Who said killing children was taboo?
Not Playdead, that’s for sure.
The player character, or simply ‘the boy’ as I’ve christened him, will be shot, stabbed, drowned, strangled, crushed and mauled throughout Inside, a game that presents so many questions to the player, without actually ever answering a single one of them.
You’ll find yourself in a seemingly desolate forest at the outset of Inside, but as you slowly progress through that initial area, you’ll find signs of human life. Except this human life most certainly isn’t friendly.
This is where the horrors of Inside begins for the boy, for as soon as a spotlight or vehicle finds you (and they will), you’re immediately hounded by all manner of things intent on tearing the boy limb from limb.
As soon as the levels of danger begin to rise for the boy, so will your questions surrounding the plot and purpose of the game. Who am I? What am I doing here? Why does everyone want to kill me? These were just a few that flashed through my mind during the opening half hour of Inside, and the volume of questions only grow from there, as the game is dead set against explicitly giving anything away to the player.
Instead, you’ll be presented with subtle hints throughout the four hours that Inside runs for. For example, there’s strong hints of death camps from Nazi Germany littered throughout the game, as seemingly vegetative people are stuffed into trucks and hauled off in the hundreds to monolithic factory-like buildings.
It’s through these hints, and the refusal of outright answers, that Inside cements its standing as one of the greatest psychedelic horror games within recent memory. Playdead very cleverly allow the player’s imagination to take over, when attempting to piece together any notion of a cohesive narrative.
Not only this, but you’ll also find your imagination taking over when presented with certain scenarios. For example, what the hell is going on with the zombie-like people that come tumbling out of these factory buildings? Inside utterly encapsulates the player through these intriguing mysteries, while simultaneously dangling the metaphorical carrot well out of reach.
There’s sadly become a notion within the modern horror genre which stipulates that answers must be provided for every situation, and everything must be explicitly explained to the player in a logical manner, with nothing whatsoever being left up to the imagination of the person with the controller.
Take the Resident Evil 7 demo, for example. Almost everything, except for that blatant P.T. rip off at the end, is explained to the player throughout the course of the demo. You’re told why you’re here, exactly what’s gone wrong, and exactly what your objective is to complete the entire thing.
Inside does no such hand-holding of the player, merely dropping you into the shoes of a mysterious character in an equally mysterious world, and letting you take things from there.
And in letting you handle the proceedings throughout the game, Playdead present the player with a system of simple, but challenging puzzles to overcome. The basic functionalities of the boy are covered right at the beginning of Inside, and since there are only a total of two buttons to utilise over the course of the game, the player always knows exactly what tools they’ve got to work with when presented with a puzzle.
The implementation of simple controls and simple puzzles only goes to bolster the power that Playdead give the player, distancing themselves even further from the tired hand holding traditions. You’ll likely never have to fall back on a single guide for the game, as all your options with puzzles are always present on the screen, and never hidden somewhere illogical and out of sight.
Inside is an enigmatic, triumphant success for Playdead. The game succeeds in drawing the player in with captivating mysteries, and the tension is only ratcheted upwards from the very beginning of the entire experience with dark, unsettling scenarios and locations.