Playdead’s Limbo was a watershed moment for the platforming genre. It not only delivered masterfully designed pacing and puzzles, but it presented an altogether artful experience with its striking tone and minimalist approach to storytelling. Developing a successor to Limbo certainly would have been a challenging task for anyone, but it’s safe to say that Playdead overcame this daunting challenge with their latest game Inside. Given the promise of Limbo’s successor, we had to check out the game for ourselves and conduct an Inside review of our own. Find out exactly where the game succeeds and where it may falter in our Inside review.

Inside Review — The World

Inside Review Screenshot 1

Inside opens in a similar way to Limbo. A boy finds himself isolated in the shadows of a forest, as the player leads him forward unaware of the mysteries that lay ahead. However, rather than waking up alone in this predicament as in Limbo, the protagonist of Inside stumbles through the brush before the player even assumes control, hinting at a broad backstory we have yet to learn.

Within the first few minutes, Inside introduces its central conflict and the boy’s most persistent threat. Brake lights of pickup truck become un-obscured beyond the fog, and we see a line of people shuffled into caged pods by a group of masked men, designated for transport to an unknown location. In this moment, Inside establishes a more coherent setting than its predecessor. We receive a clear source of opposition, and some semblance of an end-goal.

The world of Inside is a formidable place. The boy is forced to evade the clutches of an oppressive faction, uncover their intentions, and perhaps rescue their subjugated victims, moving ever deeper into a mysterious industrial complex.

Inside Review — The Graphics

Inside Review Screenshot 2

The most noticeable change Inside makes from its predecessor is in its 2.5D presentation. While players still move the boy across a 2D plane, all character models and environments are in 3D. Unfortunately, this new presentation does come with a loss of some of the finer details that Limbo was able to achieve, such as focus changes, as objects get closer or farther from the screen. As well, textures (especially on character models) are often drab and lacking detail. Fortunately, the minimalist art direction does well to mask these shortcomings, as faceless characters and dulled environments work well within Inside‘s hostile world.

However, despite a lack in finer details, Inside is still a beautiful game. Picturesque set pieces are scattered across every environment the boy explores. The rural and forested areas of the early game offer a quiet tranquility, aided by improved lighting and weather effects. Seeing a glimmer of sunlight pierce a cloudy sky or the shimmer of a rain-covered street certainly attests to the game’s graphical strides.

Even the more industrial sections later in the game are generous with gorgeous moments of environmental beauty. As if anticipating my weariness of dark corridors and heavy machinery, Inside always presented something alluring to the eyes, often achieved through a natural force bursting through the urban setting or an image profoundly hinting at the oppression these areas represent.

As well, just as in Limbo, Inside rewards players for exploring the world it presents. There are many interesting environments hidden throughout the game. Some of these house additional puzzles and collectibles, but each one more importantly offers some eye-catching scenery.

Also impressive is the animation and sound cues expressed by the boy protagonist. The way he balances his hands as he walks across a narrow plank or inquisitively examines a flock of birds help to realize this young man’s character. As well, we’re given numerous points in which the boy expresses fear and tension as he skims too close to his assailants. His body language grows tenser, his breathing becomes heavier, and he constantly turns his head to the path behind him. These are details we just weren’t given in Limbo and is one of the reasons why we were impressed in our Inside review.

Inside Review – The Gameplay

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As for game design, Playdead is in top-form with Inside. Just as in their previous title, the developers do an amazing job introducing new gameplay elements slowly, beginning with simple puzzles to demonstrate a mechanic, and then building up their challenge and complexity as the game moves forward. At the end of the game, almost every unique mechanic felt fully fleshed-out. I can only think of two particular mechanics that probably should have been developed further.

Players that found themselves dying over and over again in Limbo to hidden traps will be happy to know that Inside places less emphasis on trial-and-error gameplay. Most dangers and pitfalls are immediately evident, so challenge now comes more from pure puzzle-solving. But even if a player dies and is forced to try a section again, he or she will find that Limbo‘s great respawn system has been carried over to Inside. Never will you have to replay more than just a few seconds.

Evasion is the main focus of Inside. For most the game, especially toward the beginning, the boy will have to stealthily avoid detection by the enemy or quickly run away from danger. The 2.5D perspective creates great stealth sequences in which the boy finds himself darting between objects in the foreground before enemies in the background turn their heads to see him. The 3D backgrounds also enhance chase sequences, as the game frequently finds unique ways for the players to utilize objects in the background (walls, fences, etc.) to hinder an enemy’s pursuit.

Inside Review Screenshot 4

I was actually surprised by how much underwater gameplay is featured in Inside. Unlike Limbo, where the protagonist drowns in deep pools of water, Inside lets its hero explore large underwater areas, so long as his air supply allows. One would think that underwater sections would limit the player’s actions, but, once again, Playdead proves that they can get the most out of any primary mechanic. The underwater elements build in complexity just as any other part of the game, and they help to give Inside its own unique identity separate from its predecessor’s, which impressed us in our Inside review.

Another of Inside‘s primary game mechanics involves leading groups of people through the compound the boy finds himself in. Without going too much into specifics, some of the game’s best puzzles are based on this group element, as these additional bodies can help the protagonist reach higher places, push heavier objects, or activate buttons he couldn’t activate on his own. Calling to mind early Oddworld games, this feature asks players to manage a team of characters beyond just the boy. And it helps to build on the game’s ending as well.

Inside Review – Conclusion

Inside Review Screenshot 5

Building toward that ending, Inside delivers a fair share of surprises and revelations for the player to discover. I don’t want to give very much away, but I did find some aspects of the game’s latter half rather peculiar, abrupt, and even absurd. But the journey leading up to those points were so enjoyable that I was prepared for any turn the story decided to take.

Much like Limbo before it, Inside ends in a way that is both ambiguous and evocative. It may not leave players with questions about the nature of the game like its predecessor had (i.e. Was it a dream? Was I dead the whole time?), but Inside does invite players to consider the thematic significance of the protagonist’s entire journey. It presents the ideas of individuality, one’s place in a group, and the coalition of the oppressed. Inside offers a profound message for those who decide to interpret it.

Inside is expertly crafted platform game. Building on the successes of its predecessor, this game offers a satisfying gameplay experience,  great pacing and creative puzzles, and a unique narrative experience within a compelling world. Not all players will be completely satisfied with where their adventure ends up, but the heights achieved and risks paid off are well worth seeing the journey through to completion.

Inside Review: A Worthy Successor to Limbo
Inside is a brilliant platform experience, building on the successes of Playdead's previous title, but forging an identity all its own. The pacing and puzzle-solving are perfectly executed, and the tone and art style impactful. Despite a few strange turns, this is a truly worthwhile journey.
Overall Score9.5
  • Masterful pacing, level design, and puzzle-solving
  • Gorgeous visuals and affecting tone
  • A unique and engaging setting
  • A few gameplay mechanics are under-utilized
  • A few peculiar story turns
9.5Overall Score
Reader Rating: (1 Vote)

About The Author

Associate Editor

Rodney is an experienced video game journalist, having attended E3 the past four years and written for outlets such as Zelda Informer, Laser Time, and Nerd Hero. He is both a writer and editor, and strives to become a full-time video game journalist.

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