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Post by JaySevenZero »

Here's where you can contribute your memories and opinions of INSIDE for potential inclusion in the forthcoming podcast.

Friendly reminder to all that where feedback for the podcast is concerned, we love it - but self-editing (brevity) is appreciated. We do want to include a breadth of opinions where appropriate, but no-one wants a discussion podcast that’s mainly reading. Better to save yourself time and cut to the chase if you can.

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Re: 378: INSIDE

Post by psychohype »

INSIDE, what an incredible experience! As someone who really enjoyed Playdead’s first offering, Limbo, back in 2010, I remember wondering from time to time why I never seemed to hear any word of a follow-up game in the years after. When I finally did hear about INSIDE, it was already finished and generating some positive buzz from the critics. Lo and behold, it bore quite a few striking similarities to Limbo. A side-scrolling puzzle platformer featuring a young boy protagonist and a largely monochromatic art direction? Huh. Guess they wanted to stick with what they knew best.

For me, the most surprising thing about INSIDE is how it managed to completely eclipse its predecessor in just about every way—without taking anything away from what made Limbo interesting in its own right. It’s probably the most cinematic side-scroller I’ve ever played, and it feels like there’s a very strong Stephen Spielberg influence, with echoes of films like Minority Report, Jurassic Park, or (primarily) War of the Worlds. It nails the element of suspense, not only because of the timing of the action—think of the panic that ensues from the sound of barking dogs before you even see the pack arrive on the screen, or how the relief of a narrow getaway is almost immediately supplanted by the realization that you’re not out of harm’s way just yet. The dread you feel in so many parts of the game is almost always heightened due to the simple fact that you have no idea who or what you’re even up against. Why is a corpse-like pig attacking me? Where is this line of marching people taking me? What the heck is causing these massive sonic blasts? Or what, dear God, is that dark-haired mer-child creature, and why is it following my submersible?

The fact that all of this is so expertly paced and choreographed and still manages to leave room for such an utterly shocking twist of a climax—needless to say, I was impressed. By the time the credits had rolled on my first play through, I had more questions than answers, which isn’t unheard of in games but certainly not common. And despite the fact that there are obvious hints, clues, and even a secret ending contained within the game, I’m fine with admitting that I still can’t provide an explanation or interpretation for what INSIDE is really about. It makes me urge others to play it all the more.

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Re: 378: INSIDE

Post by Jobobonobo »

This game did so much with such little playtime. It was a game I was determined not to have spoiled for me and I only got tempted to look online for help with a puzzle once which is a shame as the solution was pretty obvious in hindsight. Every other time I was determined to figure it out myself. The beauty of this game's puzzles is that you only have two moves in your arsenal, jump and interact. This means its puzzles are not solved using particular items or abilities. You simply have to observe the environment very carefully to figure it out and when you do, the feeling of satisfaction matches that of the best puzzlers I have played. It also never repeats its ideas, it will go through certain situations once and that is it, onto something new, always keeping things fresh.

Then there is the presentation. My goodness, this game is incredibly unsettling. The fact that you are a helpless little boy means that you have no choice but to escape or trap the numerous forces out to get you and certain sequences really can be unbelievably tense and unnerving without resorting to cheap jumpscares. Playing this is the very antithesis of a power fantasy which all good horror should aspire to. Its story is integrated lovingly with the gameplay and it also gives you just enough details that it can be open to interpretation. And that ending... now that is how you do horror.

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Re: 378: INSIDE

Post by Toon Scottoon »

I started Inside with all the best intentions. It was a short game, with an art style I liked,so I swore that even when stuck on a puzzle, there was no need to cut corners. Sure my string-bean, boy-child avatar got unceremoniously strangled by thugs early on, but that was just because I didn’t know the rules of the game yet. “The Kid”, as I came to call him, was on the run, but with such rewarding, well-constructed puzzles, I saw no need to rush.

