As we inch closer to October, I’m continuing my endeavor to play more horror games. When I first heard about Inside and decided to purchase it, I honestly didn’t think of it as “horror”. I’d heard it’s a very aesthetically dark platformer, but I didn’t much else about the story. I know it’s been incredibly well-received, but I was holding off on playing it as I didn’t know enough to draw me in just yet. Inside is a platformer where you play a young boy running from human hunters, dogs, and other terrifying threats in a cruel, somber world.
Inside is somewhat similar to last week’s game, Little Nightmares. You start out immediately ready to run and escape as you’re being literally hunted by adults for unspecified reasons (at least here they don’t eat you). It’s also silent adventure, no words are spoken throughout the entire game. You start out running through the darkness, escaping capture by using the darkness and avoiding the hunters’ flashlights. Despite the dark being eerie, the light is what actually becomes a frightening threat. It quickly becomes clear that even as young boy, your life is disposable to your captors. At certain points when they catch you, they immediately release fire and shoot you down. It raised questions for me, such as: why would they spend all this time chasing you if they’re not even trying to bring you back somewhere? They just want to make sure you’re dead?
As you travel on further, you discover more about this twisted, somewhat abandoned-looking environment. It’s not necessarily post-apocalyptic, but it does give some indication of perhaps wartime and being ruled by some sort of ruthless force. You encounter literal bodies that can be controlled – they seem to be alive and yet not be human anymore. Mind control becomes an essential part of this journey as you use devices to control these larger bodies through obstacles you can’t face alone. The physical way in which you interact with the things around you carries over to the people you control, even making it possible for them to pick you up and toss you across to another area (this is really, really fun). The puzzles are not always obvious, as they often expect you to use new methods of interacting with the environment that you haven’t done before.
The environmental storytelling from the places you travel through is deep and rich. Despite the fact that the art style does not convey a lot about the protagonist, it actually hides many details in the environments. Much of the exploring is done underwater, where you find more clues towards what kind of place this is. This world appears to be grim but fairly realistic – until you travel further and things start getting truly strange and disorienting.
The one thing in Inside that just doesn’t work for me is being constantly hunted by dogs. Yes, I totally understand as an important part of the setting and I see why it was done that way – I still don’t like it. This is just a personal nitpicky thing, though; dogs being trained to be hyper-aggressive human hunters makes me uncomfortable as a trope in media. Nonetheless, I appreciate that at no point do you really intentionally hurt the dogs back. I looked away anytime I was caught by a dog because I couldn’t watch a dog tear up a kid. The game didn’t spend too much time being overly graphic or gorey, thankfully, only certain ways to die were a little rough to watch.
Describing Inside’s ending as “surprising” is underselling it quite a bit. I’d probably describe it as one of the most impactful endings I’ve ever seen in a game, one that honestly stuck with me for days; I kept thinking of it long after I finished playing. It’s been a long time since I’ve written a spoiler section for a review, but I’ll be adding a little bit of spoiler content at the bottom of this review about it. There’s also a very unexpected alternate ending that can be activated through a series very specific actions that you have to go out of your way to do. I personally don’t like as much as the main ending, but I recommend checking it out on YouTube after playing through the game nonetheless. It reveals more about Inside that you wouldn’t have perhaps picked up otherwise.
Inside, in the majority of the game, is an eerie puzzler platformer with very well-done physical gameplay. However, with the ending included, Inside is an incredible and unforgettable experience that deserves all of the hype it’s received. It’s definitely heavy and at times pretty nerve-wracking, but if you’re prepared for that experience, it’s an absolutely worthwhile indie classic that I highly recommend. I’ll be playing its predecessor, Limbo, in the near future as well, though I’ve heard the stories are not really connected to each other.
Inside is available for PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4, Apple Store, and Xbox One.
Played on: PC
Playtime: 4 hrs
WARNING: SPOILERS FOR INSIDE BELOW THIS LINE
Please don’t read this if you haven’t played Inside, unless you truly intend to never play it! It’s an absolutely jarring and satisfying ending, I wouldn’t want to take away anyone’s experience of it.
A quick series of events leads to a complete shift in the ending. You become aware that the circumstances have changed when you run into people that actually aren’t trying to hurt you. They’re way more interested in whatever is going on inside some giant tank. You seem to have infiltrated deep into the operation of whatever experiments these people have been running on humans.
Somehow, you choose to go even deeper, and are launched through a high-pressure tube into the tank that everyone’s looking at. I was already shocked when the boy was ejected from the tube with no clothes on, suddenly being watched by dozens of people looking in. There’s not much time to take this in, though, as you realize you’re next to some sort of Akira-esque blob of human flesh, legs and arms sticking out all over it. Somehow it doesn’t feel like a threat, and then you’re inside of it – you’re part of it.
Inside takes a 180-turn when suddenly you’re no longer doing the running, but the chasing. As a high-powered ball of flesh, you’re unstoppable and out for vengeance. Even as the player, you feel anger towards this society that would relentlessly hunt down a child and use human bodies as tools and experiments. You roll more humans into the blob, destroy walls with sheer force, and easily absorb any bullets or attacks. As grotesque and morbid as it, I enjoyed the gameplay of this portion so much. The game’s physical touch becomes even more satisfying, as anything in your way just collapses into pieces.
It’s not necessarily a happy ending, but it does feel right. After causing full destruction and havoc in the lab/office areas, you’re finally free, but you’re also most likely dead, whatever “you” are. It’s a story of taking down the cruelty and inhumane force that seems to have taken over this world, and it’s absolutely excellent, albeit just truly sad as the screen pans away from the disturbing flesh monster and into the credits.