Have you heard of a game called LIMBO? This is like that. If not, let’s move on.
Picture Super Mario Bros. Colourful. Sound effects that echo the pokies in the back of your mind. Jumping. Running. Lots of running and jumping. And a quest to get from the leftmost point of the game, to the rightmost point. Fairly simple, and it’s now a formula that your parents recognise.
Now let’s strip things back.
Let’s take all the colour out of Mario. Everything is darkly contrasted. You get a bit of red, and perhaps some dark green if you’re lucky. No more yellows and blues.
No more twinkling sound effects, either. Get used to the sounds of bone crunching as you miss a jump, rather than the ‘game over’ tune you’re so used to hearing.
You run and jump to secure your own survival, not to stomp ‘baddies’ and leap over the finish line to the feeling of achievement and satisfaction of hi-scores.
There is no damsel in distress. There is just you. In a dark and isolating world, running towards something unknown which also brings you closer to those hoping to kill or enslave you.
This is INSIDE.
INSIDE is not a happy game, nor is it one that seeks to make the player smile. This is a game that resembles the 2D platformers you’re familiar with from childhood, but with a frighteningly melancholic undertone. Almost all of the “gamified” elements you may be used to from traditional video games like Mario and Sonic are long gone, replaced with a stripped back narrative experience.
Every idle moment in this game resembles some kind of morbidly cartoonish conceptual art piece. There is no clutter on the screen, no button-prompts or indicators. This is the essence of a cinematic interactive experience, albeit from an exclusively side on, two dimensional perspective.
Nobody talks to you, and there is no written text or cutscenes or movies to introduce you into the game. You merely find yourself in a forest, on the run from some mysterious police-looking figures. Between running for you life, you’ll encounter a few puzzles to help you reach that ledge to continue your unknown journey.
There is a very defined audience for INSIDE. This is going to resonate most with those of you who love dystopian fiction. The unspoken eeriness of the world and its concrete walls creating a closed-off society of thoughtlessness seems to evoke the world of Orwell’s 1984. The odd few of you under 30 years old who love The Twilight Zone are sure to be fascinated here also.
INSIDE is not for the faint of heart. Nor does it want to be. It is immensely uncomfortable, almost nightmarish without extending into the genre of horror. There is a low skill threshold, with only two buttons and your movement to worry about. If you’re willing to open your mind to this muted, subliminally engaging roller coaster of desperation, 3 hours and $20 will give you an experience you won’t regret.