Then the dogs got me. I’d kept ahead of them for some time, but eventually they caught up, tore out “The Kid’s” throat and shredded his flesh, once, twice, a third time. The way it sounded...that wet rip... the efficiency with which death came… to put “The Kid” through it all again seemed cruel to me and him, so I shamefully peaked at a walkthrough like a thirteen-year-old standing near the dark curtain at the back of an old video rental shop. I only did this once or twice more, but every time it was because I couldn’t stand the way “The Kid” died. His concussive dismemberment by invisible artillery at “The Bridge” or the horrific water breathing creature bursting “The Kid’s” skull in the submersible (a dark horse candidate for one of my favorite video game vehicles of all time). The deaths were just so brutal, so visceral, it all just hurt too much. It wasn’t fair for “The Kid” to suffer this way because of my stupidity, and after all I just knew he was going to get away and find happiness in his own special place in the sun. Boy was I wrong, even when I was right.

I don’t see myself replaying Inside. However, I’d recommend the game to anybody who can stomach a good dose of acerbic commentary in their games. I’m certainly looking forward to whatever Playdead comes out with next.

Three word review
Sunbathing flesh potato

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Re: 378: INSIDE

Post by Magical_Isopod »

I'm writing this immediately after having played INSIDE all the way through in a single sitting, and my primary thought is... What in the world was all the hype about? I had read that this game was some kind of revolutionary, groundbreaking, artistic masterpiece. And to be blunt, it wasn't. I had read that this game is chock full of compelling social commentary. It isn't. When the end credits started rolling, I glared at my screen - while live on Twitch, mind - and simply asked, "That's it? That's supposed to be one of the best games ever made?" I just don't get it.

In terms of a video game, it has some good mechanics. The puzzles were fairly simple, and it didn't feel compelled to pull out a walkthrough at any point -- that is to say, they weren't overly cryptic. The platforming worked well enough, although I did find myself fighting with the controls a few times. The game does a really good job of telegraphing your next moves without any explanation, so you're never shouting at the screen asking, "What do you want from me, game?" So in that regard, it's competently made and a fairly pleasant experience.

I may also be reading entirely too much into this, but the mindless goons you guide around for much of the game, to me, felt as though the creators of this game had an incredible amount of contempt for blue collar workers. In this universe, the only "real humans" are posh office employees, and the labourers and tradespeople of the world are just mindless drones? It really struck a sour note with me. It came off as incredibly tone-deaf and insulting, and made me question the intent of the devs. It felt like someone really wanted to send a message, "Those blue collar workers are subhumans, they're not as good as I am, up here in my corner office." I'd read several times that this game is supposed to have some bold anti-corporate message, but I got exactly the opposite impression.

Overall, I come out very disappointed with this game. Perhaps it's the fault of hyperbolic games criticism that coloured an incorrect expectation in my mind - perhaps it's my fault for blithely believing advertorials. I don't feel this game is anything special, and I really can't give it a firm recommendation. If it's on for a buck or two, it's a decent afternoon time waster. But if you're expecting some high-brow artistic work or biting critical commentary, look elsewhere.

Three Word Review:
Pretentious, overrated, tone-deaf.

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Re: 378: INSIDE

Post by jonbash »

((First post for me; relatively new listener; excited to be here!))
((edit: it occurs to me now that I wrote, uhh, way too much, so I've bolded what I felt were my most important points.))

It's nigh impossible to talk about Inside without comparing it to Limbo, both in the obvious similarities and the sometimes surprising differences. It always feels a bit unfair to compare sequels or successors, but the connection exists in reality and in our impressions of the games, so it's only appropriate, I think.

Limbo was one of my favorite games of the past decade, so of course I was looking forward to Playdead's next eerie, dread-inducing world in which to run to the right, albeit this time in technicolor. Even more I think I was looking forward to Martin Stig Andersen's beautifully haunting music/sound design mesh (I'm still a bit sad that it hasn't received a soundtrack release).

