App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
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Playdead specializes in games of a particular type. Both Limbo and Inside are relatively simple puzzle-platformers that succeed in large part to their bespoke puzzle design and unique, atmospheric aesthetics. What really sets these two games apart from each other is in the details. Details are a particular strength of Playdead, and that definitely shines through in Inside. In fact, it's mounds and mounds of little touches that take Inside from "yet another moody platformer" territory to a place that is utterly enchanting.
A lost boy
Inside starts pretty unceremoniously by placing you in control of a boy who is out in the wilderness. As you move along through this environment, it quickly becomes clear that this boy has happened upon something strange hidden away in this wilderness, which leads you on an adventure through all sorts of strange and eerie environments.
First and foremost, Inside is a linear platformer, meaning you spend a lot of your time moving the boy from left to right toward the next scene. As you do this though, you inevitably bump up against obstacles and puzzles that you need to work your way around to keep progressing. The whole game uses a really simple control scheme, with simple directional buttons and a button for grabbing objects, but Inside comes up with really clever ways for players to use these simple commands to solve relatively unique and complicated puzzles.
As neat as some of Inside’s puzzle design is though, the thing that really stands out about it is the way it looks. This is less about the visual fidelity of the game, or even the quality of the game’s asset design. More than that, Inside is a game that moves with a detailed fluidity that is absolutely mesmerizing.
It’s a hard quality to describe, but from the moment you first start moving your character, you notice how naturally he moves around his environment. He doesn’t just run from right to left. He examines his environment, puts his hands out to feel around obstacles, spreads his arms to keep his balance, and even stumbles over small bumps in his path. These details start really small and isolated, but layer on top of each other throughout Inside until the game’s final stages, where these things culminate in a way that is both bizarre but oddly satisfying.
Between Inside’s puzzle design and its immaculate level of detail, there’s very little not to like about it. This is true both of the original release of the game as well as this mobile port. Aside from some slight blurriness (presumably a compromise to keep the game's framerate up on mobile devices), the App Store version of Inside plays like a dream. You don’t even need an MFi controller to feel in total control of the action. The simple controls in Inside make it easy to handle on a touch interface.
One recommendation for mobile play would be to play Inside… well, inside. The game itself is very dark, which can make playing it outdoors, or even in brightly lit indoor spaces, kind of difficult. While this may sound inconvenient, the truth is that you’d be doing yourself a disservice by trying to play Inside “on-the-go.” This is one of those games that’s best digested in dedicated sit down sessions, preferably in a dark room and with headphones on.
The bottom line
Inside is a richly detailed game that rewards players constantly, but in subtle ways. As such, it maybe doesn’t lend itself to mobile all too well, but can still pack a heck of a punch if you play it in the right conditions.