INSIDE: The Dystopian Masterpiece & (Probably) GoTY 2016

Inside - Playdead
An eerie masterpiece.

As we’ve made clear, we believe indie games offer the best thing in the modern industry (barring Nintendo’s largely wonderful exclusives). INSIDE is a perfect example: inventive, concise, chilling, psychological, clever, bizarre, inexplicable, but always beautifully observed and bloody terrifying. Denmark’s Playdead is behind this glorious monstrosity after its successful first game Limbo, with INSIDE building on this quite magnificently.

It’s been picking up a whole batch of awards as this is one of the best indie games of 2016. In fact, it’s arguably the best game of the year. As it was such a disappointing 12 months for blockbuster AAA titles on the PS4, Xbox One, and Wii U, it’s once again been left to indie developers to deliver the gaming goods. Playdead delivered big time – INSIDE is an intensely creepy masterpiece.

INSIDE

INSIDE begins with an unnamed boy in a red jumper making a run for it away from an unexplained, but brutally efficient, dystopian state. Think George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four meets Half-Life 2 (but without the guns) and you’re kind of on the right line.

As the player, you aren’t expected to control much. It’s quite a linear experience, with a series of escalating puzzles demanding quick thinking, but other than this your route is set in this 2D world. The result is Playdead has structured a powerful and eerie experience based on ever-escalating dilemmas, with the focus on linear gameplay heightening the sense of dread as you, typically, only have one direction in which to flee.

As the unnamed boy, you stumble around in a bleak wilderness where nameless men, berserk dogs, and other disturbing things are out to hunt you down. You move from one puzzle piece to the next, with some weirdly wonderful concepts thrown in at each step of the way, such as, a sort of, air pulverising gun thing which obliterates all around you with Earth shuddering results.

It’s bloody creepy and genuinely scary, with numerous jump scares along your desperate trek and the compelling graphics and minimalist use of music and sound heightening the sense of unease and paranoia. Indeed, INSIDE is a fine example as to how graphics can complement the gaming experience, rather than overwhelm.

It’s beautifully dismal and horrific to behold. The monochromatic 2.5D adds a sense of foreboding, and with most of the sound provided by those creepy footsteps (see the above trailer) or occasional brilliant surges of organ music (kind of like Interstellar), it all draws you into this disturbing, but exhilarating, world of unimaginable horrors. Cripes – it’s exceptional stuff.

Game of the Year?

INSIDE - Chickens
Chicken!

INSIDE has been touted as the best indie game of 2016, although we believe the fantastic and charming Owlboy is a serious challenger in the gloriousness stakes. However, the further you plunge into the putridly compelling world of INSIDE, the more it leaves you shaken psychologically. It’s really a game to play with your headphones on in order to be overwhelmed by the experience.

We briefly thought, in the long-term, INSIDE’s impact would likely diminish and would only offer one genuine playthrough. It lasts for about two hours, but by the 90 minute mark you’ll be so enthralled there is no question you’ll return to it again – it simply demands more than this. The final few minutes alone, on a final note, are the most crazed, bizarre, repulsive, and hilarious we’ve seen from a game in quite a while!

Game of the Year 2016, then? Whilst other mainstream sources will be telling you its Overwatch or Uncharted 4, we’re quite confidently claiming two indie masterpieces are up for it in the form of Owlboy and INSIDE. The latter, stumbling its way forward with an insane grin, is the one we go for. We highly recommend it for all Steam, PS4, and Xbox One gamers.

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