Inside: Second Time's the Charm

  Inside - Steam Store Page  (Also Available on Xbox One) 

Inside - Steam Store Page (Also Available on Xbox One) 

Limbo came out in another universe, one where Indie games were just starting to scratch the surface of mainstream attention. Riding Braid's coattails, it was the second well-received game in a row that wasn't from a AAA pedigree, proving that games could come in all shapes and sizes.

2010's Summer of Arcade was a pivotal moment for games, the beginning of a radical shift years in the making that would thrust Indie development into the spotlight.

Except Limbo was frustrating, to me at least. Limbo was a side-scrolling puzzle-platformer with no semblance of meaning behind it's slick presentation and gruesome veneer. It's atmosphere, moody and bubbling with tension, carried players through trial-and-error puzzles that were easy to solve after the game had had it's fun killing the protagonist in unexpected, creative ways.

Meanwhile, questions about the world of Limbo, the significance of its devious puzzles and traps, and the greater meaning behind the journey are left unsolved with a unsatisfying anti-climax. I'm not someone that needs everything answered with a ribbon on top, but Limbo's simplistic gameplay and ultra-violent nature begot a sense that there was an answer somewhere, maybe even a hint at the end of the road. There wasn't. 

Inside proves that Playdead has certainly learned a lot since Limbo. It's the logical extension of their intriguing formula, but with decidedly better follow-through. Every moment of this game, every puzzle, every animation, and—yes—every brutal execution is leagues more polished than Limbo, a game that—at least in the graphics department—still holds up after nearly 6 years.

There's actual substance behind Inside's disturbing world. The first moments begin to flesh out a nightmarish dystopia, with each new environment gradually pulling back the curtain to reveal something truly grotesque. Inside doesn't justify everything, but it leaves the player with enough to spark a conversation.

The final act of Inside gleefully subverts the methodical pace it carefully lays out for the first few hours with a galloping, outrageously bizarre paradigm shift that makes enduring each horror before it well worth the cost of admission. Though, I doubt the protagonist would agree.