The game started us off similarly enough to Limbo, a kid sneaking around a dark forest. Now, though, there were adults, dogs, even vehicles! Still, already it felt like a step up in every department. The stylized graphics given an extra dimension and the sound design extra-gut-punching (those dogs, oof).

The gameplay was never the highlight for me in Limbo, and again here it's more functional than anything; it helps move things forward and generally avoids causing frustration, but ultimately didn't really stand out for me, with only a few exceptions (marching into the facility, the shockwave section, avoiding those terrifying mermaid creatures, and of course the ending). This didn't really undercut the experience for me, though, but actually gave more room for the stronger aspects to stand out.

The overall atmosphere of the game, exemplified in the stylized visual artistry and design and animation of the various sets as well as the aforementioned sound design and music, is the real star here. Vast, ambient soundscapes over vast, corporate landscapes, giving way to dilapidated, underwater graveyards. If nothing else, even if the gameplay and plot were to completely fail at their tasks (and I assert that they do not), there are some segments in here that stand as unparalleled works of audiovisual art.

I adore the way that the plot is unfolded entirely through the context and environment, here in a much richer way than in the preceding game. We're never quite sure exactly what is going on, but it's beautifully haunting nonetheless. Is this an anti-capitalist allegory bemoaning a lack of autonomy afforded all but the most privileged people? Is it a mean-spirited poke at the working class and their perceived lack of exercise of their free will? Is it a philosophical questioning of the very existence of free will? I'm not sure, but its wordless questions evoke only a wordless shrug, and to be honest, I'm completely okay with that. Questions of agency and free will do seem to be at the heart of the game, and it's a question that games are, for obvious reasons, well-equipped to ask.

I would be remiss if I didn't talk about the ending. After Limbo's quiet, understated conclusion, I guess I was expecting something similar here. I was not expecting to get sucked into a Cronenbergian-nightmare-flesh-blob and rampage my way out of the giant office complex in which it(/I?) was seemingly being held prisoner. I literally burst out laughing with joy as I burst through walls and rolled over office workers, sowing general chaos. This was such a viscerally gratifying climax to what was mostly a slow-burn of an experience, and as the flesh-blob rolled down the grassy hill and slowly ceased its movement before the credits rolled, it was as if it were asking itself, "Well, what now?" It didn't think any further than the idea of "freedom" to actually consider what it would do with that freedom. Was there anything to do? This seems to be the question left to the player.

I'm not one for collectibles, and so though I never pursued the "alternate ending," its inclusion honestly felt a tad cheap or tacked on, or at least not as well integrated into the game or the plot as maybe it could have been. Perhaps if the actions to unlock the secret ending didn't feel like such a superficial treasure hunt, it might have had more impact. Then again, that secret ending itself felt a bit too on-the-nose for my tastes anyways.

So, is Inside revolutionary or groundbreaking? I wouldn't say so. But it executes so much so well and is so memorable & beautiful in so many ways that it deserves to be played by anyone interested in seeing the kinds of strange stories that games tell best.

Three-word review: blob all along

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Re: 378: INSIDE

Post by Alex79uk »

It's been a while since I played Inside, and I only played it the once. Maybe it was my expectation after enjoying Limbo so much, or maybe it was the hype around the game, but it missed as often as it hit for me. For every genius ah-ha moment, there was an overly long and tedious puzzle or irritating death. There were some fantastic moments moments of sheer terror - those mermaid things freaked me the hell out, and there was an overbearing sense of claustrophobia throughout the game too. Overall I'd say I enjoyed it, but man, that ending - I hated it! The whole last 10/15 minutes. The game was building and building and building, and then - that thing - well I won't spoil it here but I really didn't like where it went. Still, they've made two very atmospheric 2D adventures, and I'm still interested to see what's next.

THREE WORD REVIEW: I preferred Limbo.

