|Limbo's distinctly noire style,|
film grain and all.
Inside continues to explore the all familiar world of environmental puzzles, suspense, and horror, that Limbo established so well. Inside has a very similar feel of a bleak, hopeless world, where science seems to exist solely for the purpose of conducting experiments on human (and sometimes pig) bodies. However, unlike Limbo, where the general feel was eerie emptiness and abandoned machines, the world of Inside is very much populated with humans, and things that seem to have been human in the past, which makes the game feel even more suspenseful and frightening.
The reaction of other characters in the game feels extraordinarily genuine. There's a scene where you hang over an large open hatch, in plain view of a couple of scientist, while watching them get increasingly agitated. If you keep waiting for a while, they eventually scramble to pull in a portable security robot to take you down. It just makes you feel like there are real people on the other side of the screen, and just like yourself, they don't always succeed in what they do; your success is their failure.
Rather than stick with pushing boxes and pulling levers, Inside introduces a number of new mechanics, all of which work very well. The most heart-thumping of these is the concept of baiting, where you get to make someone almost catch you, just to keep them far away from something that you can then proceed to quickly run to. The little boy can swim now, and the submersible adds to your ability of exploring the underwater world without the sort of time limits that holding your breath underwater would require. There is a new take on gravity puzzles, where the ocean hangs above you. What should seem like a familiar Limbo mechanic of changing water levels feels fresh and new. Last but definitely not least, the ability to put on a helmet and control other zombies is mind-blowing. But more on that later.
My main gripe about Inside is its difficulty level. It felt much easier, and hence much shorter than Limbo. After you inevitably get absorbed into a conglomeration of bodies that the Internet has been lovingly referring to as the Blob, the game becomes mostly a story book, where you get to run across the screen, destroying everything in your path. There are a couple of puzzles here and there, but they're easy and scarce. So while it was still interesting from a storytelling perspective, this segment didn't satisfy my craving for awe-inspiring puzzles that I assumed I would have to solve to finish the game.
Then there's the ending. I guess I liked it. It was abrupt. It was definitely a huge slap in the face of the player. "You wanted to escape, right? Well, you escaped. Congratulations. Also you're a horrible limb monster." Were they just trying to make a joke about the alternate meaning of Limbo? There have been a number of theories floating around the internet about what the ending tells about the main character of Inside. I'm going to stick to the one that makes almost too much sense.
It was also well established that zombie puppets can themselves operate mind control helmets to control other zombie puppets, in what was easily my favorite mechanic of the game. The first time I plopped a zombie's head into that glorified lampshade, and that cardboard box popped open to reveal another zombie, my jaw hit the floor. I had never experienced anything even remotely like this. I only wish that the creators had used this mechanic in more puzzles, and maybe layered more of that Inception-like goodness and eventually had you controlling a 10th order zombie to perfectly trigger a chain of events that would solve the puzzle.
Some of the related theories fall apart for me. One is that the little boy is somehow special and gives the Blob superpowers, which is how it's able to escape. I think it's far more likely that the little boy is just a sack of meat and bones, like all the other zombie puppets. It just so happens that the Blob absorbs enough bodies by the time you encounter it, that it feels strong enough to attempt to escape.
The other theory is that the Blob is actually controlling you, the player, who is in turn controlling the little boy. This doesn't make sense to me, because once the blob is unhooked from the mind control helmets, you're still controlling it, not the other way around. I think the Blob is controlling the little boy.
So who is really controlling the Blob, then? That part is definitely ambiguous. It could be a rogue scientist, or it could be you, the player. One may surmise that you are the real Blob, holed up Inside your living room, playing video games, and absorbing all of their mindless zombie characters into yourself, until eventually you feel overwhelmed and want to escape.