Stay outside this Inside review until you've played Inside

Sometimes you pay a price when you write reviews for people who’ve already played a game. That price is people who look to reviews to decide what they’re going to play. Where will they spend their time or money? But if I’m going to critique Inside based on what I know after I’ve played it, and if the majority of Inside’s appeal is discovery, I can’t tell you much without compromising your experience with the game.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Couldn't agree with this review more. Where Limbo is a legitimate puzzle platformer (even if the puzzles aren't terrible inventive,) Inside is merely a busywork platformer. I got some enjoyment out of figuring out the weird gravity mechanics of Limbo, and was disappointed that Inside's puzzles weren't just incredibly superficial, they were actively repetitive. How many times do I have to hop this fence in a single scene? How many times must I run left to lure Samara away from the right, then run to the right before she catches up?

It was disappointing to realize that, as much as I loved the atmosphere and the narrative I think it was trying to tell (I think it's a tale of animal liberation told via childbirth metaphor,) I would have gotten just as much out of it if I'd just watched someone else play it. Oh well.

I genuinely took the "don't read anything about Inside!" comments to heart before its release and went in completely blind so I didn't know - and was a little disappointed - that it took the same shape as Limbo as far as gameplay goes.

To echo the review, Tom, I will spend infinitely more hours discussing what Inside could all mean but I don't think I will ever go back to play it.

I wouldn't criticise a game for being a "one and done" experience but I do find that being able to explore systems and spaces after the nominal story has concluded is becoming more important to me.

I basically don't know anything about this game except that it comes highly recommended, as those who have recommended it have advised ignorance, as you have. A few questions, though, and I don't think that you'll spoil anything by answering them-first off, how scary is this game? I know it's classified as horror, but is this nightmare scary, or creepy, or what? Give me an idea. Secondly, you mention that this game is distinctly Nordic for its dark and strange atmosphere. Can comparisons be made to Year Walk? The Seventh Seal? Or is this something else entirely? (I'm not familiar with Refn or von Trier's work).

It's creepy scary. Mostly slow burn "wouldn't it be terrible if...?" conceptual stuff about an oppressive society. Imagine 1984 as a horror movie. Rest assured it's not jumpscare trash which is what you get with 90% of the games that consider themselves horror.

I don't know what Year Walk is, but I'm going to go look it up! Interesting that you bring up Seventh Seal! I think of Seventh Seal as so rooted in Medieval Europe that it doesn't even feel Swedish to me (Bergman was a Swede, I believe). But Bergman's black-and-white moodiness is a bit like what Inside is doing with its colorless world. However, Bergman is so actor-based, and that's not really something videogames can easily do (Uncharted, Oxenfree, Last of Us being exceptions).

So, really, I'm probably just making it more confusing. :) Suffice to say the horror descriptor is nothing like the horror descriptor on other videogames. It's a creepy conceptual game, not a horror game.

Excellent point, David. I sort of want to replay the finale of Inside, but not enough to play the rest of the game. I wonder how much the lack of replayability is intentional? By which I mean, I wonder how much Playdead doesn't really want the story to be pored over? For instance, the incentive to replay Oxenfree is clearly built in. There are all those bits and bobs that elaborate on the backstory, that explain what's going on, that shed light on motivations. Oxenfree obviously has a sort of story bible and the developers lay it open for players who want to dig deeper. I suspect the ambiguity in Inside doesn't really lend itself to fleshing out the world for replayability or exploration.

Oh man, that's a tempting thread to take up, but I'd hate to ruin things for people glancing over the comments section. "A tale of animal liberation told via childbirth metaphor". I'm going to have to mull over that, which is why I like it so much.

I can't believe I've played a game you haven't heard of. From what I can suss out from the first few paragraphs of your review, I think that Year Walk is somewhat similar to Inside. I may be wrong, but I recommend a playthrough, if only so you can tell me how apt the comparison is. (I played the mobile version, which came out before the steam version. I have no idea how they handled PC port, as it seemed like a game designed around a Smartphones touchscreen and accelerometer.)

