(Back to Back Gaming goodies fer ya, courtesy of Mr. Andrew Peters. Thanks for this, Ho-rror Ho-mie!! Your vids are too cute!! 🙂 xoxo)
Playdead’s first game Limbo was about a boy searching for his sister in Hell. Of course you wouldn’t know this, because the game doesn’t tell you. It has no direct narrative as to what is going on, but cleverly leaves it up to the player to figure it out as they play the game. And that’s what this review is; my interpretation of the game. Now, it’s not completely vague and a lot of the stuff is pretty easy to guess what is happening, so I did do a little research and it turns out there are many like minded folk, so keep this in mind as you are reading this review, that what I’m telling you is both my experience of the game and then comparing to others. There’s no dialogue or cutscenes to tell you what is happening, but rather you get subtle clues from objects or something happening in the background or something you have to overcome face to face. It was something that hadn’t really been done before and it was really fresh and cool, mixed with the art style, everything being silhouetted in the foreground and ominous music and puzzles varying in difficulty, Playdead made their mark. It was a semi-difficult, dark toned and yet rewarding adventure.
Their latest game, Inside, follows the same formula, but feels like it improves on them at the same time. , Inside is also a 3D side scrolling puzzle platformer, but takes things out of the shadows and gives them some color while keeping them vague. You play as a red shirted boy who is making his way through the woods while being chased – and avoiding detection – from faceless men. Now, I literally mean faceless. That’s one of the first things you will realize about the game as once you start, you are instantly dropped into this world; nobody has a face. At first, it may seem like a cool art direction, which it is, but as you play and you learn about what is happening and realizing who or what the these men are and what they are doing, it becomes clear as to why they are faceless. Shortly after, you see them loading dozens of people into trucks and driving away, but again, the reason is never told and leaves you to figure it out. As you march through the woods and through a cornfield, you happen upon a farm, but right away you will notice something very wrong; all of the animals are dead (with the exception of some cute chicks) and there seem to be some sort of parasitic worms. Beyond that, you venture into a rural area where people are being marched into what seems like a factory. Suddenly, you realize they don’t seem to be marching against their will, but almost as if they are being mind controlled. Further and further as you explore, even going as far as underwater exploration in a tiny little James Cameron sub, you find yourself in a lab and to get through it and to get answers, these mindless people seem to be helping you and this is an interesting part of the game. There are thing helmet devices scattered through the game that the player will need to use to control these people to help with puzzles. This may include, using brute strength in numbers to pull something open or to control someone elsewhere to open a door. These become increasingly difficult as the game progresses, but nothing that is too frustrating and I’m sure with a short amount of time, you can figure them out on your own. All of these will reveal answers, but will you like what you find at the end?
As I was saying, the plot is never made clear, it’s never told directly to the player what is going on or what exactly anything is. You are left to figure that out through your adventure and it leaves it up to your own interpretation. You easily and quickly get a feel for the oppressive nature, like the population is being controlled by these men that seem to be guarding places or chasing after you with flashlights and dogs (that will rip you, a little kid, apart!), so you may guess that it’s the government. But, what exactly do they want with all these people? Why mind control them? Along my adventures, I was noticing all of these tubes that people seemed to be stuffed in, mixed with all of the dead animals, led me to believe that in this world people are being farmed for food. Yes, we got a Soylent Green situation happening here. I also made the conclusion that this probably took place during the early ‘80s from the aesthetics, but didn’t fully make this conclusion until at one point in the game you see a tape recorder and stacks of VHS tapes. By now, you start to realize how government controlled everything feels and the game’s George Orwell-ian vibe is thicker than oil. It’s a dark, dystopian 1980’s future and you don’t even realize it until you are nearing the end of the game. Now the end of the game is a little mind boggling as it kind of steps into Akira territory, but mixed with other subtle props in the background, you get the feeling that this was being controlled all along. Keep in mind that there is an alternative ending that is achieved by finding and destroying thirteen hidden orbs throughout the game that is a little more direct on what’s happening, but it’s not any happier.
The game mechanics are rather easy, you just move left or right and jump when necessary. You can also grab objects to reveal passages or to move items to help you solve a puzzle. It’s easy and the game doesn’t prompt displays on how to move about or control, but rather treats you with some intelligence and eases you into how the game is played through increasingly difficult puzzles and situations. It doesn’t show you exactly what to do, but rather hints at how to go about figuring something out, so you aren’t left hanging, but you aren’t having your hand held either. However, it’s not just the puzzles that will be trying to stop you, it’s various things in the environment, like some sort of concussion blast that will literally blow this poor kid apart unless you time his movements right and use obstacles to block the blast. Another thing it a long haired, naked child that swims in the water and seemingly wants to drown you, thus forcing you to cause diversions or be very quick before either you run out of oxygen or you are pulled into the dark abyss.
I could keep going on, but Inside is a short experience (I beat it in just under two hours) that you should indulge in. It’s not about heavy handing a plot or theme to the player, but rather letting them figure it out and it manages to impact you with emotions from the oppressive imagery and what seems to be happening. I can’t wait to see what Playdead comes up with next. I’m sure it will involve horribly killing a child. (#DaretoDream -D.P.)