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Re: 378: INSIDE

Post by Simonsloth »

I absolutely love Inside. It is a game which I have replayed every year since it was released. It’s short, exhilarating and rewarding. There are few games which capture these feelings with such resounding quality.

The fact that I’m using these superlatives about a game which mainly asks you to hold right, occasionally press left and do a bit of jumping and climbing speaks volumes about its design.

The amazing palpitation inducing opening creates such panic and fear whilst I am simply holding right and jumping a bit. I’m not trying to belittle the game at all but the fact it garners such admiration is because these moments are blessed with such impressive dread-inducing audio and visual work. The sickening sounds of the protagonist’s death are so extreme and disturbing as to make the player wince so death is not just a minor irritant but something dread inducing.

Inside manages to encapsulate so many different emotions in such a short running time. Fear, euphoria, confusion, panic. Simply breathtaking.

Is this short form video game perfection? It may well be.

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Re: 378: INSIDE

Post by Iain[Ian]Ianson »

One of the most polished games ever made.

There’s so much bespoke animation. Every opening you squeeze through or door you wrestle open is a unique set of assets. It’s a small thing, but it really helps to demonstrate the care and attention lavished on this game. The feel of character movement is right up there with Mario 64 and Sunshine. The look and feel of swimming has never been bettered in a game. There’s a fantastic GDC talk by the developers about how they animated ‘the creature’. On a purely technical level it’s a remarkable achievement that completely throws away the rule book in terms of how 3D game characters are animated.

On top of that, it’s all wrapped up in an incredibly engrossing, interactive tone-poem of world. I don’t pretend to understand what it’s all about, but I remember what I felt. I’m reminded of how I felt watching one of the bizarre and amazing short films you would sometimes get late at night on the UK TV channel Film4 in the early 2000s. Something that strips back absolutely everything outside of the sights, sounds and mood that matter for that short time. Masterful.

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Re: Our next-but-one podcast recording (13.7.19) - 378: INSIDE

Post by The_reviewist »

What a strange little curiosity. I've literally just played Playdead's follow up to Limbo this morning, and it surprised me hugely. Not only because it takes most of the best aspects of their previous game, builds on them and adds in a far more sinister story, but also because despite being an improvement in almost ever technical sense, I found it quite... soulless.

That's not to rag on the creepy dystopian vibe, the themes of scientific experimentation and malpractice, imagery clearly hearkening to both the holocaust and the meat industry, the eerie body horror, and the mostly fun puzzles. There's a lot to like here. But for me the whole never managed to exceed or even match the sum of its parts... ironically.

Frankly, the moment the game lost me completely, was when the staff and scientists began to run past the boy, noticing him but not reacting. Although probably sensible, considering this was something like an office complex not a military base, I found that from there, to the moment when the boy was absorbed into the flailing gestalt meatball, I simply chuckled and found the remaining 20 minutes or so of the game a bit silly. Good, but not great.

TWR: Creepy Fatberg Simulator.

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Re: Our next-but-one podcast recording (13.7.19) - 378: INSIDE

Post by seansthomas »

Don't think I can come up with anything unique or personal to add to this one, but what a game and atmosphere! It's insanely hard to draw you into a world in the way this game did. The Switch screen seemed far larger when playing that game.

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Re: Our next podcast recording (14.7.19) - 378: INSIDE

Post by Tbone254 »

Limbo is one of my favorite games so my expectations for Inside were through the roof. I completed Inside in a single sitting the day I bought it, and I thought it was fantastic. It retains the intense atmosphere that was present in Limbo, but presents it in a different way. Everything in Inside has such a sinister feel to it. It’s hard for me to put my finger on why it seems so different from Limbo. I’m sure some of this it the result of how uncanny the characters look. The people that chase the boy at the beginning of the game are eerily aggressive, and that creepy girl-fish-thing later on is what nightmares are made of. Even the actions of the boy are pretty perverse. At one point, the boy paralyzes a pig by getting it to ram into a wall. He then starts to drag it across the room, but in the process he accidentally rips off the pigs tail. Finally the boy grabs the pig by his limp legs, drags it across the room and uses it like a step stool. It’s viciously barbaric. It's also awesome.

