Well, here's one of the most straightforward video game reviews I'll ever write. Back in 2010, a Danish indie studio called Playdead released a macabre side-scroller called Limbo. It was good. In 2016, that same studio is releasing a new macabre side-scroller. This one's called Inside, and it's really, really good.
A version of this post initially ran on 14 June 2016
A few weeks ago, Playdead sent us a couple of Xbox One codes for the game. I wasn't expecting them; in fact, I'd kind of forgotten Inside was a thing. I vaguely remembered seeing a trailer during an E3 press conference. It looked a lot like Limbo, right? Who knows. Let's play it.
The next three and a half hours involved me staring at my screen saying "holy shit" with ever-increasing volume. I played the game from start to finish in one sitting. I laughed a lot, often in horror. My hand would fly up to block my eyes from what was happening on screen.
I was dying for someone to talk to about it, so I started texting my boss Stephen, who was also playing. I mostly just yelled half-intelligible things at him until I finished the game.
Here's a short video of a couple of early sections:
At first glance, Inside appears to be an evolution of what Playdead did with Limbo. You play as a little boy, you solve tricky puzzles, you die in horrifying but darkly funny ways. That's an accurate way to think of the game, but it doesn't do justice to just how much of an evolution it is.
I don't really want to say too much, because the game's constant escalating surprises are a big part of what makes it so much fun. I've played it through twice, and while I still appreciated the artistry and humour the second time around, it definitely lost something compared with my first run.
In fact, I'm really just going to leave it at that. Inside is superb. You can play through it in a single evening. If you can keep from watching or reading anything else about it before then, I recommend it.
I initially ran a version of this article a couple of weeks ago, since our embargo said we couldn't technically review the game until today. Now that the review embargo has lifted, I don't really see any reason to add much (beyond a review box) to what I've already said. There'll be a time to discuss Inside in intricate detail. For now, I just want to tell you to check it out.
Top to bottom, Inside is one of the coolest games I've played in a long time. It's an immaculately assembled, pitch-black joke that takes three and a half hours to tell. You gotta play it.