In the three years before I lost my life to video games, I loved spending my time getting into all sorts of adventures with my cousins. These minions would happily follow me around like slaves waiting to do my bidding and as long as it didn't involve too much bodily harm, I had them eating out of the palm of my hand.
I have no idea how Playdead managed to recreate this childhood experience in INSIDE (they must have been spying on me or something). The spiritual successor to LIMBO, this multi-platform puzzle adventure won a lot of awards last year for capitalizing on everything its predecessor did and then some.
In the game, you
control a boy with a more robust color palette than the previous title as he
searches for a metaphorical pot of gold at the end of the furthermost right
side of the world. Armed with the ability to jump and interact with objects,
you come across numerous unexplainable phenomena such as a dying pig farm,
mind-controlled civilians, and really hungry fish people.
In this sense, things haven't changed much since LIMBO apart from getting confused in Technicolor. What has changed however is Playdead's attention to detail, as the world they created feels more lifelike and less like excerpts from an emo teenager's sketchpad.
Whereas LIMBO kept the characters and
backgrounds on a single plain, INSIDE
makes clever use of a hybrid of 2D and 3D animation to increase the ways in
which players can interact with the world. Incorrectly pulling a lever doesn't
always mean instant death as it did before since a number of dangerous events
happen on an entirely different layer, away from your very squishy body.
Apart from creating effective hazard zones, these layers are used in other clever ways that make it feel like each piece contributes to the story and gameplay. Seeing a dog run from the background towards you may not seem very impressive, but the fact that you assume it makes sense means the developers did their jobs right.
But even though the game now has more color and sound than an old-time film, the feelings that permeate throughout the entire 2-3 hour journey are still as dark and depressing as the title that came before it.
And that's what really bothers me.
If you've played LIMBO, you will notice that not much has changed over the course of Playdead's two games. The puzzles, the sense of loneliness, even the ambiguous endings were all there six years ago when the company started this whole side-scrolling shtick. When you look at similar titles like thatgamecompany's Journey or Flower, you can see how the developers have tried to convey different feelings with different game mechanics.
INSIDE just feels like
more of the same.
Granted the challenges are more forgiving, but the whole trial-and-error process of solving them, especially when under time pressure, is starting to feel old. Not only that, but the payoff for solving them is usually another puzzle which you desperately want to finish so that you can see more of the world and the ending you so rightly deserve.
While seeing more of this macabre painting is nice, it isn't always enough to compensate for all the thinking that you do. You assume that at least some of the story would get fleshed out after each mental pushup your brain does, but INSIDE likes to keep itself open to interpretation, thereby making itself a double-edged sword. Some players will like the ambiguity while others will be left about as satisfied as a T-rex at a salad bar.
But that shouldn't stop you from playing the game.
Though INSIDE does not have much in way of replayability (apart from locating 14 breakable orbs that unlock a secret ending), it is nevertheless an entertaining and thoughtful experience that will make you feel like you deserved to graduate elementary school.
If you don't mind more LIMBO or haven't played it yet, then this game serves as a fine microscope that looks into some of mankind's darkest elements. It's unique, insightful, and will keep you INSIDE the house until you finish it. (See what I did there?)
Chill Box is where we relax and talk about video games and film from the distant past. There's a lot of cool stuff out there the younger generation have yet to experience or even heard about.