Playdead studios newest game, Inside, manages to achieve a rare feat, delivering a clever, well-crafted puzzle game, that will rank as one of the most atmospheric, creepy, and tense games to come out this year. All of which is coupled with an endlessly intriguing and high-concept story. Yet, it is that very same story's ending with all of its promise and potential that ultimately spells trouble for the game.
Inside, is fantastic to play, this should be stated upfront and outright, particularly considering some of the misgivings I had regarding Limbos gameplay. None of those problems are found here and indeed that carries over to the games puzzles. As someone who typically dislikes puzzle games and is also admittedly not the best at them either, Inside routinely managed to strike a perfect balance between mind-numbing difficulty and fun, clever design. I truly can not give enough credit to the design and style of the games puzzles, it is arguably the star of the game.
Another contender for that title though, is Inside's exceptional world and environments. Each time I turned on Inside I audibly remarked about how beautiful this game is. From the stylistic choices of the game, to all of the various levels and areas you explore, to even just the small background details, this game sought to wow with its visuals and level design and it always succeeded.
Of course, what I have purposefully left off until the end is the games story, for it is here that the wildest swings in my feelings about the game occur. Swinging from adoration for its expert ability to provoke feelings of dread, tension, and horror, to despair at its utter mishandling of its ending, or more accurately lack of an ending, Inside is all over the map with regards to its complicated tale and nowhere is this more true then its long, drawn-out conclusion that suddenly just ends.
So much of the spark and creativity that defined this game for the previous few hours vanish as it suddenly transforms into a totally different experience. The true problem though is the fact that Inside has spent the prior three or four hours carefully laying the groundwork and asking big questions ripe for a rich ending, before suddenly just throwing up its hands and walking away. Nothing is really answered, indeed more questions spring up from its ending. The dark, twisty, and unsettling tale it has woven all unravels at the end as Playdead instead opts for an art-house style conclusion that feels cheap given everything before it.
Inside is a technical and gameplay marvel. Featuring some of the most ingenious and fun puzzles I have ever come across, and starring one of the most beautiful and gorgeous to look at worlds, it opens up a wonderful and at times twisted tale, that evokes such wide themes as the Nazis, classic 1950's horror films, and tense psychological thrillers. Sadly, it is unable to give any cohesive conclusion to its story and instead settles for a sudden and jarring ending that leaves much to be desired and that sours some of the overall experience. That's a tragedy, for when it's firing on all cylinders Inside is a game intent on leaving behind an impression and in numerous different ways it succeed's, and in the process becomes one of the years most fascinating games.