- Spoiler: show
25/07 - Inside
A combination of factors got me to try this out, but being honest, if it weren't for this specific situation, I probably wouldn't have played it. It just so happened to come up on Games with Gold around the same time the episode of the pod on it was coming around, so it seemed like a good time to give it a chance. However, I did not enjoy Limbo at all, and very quickly lost patience with Little Nightmares, a very similar game to Playdead's output. Out of the three, I'm probably the most positive on Inside, but I don't think I would say I actually like it. I don't hate it at least, and actually managed to finish it.
It suffers from the same problem those other two games do. In that in its attempt to create fiendish puzzles and tense, dangerous situations, it ends up defeating itself and having the opposite of the intended effect, nullifying its attempt at trying to build atmosphere and tension. When it comes to stealth sections or puzzles where you need to avoid an enemy, the solution is often not very obvious, yet you are given hardly any time to think about your approach. This ends up leading to repeated deaths over and over. The first failure already kills the tension, and the situation end up being reduced a frustrating obstacle that feels mean and arbitrary. It also doesn't help that several of them are designed so you have only just enough time to escape, even if you execute things perfectly. So it can create a situation where you're not sure if you're barking up the wrong tree, or on the right track but just not performing it well enough. Which is not helped by the controls being floaty and a little sluggish. And screw those sections with the mer-child things. Hated that.
But I will say in that sense it is still much better than Limbo. The art design, despite still being very muted and dark, has at least some
colour to it that helps to point out objects of interest, and the 3D graphics make the environment itself a lot more readable, so you're not falling in to traps that you literally can't have seen until you already sprung them. You also can't move trolleys unless you're intentionally pushing too, so you're not fumbling about, accidentally pushing them away from where you need them when you're just trying to get on top of them.
And there were a few things I liked about Inside too. The art design is pretty impressive. The aesthetic they were going for didn't really speak to me personally, and as I said other things kind of ruin the atmosphere, but visually it's got a strong identity that is executed well. They nailed what they were going for. The dystopian world that it builds is quite intriguing too. It made me wonder about exactly what is going on in this world, and how things got to be this way. It's a pretty unique take on brainwashing the masses and science gone astray. It seemed like in this world most humans are just reduced to unthinking husks with no consciousness or will of their own, with the oppressive regime hunting down and eliminating any sign of sentience outside of their own control. And what exactly was the role of the child you play as in all of this? Some kind of escaped lab experiment?
Some of the experiments in the lab areas later were pretty cool both visually and mechanically too. Controlling the mindless humans in some of the earlier puzzles was a high point. Made for some inventive puzzles that felt creepy and unnerving, without having to deal with some monster killing you every 10 seconds. And the stuff with the upside-down water later on was really original and clever, and made for some great visuals too. That kind of thing could be used as the base for an entire game on its own.
The section at the very end was quite fun too. I guess that's one thing I'll save from spoiling, although it's something I knew about going in myself. It was pretty cathartic, but also a little disturbing in its own way too. But it also brings up the story in general. There's obviously some metaphor here. I haven't got a big theory worked out, but I got the impression it might have been some kind of metaphor for childbirth. I also noticed how there seemed to be almost no sign of any women in this game at all, outside of a few very specific cases, that lead me to think that was pretty intentional. I can also see that tying in to the childbirth theme, and adds an interesting layer to the dystopia of this world too. I think I recall having heard the childbirth theory before, so I suppose it's not a particularly original take. I've also heard there's a secret ending if you get all the collectables. I only got one, and I don't plan on ever getting any more.
Writing all that out. I'm surprised how positive it was. Because overall, I don't really like the game that much. Despite the few things I did like, most of the time when my feelings were anything other than neutral while playing, it was annoyance. And it's generally much easier to complain about something than be positive, so I don't know how I managed to write all of that. I guess it's one of those games that are more interesting to think about than actually play. I don't expect I'll ever be revisiting this one.