Thoughts On…Inside

Reviews, Video Games

Note: This post may contain some spoilers. You’ve been warned.

If you asked most players what stuck with them from their playthrough of Inside, I think many of them would point to “That Moment” at the tail end of the game. If you’ve played, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, the simplest way to describe it is that there is a moment that occurs about 30 minutes through the game that completely flips the entire game. It’s what people were talking about in the weeks after release and it’s what I want to focus on in this post.

Now, when we think of moments or “twists” in games, they’re often story-related. Like an M. Night Shyamalan film. The story hits a point where a “new thing” is introduced that automatically re-contextualizes everything that came before and, when it’s a good twist, answers most of the questions the audience had about what exactly is happening. In Inside, the developers went with a different twist. One of the gameplay variety.

A gameplay twist isn’t exactly novel. After all, many games play one way for awhile and then introduce a new element or weapon that completely changes things up. What is striking about Inside is that the change comes so suddenly and so close to the game being over.

For most of your playthrough of Inside, you’re a little boy solving environmental puzzles in some strange, post-apocalyptic world. Like developer PlayDead’s first game Limbo, the puzzles are decent (one that sees you mimicking zombie-like humans is particularly fun) and the art style is exceptional. On its own, that portion of the game would best be categorized as “fine”. However, something happens at the end that completely changes how I felt about the entire game.

With about 30 minutes remaining in your play time, the boy enters a vat of liquid that contains a mass of human body part. The boy starts pulling plugs out of the mass to free it from its constraints. As the last of the restraints come off, the player is sucked into and becomes the blob.

What follows is a thrilling sequence that sees everything change. The blob has a real weightiness to it and controlling the monstrosity is when Inside is at its best. Plus, the environmental puzzles get a lot more fun the second the little boy gets a lot bigger. There is just something deliciously gleeful about seeing a mass of limbs barrel through walls and tear apart scenery.

You’d think this crescendo of great gameplay would be the cherry topping on what is a great game and, for most reviewers, I think it is. However, just like when you find out Bruce Willis was dead throughout the Sixth Sense, when the game flips your character from a little boy to a monstrous blob, you’re forced to reevaluate the entire game.

When that moment hit me, I realized that the three hours I’d spent with the little boy weren’t as fun anymore. The switch didn’t make me love the game even more. Instead, I was a little annoyed that the truly great part of this game was relegated to a 30 minute sequence at the end. I hate to equate fun to numbers, but I essentially played a game that was only fun for 1/8 of its run time. If a game is only really fun for one sequence, is it a good game?

You’ll have to answer that question on your own. For me, I’m left feeling like I got invited to an expensive five-course meal seconds after I finished downing a few cheeseburgers at McDonalds. The food I could eat on that mostly full stomach was great, but I sure wish my friend had called earlier. Here’s hoping Playdead gives me a little desert with some blob-centric DLC