From publisher and developer Playdead, the same development team behind LIMBO, comes INSIDE, the game that takes many cues from its earlier incarnation. Swapping the dark silhouetted color scheme for one with a little (and I use that term cautiously as it’s still got a pretty bleak color scheme…) more color, INSIDE brings the same level of platforming excellence, graphical polish, and dark themes to the Nintendo Switch.
As I’ve had the pleasure of playing and reviewing both LIMBO and INSIDE for this website, there will be a few comparisons drawn between the two games for this review. Playdead themselves intended INSIDE to be a spiritual successor to LIMBO, and there are a lot of similarities between these two games. I’ll include some brief thoughts about both games at the end of this review, and if you have yet to do so, check out my earlier review of LIMBO right here.
As a nameless boy clad in red, you emerge from a rocky enclosure and are thrust into a horrifying adventure of survival. You must attempt to uncover the secrets of a dark science project that is taking place all while avoiding the numerous environmental hazards trying to stop you.
One of the many cues INSIDE takes from its predecessor, LIMBO, is the simple control scheme. In the 2D (and sometimes 2.5D as the depth and angle of your path change slightly as you go along) side-scrolling world, you control your nameless character by using the left stick to move, the ‘B’ button to jump, and the ‘A’ button to interact with different elements of your environment. This game improves the formula by significantly increasing the number of environmental interactions capable for your character. Outside of swinging back and forth and moving objects around, you’re now able to swim and break apart objects in order to explore new areas. This added idea of exploration plays a huge part in this game, especially if you want to unlock the truly mind-blowing secret ending.
Suspense and fear are present throughout the entirety of your playthrough. This isn’t just through the physical violence your character endures (trust me… the deaths in this game are just as abundant as LIMBO but much more graphic), but through the heavy use of psychological suspense and at times genuine atmospheric horror. Like LIMBO, INSIDE has done a great job of creating a polished and non-relenting gameplay experience where each of your actions carries immense weight in both the best and worst possible ways. As a result you’ll find yourself even more immersed in this game, given what is ultimately at stake near the end.
Opting to incorporate a more science-fiction horror story, INSIDE takes on some similarly serious themes to LIMBO, with one of these thematic ideas being that of player agency and the influence this has over life (even virtual life). Without diving too much into spoiler territory, I would highly recommend that everyone who plays this game unlock the secret ending to see first hand what I mean when I say agency. The secret ending allows you to truly experience the game the way that I believe the development team really wanted, and gives even more depth to the dark concepts they’ve decided to incorporate into the game.
The graphical styling of INSIDE offer beautiful simplicity through a great usage of shadowing, light, and even the occasional splash of color to either clue you in to something that needs to be explored or to highlight the nature of an event. The stark contrast of your character’s red blood against the dim and dark background is a truly horrifying moment the first time it happens. I found it interesting that Playdead opted to use the Unity game engine as opposed to the custom game engine they had previously used for LIMBO. This was a decision that I think paid off well for them, as INSIDE was able to take on an entirely different tone, even though it’s a similar gameplay experience. Sound design plays an enhanced role in this game too, incorporating an eerie ability to highlight the horrific nature of your character’s bones being snapped (again, I told you these deaths are pretty brutal) and even playing a vital role in discovering one of the games most important secrets, all you have to do is listen for it.
Taking all of the things that were great about its predecessor and throwing in some welcome nuance and updates, INSIDE incorporates a gorgeous design, near perfect platforming, and some intensely dark thematic material. I was constantly drawn back to this game and could not put it down until I had finished it. My only downside with INSIDE is the same one I had with LIMBO: it’s a pretty short game. The game does manage to pack so many intense moments into this condensed time frame though, and by the end of the game you still feel like you’ve accomplished a great deal. I think that given the gameplay experience and the incredible amount of polish to both the graphics and platforming, the $25.19 price tag still makes this game a Nintendeal, and will be an experience unlike anything else the system has to offer.
Platform – Nintendo Switch eShop Download
Publisher – Playdead
Developer – Playdead
Price – $25.19
Genre – Adventure, Puzzle
Size – 1.4GB
Final thoughts on both INSIDE and LIMBO
It’s amazing how similar, yet different, these two games are. If you’ve already purchased both games, I hope you enjoy the experiences, but if you’re wondering which of the two to purchase, hopefully the following reflection can help you make that decision. These two games essentially play the same, but given that INSIDE is newer, and as a result is able to benefit off of the good things first presented in LIMBO, I am of the opinion that it is the better game and should be the one you purchase if you’re only looking to play one. Ideally though, I would encourage players to try both games and start by playing LIMBO first, allow for some time in between games, and then tackle INSIDE. To play them back-to-back without separation (which is what I did) takes away from the way in which LIMBO lays the foundation for this specific platforming formula, and has the potential to leave you disappointed in one when really they are both spectacular games.
A native of Minnesota, Brandon has been an avid Nintendo fan for as long as he can remember and enjoys being able to escape into the vast worlds offered in their games. Some of his favorite games include: Pokemon Blue & Silver, Earthbound, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Risk of Rain 2, and of course LoZ: Breath of the Wild.
Outside of gaming Brandon enjoys riding motorcycle, listening to music or podcasts, cooking, watching movies, and is a big sports fan. He is always carrying his Switch with him wherever he goes, so feel free to add him if you’d like to lose at MK8D.