The sound design of Inside is pretty incredible as well. The game is mostly filled with atmospheric environmental sounds, occasionally punctuated by sections of sudden and intense music that serves to increase the creepiness of the game. Inside is another gem of a game from Playdead and I am looking forward to their next creation.

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Re: Our next podcast recording (14.7.19) - 378: INSIDE

Post by DeadpoolNegative »

Sliding in just before the deadline...

When I was a wee lad, I loved to watch a bootleg VHS copy of E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (side note: those of you may not be aware that the film was not released on video for several years in the US, at least), but I would only watch the third act. What was, and has always been, the most fascinating part of the film for me is director Steven Spielberg's depiction of the scary government forces descending on Eliot and his family's cul-de-sac. That fascinating image of the hard hat men marching over the, street, the disturbingly long shadow Keys casts in the driveway, the way the soldiers and scientists find a way to turn Eliot's residence in to a scary, alien place. It's not so much frightening as it is unsettling, "off". Keys and his government men have everything under control. But what does "Control" really mean?

I wonder if there are people at Playdead who also remember those scenes as well as I do. Particularly in its first half, Inside feels like a darker, inversion of many classic Spielbergian and 80s tropes. Those men in the woods driving vans aren't just looking for suspicious characters- they'll shoot this game's version of Eliot on sight.

Everything is under control in the world of Inside. Sure, SOME sort of unspecified incident has occurred, and the city and its outskirts are littered with some strange detritus that indicates that whatever happened, it was not anywhere need what was intended. Don't worry. The smart people are in charge. Or more accurately, the RIGHT people are in charge- the rest, well, they have their uses. The kid encounters seemingly innocent people controlled by the game's vague authority, but more than once we see people who look like ordinary civilians in the city who are wearing strange masks, just like the guards, standing off to the side and observing the action. Whatever's gone wrong, it's going to be fixed.

Eventually. For the right people. You're an agreeable sort, right?

Inside is not quite as cohesive or as good a game as Limbo, but as a story it's a fine example of how environmental storytelling can really grab a player. From the first scene the player is put into the shoes of the kid and we, like him, have to keep running, have to keep thinking ahead, because the men in black or the dogs... or the blob... or the sonic blast... or the mermaid... is waiting for us if we slow down. What was fascinating to me is that the questions I kept wanting to be answered: what happened to the city and why, and what stake does the kid have in it, why is it so important to him that he discovers what those strange men in lab coats are working on (And why they help the blob)- those questions are never definitively answered by the game's text. And with weaker storytellers this would be infuriating, but with Playdead I was satisfied. Ultimately I didn't need to understand the kid's real reason for infiltrating the city and research lab. Perhaps he simply wanted to know. And so did I.

I did note that while in terms of ambition and story, Inside is ahead of Limbo, but I often found myself missing that game's not exactly simpler but easier to figure out puzzles. There were of parts of this game where I went "Ah-ha" after some tedious trial and error, but just as many, if not more, parts where after all that tedium I checked a guide and thought "Well how am I supposed to infer that?" It's frustrating, but that's only because the world it created is so rich and worth exploring. Limbo had less complex puzzles, yes, but it felt more propulsive and compelling as a result.

So if you don't mind a lot of frustration, and a lot of ambiguity, I highly recommend giving Inside a try. As a game it's pretty good; as a tone poem of science fiction horror, it's an experience you won't soon shake. And why would you want to? After all, if you're having a good time, that means... everything is all right.

Everything is under control.

As for the game's theories about its ending: I prefer not to go with "The boy's being manipulated by the blob" but I do think someone, most likely the scientists, are aiding and abetting the boy somehow. None of them seem to care when he shows up. There is an entity making sure the kid winds up where he is. I just don't think it's the blob.

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