The first thing that strikes you about 2D puzzle platformer INSIDE is its visuals. The eerie dystopian environment and muted colour pallet is unsettling, and immediately haunting. Utilising minimalist white, grey and black tones, INSIDE somehow manages to be both melancholic and powerfully alluring – it’s impossible to look away.
From the off, the game plunges you directly into the action where you are hunted by everything and everyone. Every room you enter will fill you with a sense of apprehension for what lies in it, and for good reason too. Upon your adventure, you come across never ending parades of shuffling, humanoid automatons, eerie mermaid creatures who chase you relentlessly through the underwater areas and a series of devious puzzles to get to grips with. These range from Zelda-esque movable block to switch sequences to more complicated areas that require you to utilise mind control to manipulate the automatons mentioned earlier.
The game does its best to keep you on the edge of your seat, and it succeeds. In one sequence, you’re chased by a rabid pack of dogs and, at best, only just manage to escape. Such encounters are frequent and you’ll never once feel as though you have enough time to evade whatever menace the game dishes out. Deaths are frequent in this game but they play an important role because they teach you what you should and shouldn’t be doing to conquer an obstacle. Also, thankfully the challenges never feel repetitive. Each puzzle is completely unique and forces you to fully explore the environment you find yourself in.
Similar to the games Journey and Abzû, you will not hear a single word spoken in INSIDE. The game replaces dialogue with a powerful soundtrack. Throughout INSIDE, you’ll find yourself in situations that are equal parts terrifying and thrilling, and these emotions are amplified to the max with spine-chilling background music.
INSIDE is so different to other games as you’re never given an explanation as to why you’re in the woods alone at night, or why every other person or being in the game is seemingly out to exterminate you. But despite the lack of obvious plot the game still plays beautifully well; I found myself incredibly driven to uncover the mysteries of each area.
Towards the end of the game you encounter areas that have been recently abandoned; a cigarette still smoking in an ash tray, swivel chairs pushed to the side in a hurry. Such devices are incredibly well used and really have you desperate to unlock the game’s secrets. It’s not perfect; the ending of the game is sudden, abrupt and very different from the rest of it. To me, it felt slightly disconnected and rushed, but I was still completely shocked by the reveal and in no way, could have predicted it. Like the rest of the game, it was something completely original.
A captivating, darker-than-usual platformer, INSIDE is simply unmissable for puzzler fans. I would argue, for any other gamer too.