“Inside” gave me that cinematic thrill that comes around only once every several years. It’s why I love movies, I suppose. Movies can work their magic like that and make you think about them days after your first viewing. The really good ones find that shelf in your brain and they stay there forever.
But “Inside” isn’t a movie. It’s a video game. It’s a 2D video game at that. Though to call it 2D is like calling the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel “a painting”.
“Inside” is a follow-up to 2010’s “LIMBO”, by Danish gaming firm Playdead. LIMBO was a simple concept: a small boy is lost in the woodsand is forced to fend of creepy spiders and vines and survive along an arcade-style platform fraught with snares and traps. It was entirely black and white but had a stunning visual style that most cinematographers would envy.
After 6 years of hard work, Playdead’s next opus went above and beyond, while still adhering to the “left-right-up-down ” style of play. All you can do is move back and forth and jump or push/pull objects. You can’t go non-linear even though the backgrounds and depth of “Inside” must be seen to be believed.
You are a little boy, probably about 8 to 10 years old. You have a red shirt (the most vibrant item in the game) and black pants and dark hair. You have no face. Nor does anyone else in the game for that matter, but the subtle movements of your character speak volumes. Your goal is to plow forward at all costs and not figure out what chaotic, twisted scheme is going on in the world but just to escape it. Continue to run forward! Occasionally you’ll swim, slide, operate machinery and control meat-puppet zombies, but mostly, just keep moving forward and sometimes stop and chuckle to yourself as a player thinking things like “I’ve never SEEN anything like this before.” Or “That’s fucked up.” Or “Hah! That’s awesome” or sometimes just “…WOW…”
And that’s the sentiment that I was left with when I finished the game. Wow.
It’s probably the best game I’ve ever played because it’s extravagantly simple and nightmarishly beautiful. The puzzles are so creative I wondered “who can think UP stuff like this??” The story is so odd and twisted and disturbingly amusing that I finished it not knowing exactly what happened but so grateful for the opportunity to spend hours running through such a brilliantly-shaped world.
It’s available on PC/Stream and XBOX One. Get ahold of a copy as soon as you can and when you finish, send an email to Playdead and tell them how wonderful it is. That’s what I did, knowing full well their inbox is too full of accolades to respond and hoping that they are already knee-deep in their next venture.