At first glance Inside doesn't look all that different from Limbo, the previous release from Danish studio Playdead. Both are side-scrolling platform games with dark, muted color palettes and more than a few creepy moments. But the more you play Inside — which hits the Xbox One later this month — the more the differences make themselves clear. It may have taken more than five years to develop, but Playdead's latest is proving to be worth the wait.
Inside once again puts you in the role of a young, unnamed boy, and from the very outset you're on the run. There are patrolling guards and hounds after you, and it feels like any wrong step can lead to your capture (and death). You don't know why you're running or from whom, and as the game progresses things don't necessarily get any clearer. Your escape eventually leads you to a disturbing building full of strange experiments, and perhaps the most impressive aspect is that the story is told without any words at all, either spoken or written. Without spoiling too much, I'll just say that over the five or so hours Inside lasts, it throws a handful of major twists at you, each of which will completely change the way you see the game. It gets increasingly disturbing the more you play.
Much of the game comes down to atmosphere. Though it's a side-scrolling game, Inside is actually 3D, and the developers use this to create constantly shifting cinematic camera angles that really make the game feel like more than just your standard platform game. It also has some incredible, at times disturbing animation — there are only so many times I can watch a small boy being drowned or torn apart by dogs. But all of this, along with the somber colors and quiet-but-haunting sound design, creates an unforgettable atmosphere.
The gameplay follows a similar route as the narrative, constantly surprising you with new ideas. It looks and controls like a fairly standard platform game, but it also introduces completely unique challenges that not only make for really satisfying puzzles, but also ties in really well to the game's themes. Over the course of the game you'll find yourself piloting a submarine, operating all kinds of strange machinery, and tracking the movements of some truly terrifying creatures. It's all very intuitive and immersive, with all of the game's elements working together to create the same mood
Inside will be coming to the Xbox One on June 29th, so stay tuned for our full review — and if you missed out on its predecessor, you can grab Limbo for free right now on Xbox One until June 20th.