One word of advice if you do decide to play Year Walk (on mobile): Get the free companion app. It isn't like other companion apps, it was developed by the game developer, and I believe the game was designed with it in mind. It's been a while, but I think the game is pretty short, you should be able to beat it fairly quickly. (The companion app contains an encyclopedia with historical background on the mythology behind the game. While useful, this is not necessary to the game's experience, and as I recall I did not use it for this purpose, though I wish I had. It comes into play in a more important fashion once you've beaten the main game.)

I'm surprised you don't think of The Seventh Seal as Swedish, given that it is a Swedish language film. And I'm an idiot, Refn Directed Valhalla Rising, didn't he? I was just about to bring up that film as another example of the "Nordic Aesthetic" I felt you were alluding to (that I feel Year Walk also embodies), even though that's an English language film.

The only "jump scare" game I've really been exposed to has been The Last of Us (if that counts). I know from this site that you're somewhat of a horror aficionado, (comics and films as well as games) and therefore I say with no small embarrassment-I'm not really a fan of the genre. I make occasional exceptions for games and films I consider to be of particular interest, but otherwise I avoid "scary" works. So the real question I suppose I'm asking is-is the whole game scary? Is this the primary purpose of the game, to create an unsettling atmosphere? (I'm not belittling that-creating an effective atmosphere is one of the best and hardest things I think any work of art can accomplish). Or does it also focus on plot and character development? I know absolutely nothing about the game, so forgive me if my questions seem stupid.

(I think this comment was removed automatically as spam because I edited it too many times. As such, I reposted it. If I unknowingly broke some rule, feel free to remove it again.)

I posted a reply to this, but it was removed as spam. I think it was removed because I edited it too many times, but I otherwise may have broken some rule. If it was removed correctly, please let me know so I don't make the same mistake in the future. (and so I give up on trying to comment on this thread) Otherwise, would you kindly unflag my comment?

That was weird. You were definitely trapped in the spam folder, but otherwise it was just actual spam. Thanks for letting me know. For what it's worth, we won't be using Disqus much longer. We're migrating the comments and then integrating the comment section with our main forum. Things should go a lot more smoothly once that's set up.

Inside is horror that should be just fine for a non-horror fan. And I've installed Year Walk and it's in the queue. Looking forward to trying it out. From the few screenshots I saw while grabbing it, it looks right up my alley!

Something Playdead should be commended for, and maybe this does indicate they want people to play certain parts again, is the chapter system. Being able to choose almost the pinpoint moment you want to see again is very welcome.

Also the Year Walk comparison/recommendation below is a really good one. It had a definite Blair Witch vibe to it too so I think it's definitely in your wheelhouse and would love to know your thoughts.

Will you ever play another indie game as a 'kid in scary world?' I loved Inside, but it pretty much guaranteed that I won't be bothered to play another indie game that stands on the crutches of that trope, largely because the trope is only present here in appearances.

I wonder how others feel about games that make excuses for questionable design within the games logic or story. Is the fact Inside is basically 'Go Right: the Game' wholly mitigated by the Child being a puppet whose only purpose is to 'free' Shaggoth? Or is it merely an excuse?

I strongly agree with you about Inside’s powerful identity but your take on the gameplay struck me as more cynical than the game lets on. I found that its simple puzzle design accomplished two goals: they made the game accessible to non-gamers as a more literary experience; and they gave time and context for the game’s unsettling narrative themes to sink in.

After reaching the end of the game, I wanted to see other people’s reactions. I sat with three friends of different gaming experience levels as they played through to the end, and every player had a several Aha! moments, especially concerning the inversion and puppet puzzles. All three, ahem, specimens, as well as myself, loved at least a few of these moments - and the puzzles in the hidden achievement rooms tended to distort mechanics in interesting ways. Even if interactivity here is just an apparatus to make the player identify with the boy, it wordlessly works.

