“Inside” is a video game of unusual stylistic prowess. A reduced color palette brings to life – Gray, dark and sober life, occasionally lit by evil lights, but still life! – to an uncomfortable world, a world that may or may not be ours, which balances the familiar and the bizarre with the prowess of a veteran juggler.
In fact, both this visual style of stylized minimalism and the familiar strangeness of this world left me with the feeling that I was playing a game that shared a family tree with one of my formative games, “Another World. “
In this much older game, we also lead a relatively vulnerable character through a world that, while very unusual – in Another World’s case, more clearly alien than Inside’s – presents enough echoes of ours that we can make some assumptions about what is going on, and the situation in which we find ourselves. On the other hand, both games keep us restless and awake as we never know what strange creature or trap will be waiting for us on the next screen.
In Inside, however, the character doesn’t get a weapon further along the game, and that’s not bad. While I missed the gunfight-shaped peaks of action that punctuated Another World’s normally cerebral pace, I also recognize that these were always the weakest part of the game.
Inside is all about solving physical puzzles, about figuring out the best way to manipulate the environment so that you can move from left to right until you reach the final outcome. This makes it a much more accessible game than Another World. Inside sometimes requires a bit of rhythm and timing, but never quick reflexes; the challenges may be physical in execution, but the difficulty is purely cerebral.
What didn’t please me so much about Inside was the open-ended narrative, and once again, I compare and contrast with the case of Another World. Both games tell their story without a single word. It is up to the player to understand it based on events and environmental observation.
However, in Another World, the general nature of the event that triggered the adventure is rather obvious, if not its specifics. The ending is open (at least until the sequel) but leaves no doubt about what is going on.
Inside leaves a lot more to the imagination, a little too much for my taste, and yes, here it is purely a matter of taste. The beginning is completely unexplained, as remains the motivation of the character we control, and if by the end of the game, events occur that possess an added dramatic charge, the nature of these events remains obscure. (Although I admit, the final scene is relatively satisfactory, as a climax.)
The point is that Another World leaves a lot open to player interpretation, and that pleases me. But Inside doesn’t give us enough material to generate an interpretation, merely speculation. There is nothing wrong with that – it’s good that less common kinds of narratives are emerging in video games – but it’s not something that pleases me, and it may not please the reader either.
Still, the experience of playing Inside was enjoyable, and it made me think that there are really very few games like that, games in the same vein as the classic that was Another World. I hope more people play Inside, and perhaps tap it for inspiration.