It is a little difficult to write a game review for INSIDE, the spiritual sequel to LIMBO.
There's a way to talk about games and there's a way to talk about being immersed into a Simon Stalenhag painting. Stalenhag makes these paintings of a world gone wrong, juxtaposing our technology with a newer technology that has suddenly been developed, gone out of control, and is threatening to convert or destroy us in a fashion similar to alien invasion. His work is unsettling and breathtaking: always a series of landscapes, sometimes with furtive heroes investigating or trying not to be noticed.
You start as a small boy in a nameless woods and you go right. If you ever have the opportunity to go left, then there's a puzzle there. Very soon you know that something's wrong and this is not our world. The woods have men with white masks and ferocious dogs who are looking for intruders. There's no weapons to help you. Anything can and will kill you, and you can only go right. This lack of backtracking always plunges you into the new and unknown and some sort of faith that you'll be out of one sort of trouble from the left, only to get into another, stranger, worse sort to the right.
There are two elements to these types of genre: fear and horror. Fear is the feeling when something is going to try to harm or kill you. Horror is the feeling that your world isn't correct, that there's something off about it, something you don't know, like reality sent you out of the room so it could fix a few things and when it asked you inside again, everyone had a new face stapled to their old one and were confused on why you were screaming. INSIDE mixes fear and horror quite well. It shows you many things to wonder about. It gives you experiences of fear and twists of horror much better than most horror films, and it does so without words.
But its also a game. I wanted to tell you about the setting first because that's where most of its
power comes from. The physics are brilliant. The boy is mostly struggling with pushing, running and jumping through messy, wet environments and he does so beautifully. The game itself is mostly puzzles. Sometimes the puzzle is based on your survival and your adrenaline goes with it, but sometimes its a quiet puzzle and nothing is threatening you. These moments help give you a little bit of a rest between the points in horror, but you'd better like puzzles. At no point did was I stuck for more than 30 seconds trying to figure out what to do and I never looked any of them up.
Is INSIDE for everyone? No, it's not for your platform-gunner crowd. It's for intelligent people
who like being unsettled. It's for those who like mystery and horror, who don't mind being chased through the woods, about finding artifacts with terrible implications and a shot of body horror.