A little boy being chased by vicious attack dogs, frantically running and gasping for air–that is the first thing that makes you uneasy in the opening sequences of the game INSIDE. When you soon see seemingly dead hogs littering a desolate field and one of them suddenly springs into a frenzy, that is when you know something is deeply wrong.
INSIDE was released this week on Xbox One and is coming next week on PC. It is the latest game from Playdead, an indie developer in Denmark. Like Limbo, the team’s first game, INSIDE is a platformer with puzzle elements in the vein of classics like Out of This World or Flashback. This title trades the silhouettes of Limbo for a painted simplicity with intricate animation. The stark imagery allows for powerful and unsettling storytelling.
Like the developer’s previous game, INSIDE begins with a young boy entering the screen and walking ever onward. At first, he is confronting the dangers of perimeter security: guards and their guard dogs, barbed wire fences, and the like. But as he explores the outer reaches of a strange corporate installation, including the aforementioned hogs, you really start to wonder why he’s there.
Is the protagonist trespassing to uncover information on this company? To find someone within the strange facility? To rescue family taken for nefarious reasons? He is a tabula rasa for the player to instill their own intentions and emotions.
And the journey you go through is one of increasing menace and macabre. As you survive encounters and manipulate the environment to overcome obstacles and progress further into this facility, you begin to see the company’s disturbing doings.
Why are there so many dead animals? What are those weird machines doing in the background? Are those cages not filled with beasts, but with people? Why are those people moving that way? What’s wrong with their bodies? Or is it their minds that have been changed?
INSIDE is not the first tale of corporate inhumanity, but it certainly pairs it well with different flavors of upsetting emotions. The outer environs are desolate and later dangerous. The machines and factories you discover leave you grimacing with indignation. The forgotten archives and foundations you wind your way through leave you on edge. And the central operations at the core of this facility may make you cringe in disgust. It will, in turns, make your heart skip and your flesh crawl.
Ultimately, the game is a narrative that visually unfolds as you play. Not a single word is uttered by your avatar or others that you see. It is a symphony that employs diminuendos and crescendos of emotional and physical horror, concluding with a final movement that is both exciting and terrible. INSIDE is a beautifully horrid journey for fans of platform games to experience.
What are some of your favorite creepy games? Let us know in the comments below.
Image Credit: Playdead