But more than that I found each puzzle said something. The banality of tugging crates and hopping fences seems, for the most part, intentional. Half the puzzles are industrial labour, as if the little boy has to live the life of the menial folk in order to transcend them. When he joins the conga line, the player learns to blend in with the normies, while at the same time forced to confront a parody of the idea of gameplay itself. One, two, three, CLICK! The puppetry puzzles put the player in control of the core plot device of the entire story; sickeningly, this mechanic compels you to objectify these slaves that you, the player, might’ve thought you were trying to free. Lastly, I think the restrictiveness of the 2D movement plane was intentional and totally emphasized during a few sweeping camera angle moments. The boy seems magnetically drawn to his objective. He has no will to veer from the path. Watching in disbelief as he confronts avoidable obstacles head-on, somewhat like the redundant Water Girl death animations, has a curious, deterministic tone to it, I think.

Anyway thanks for your eloquent review. Just found your site today and am very much enjoying your catalog. Keep it up!

So I finally got around to playing this one, and my review is: Well, that was messed up.

My deeper thoughts are, this was way less interesting to me than I gather it was to most everyone else, based on its reviews and the comments in this thread. In fact, I guess I take the opposite stance from Tom: had there been no puzzles and this was sold as a “walking simulator” there would have been nothing here to hold my attention.

That said, now that I’m through with it, there are a few questions the game raises that I have no idea how to unpack. Part of me feels that this is intended as a dream or nightmare analogue, not to be taken literally but to be absorbed, swallowed in one gulp without chewing. Which is fine, I’m a big fan of Lynch’s movies which are definitely intended to be felt and not necessarily to be thought through or picked apart. But there are details in place that make me wonder if that’s the intention.

First, the game is populated by people and by non-people, to give them a label. The non-people exist to be puppets, I gather, to be used for whatever purpose by the people. Most people have no autonomy, but the player character, an otherwise unidentifiable boy, does. He works toward a goal. Having played the game through I’m still not clear about what that goal was, but he definitely moves with purpose. This purpose is transferred to the shapeless blob he joins at the end, in that the blob moves with intent to the end. But it’s hard to tell why the boy exists as he is, is he an anomaly? He’s able to use the mind-controlling hats but this is not unique to him - we learn from some puzzles that the hats are recursive, the boy can manipulate another non-person to a different hat, which it can then use to manipulate a third character. So why is he alone sapient? Maybe so the player can have something to do, instead of watching a movie.

Second, I couldn’t help wondering if this joined back to Limbo in some way. I thought the worms that were embedded in the pigs looked much like the mind-controlling worms from Limbo but couldn’t tell if they had the same purpose. Once the boy yanks one out of the hog that attacks him, the pig falls dead? unconscious? Who knows, but I kind of hung around that spot longer than I needed to, just to try to find out more details. Which of course I didn’t find.

The bit with the underwater girl (I assumed it’s a girl, but that’s predicated exclusively on the long hair) interested me. I can’t help but think this girl is just like the boy, it’s not human but exists for its own purpose and is not a slave of the humans. I feel that’s why she pursues the boy so single-mindedly, that she recognizes a kindred spirit and doesn’t want to let go. But what about that last bit where she pulls the boy down to what we think is his death? She “plugs” some kind of device into him, does this give him the ability to breathe underwater? I don’t think so - from what the non-people show us, they don’t seem to need to breathe, so maybe what she’s doing is showing him that he doesn’t either, that he is held back by the belief that he does need to breathe.

What’s the deal with the blob? It seems that it may be the primordial form of the non-people, but seeks to return to that primitive form since it sucks the boy back into itself. But when the boy finds the blob, it’s hooked up to a bunch of those mind-controlling hats. Why? What is the blob doing? Do the scientists control the non-people through the blob? You don’t see a lot of the non-people actually doing anything, except that long line you have to Parappa the Rapper dance along. Otherwise, they just stand around waiting for you to find a hat to make them do something. So, yeah. Who knows.

I felt like the ending was more of a punchline than anything else. After a full game of being chased and being essentially powerless, you’re now unstoppable. Dogs can’t touch you, and heavy objects can just be ripped out of mountings. It’s your everyday power fantasy right? Or something.

Still, I mean, it’s interesting and certainly worth my time and money. There’s probably all kinds of subtext and meaning that just went right over my head. Wouldn’t be the first time. I’ll go bum around YouTube and see if someone can explain it to me like an idiot.