Inside: A Small Game That Had Me Giddy With Joy
For those of you that don’t know, Inside was published by indie game developer Playdead in 2016. It was one of the many games sitting in my Steam backlog that I always wanted to get around to playing but never did. Until this past December.
One night I decided that it was time to install this game and give it a shot. I have only heard great things about it from all sources and somehow never spoiled the story for myself.
It is one of those rare occasions where something has received critical acclaim but is small enough to be somewhat of a cult favorite. So unless you're specifically looking for info on it, you never really found anything when scouring your favorite gaming channels.
Other than the great reviews, I was fresh to the experience.
My room was dark, I wore headphones, and was thrown into a bleak and desolate sci-fi world that had an art style I immediately fell in love with and sound design that sent shivers down my spine. I was hooked.
There is no dialogue or narration in the game yet it tells a compelling story through its gameplay and atmosphere.
My mind reeled with the intensity of trying to solve the variety of puzzles, trying to figure out what that deep pounding noise was, or why there was a ring girl flying at me at the speed of light, while I helplessly scampered through the water like a sloth.
Was this a research facility? What were these scientists working on? What is making the entire underground facility section shake to the point of you being vaporized when not behind cover? Why are there other people that are being herded like sheep, mindlessly, and willingly shuffling their feet through a battery of psychological and physical tests? Where were they going?
My mind danced with expectations of what would be revealed, what this world was about, and how it had gotten to be so grim.
And then, it happened. The slow and steady buildup of the tense atmosphere, the methodical puzzles that gave your brain more information on what was going on here, and finally the tank.
There were onlookers surrounding a large aquarium-like tank. Something was in the middle but your character is too small to see what’s inside — the entire game revolves around what is being contained within this very tank — hence the title of the game.
Little did I know I would somehow end up in there and what happened next filled me with laughter, joy, and an appreciation for storytelling that I hadn’t felt in a while.
This is a game you don’t want spoiled, so I’ll just say go play it for yourself. It takes about 4 hours to finish the entire game, and I highly recommend playing it in one sitting if possible.
Inside shows that games do not need to have a large budget with crazy motion capture, voice-acting, and a live orchestra with a 4-disc soundtrack.
It doesn’t even need to be fully 3D. Inside is 2.5D and it works brilliantly for what it pulls off.
In closing, indie games are brilliant. Some of my favorite gaming experiences have been smaller budget titles such as Hollow Knight, Abzu, What Remains of Edith Finch, Ori and the Blind Forest, Super Meat Boy, Cuphead, and now Inside to name a few.
Bigger isn’t always better, but when it comes to Inside, you’ll appreciate it’s delivery. It hits harder than you’d think.