking simulators’, albeit across a 2D plane and with a lovely bunch of environmental puzzles.
Puzzles come in all shapes and sizes, taking some of gaming’s most tried and tested scenarios and giving them a neat spin. There are crates, water levels, switches, elevators, launch pads and more, but they are designed so well here that they feel fresh. You’ll likely be able to work through the entire game in around four hours, and that will include a few moments of head scratching. It’s unlikely you’ll become unstuck by a puzzle as the solutions are always logical and in the vicinity of the origin point.
Death will arrive with relative frequency and usually with alarming bluntness. In one memorable sequence you must make it across platforms that are being battered by blasts of air so strong they blow the poor lad to pieces if he’s not in cover. It’s pretty grim, but somehow also not as dark as you might imagine. The game’s tone has comical undertones at times, despite the deadly serious topics at play.
Part of Inside’s appeal lies in the wonderful and believable world Playdead has created. Limbo was entirely monochrome and quite flat, with a small amount of depth coming from backdrops. Inside retains the 2D movement, but the environment is fully realised in three dimensions, and there’s colour – muted colour, but colour all the same. Inside’s full of tremendous smaller details that will make you smile, a real believability to animation, and exquisite lighting.
If you’re reading this nothing beyond some minor details have been spoiled. Don’t risk finding out more before you play. Don’t baulk at the £15.99 price tag. Inside is an essential purchase and a game you’ll be desperate to talk about to friends. Don’t miss out on what will surely be one of the best games of this generation.
Version Tested: Xbox One