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Screenshot-Original (1)Last year I wrote about a game called LIMBO, an indie platformer that I really enjoyed. So did critics and gamers as it earned rave reviews and was ported to several different platforms and consoles. The sales and support allowed developer Playdead, a small independent studio based in Denmark, to begin work on a second project, and INSIDE is the result of six years work and development. While it benefits from improved graphics and audio that games can now offer in 2016, spiritually it stays true to a lot of the values that made LIMBO such a unique game.

Screenshot-Original (4)You, the player, control a boy and must keep him away from danger (guards and dogs initially chase him down) while guiding him forward through dangerous and increasingly strange scenes simultaneously beautiful and eerie. Inside’s several similarities to its ‘little brother’ LIMBO include a unique graphical style, a 2D perspective, a minimalist (or, not immediately obvious) story, and very unsettling, creepy undertones. But the experience of Limbo has allowed Playdead to build on their talent of creating disturbing worlds with vague and haunting themes.

Screenshot-Original (5)The graphics are outstandingly beautiful. Limbo was set in a monochromatic landscape but with Inside the black-and-white environments contain dashes of colour. However there is far more detail on show.T he screens don’t do Playdead’s artistic direction justice. Lighting and particle effects, rippling puddles and dripping water; the level of detail in the varied environments (where you explore farms, factories, offices and science labs) is outstanding. There were times I had to stop to take it all in.

Screenshot-Original (6)And while I’ve said Inside is a 2D sidescroller, that’s not strictly true. At key moments in the gameplay, the camera will pan to give breathtaking angles of the environment. Movement is still restricted to left and right, up and down, but the depth of the world makes it seem much more grander in scale. Animations are superb all round; the boy runs, jumps and climbs in a way that feels organic and true, and when matched with sounds of his panting and grunts of pain, the need to get him through these ordeals is that much stronger.  

Screenshot-Original (7)Inside initially follows a similar theme to Limbo: a boy needs to find his way through a series of seemingly abandoned environments, avoiding hostile enemies (guards, dogs, other…things) and the hazards around him. These involve circumventing traps and puzzles, some of which really caused me to scratch my head. It’s a short game, but you will die frequently and some of the puzzles require an element of trial and error. As to what the boy is doing here, what he is looking for, and what the hell is going on in this world, I will not even speculate on. There is a message, or a theme, and I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts and interpretations, but I won’t spoil anything here. Inside needs to be experienced, and the less you know the better. I can’t stop thinking about the whole thing.

Screenshot-Original (9)I said something similar when I wrote about Limbo, but Inside is a piece of interactive art. The dividing lines between a game, a story and art is blurred into something undefinable. Without any words being spoken, Inside is compelling and thought-provoking, subtle and creepy, beautiful and unmissable. It needs to be experienced.

Sometimes on this blog I talk about something a little different, not necessarily relating to something I’ve read or written. Today it’s a video game. Well, I see it more as an interactive piece of art. A little indie title named LIMBO.

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Developed by independent game developer Playdead, LIMBO was initially released in 2010. I remember seeing it and thinking it had a great art direction, but ultimately 2D platformers aren’t really my thing. A few months back I downloaded it, being on sale at a really good price I figured I might get round to checking it out at some point. I’m so glad I did, because LIMBO is one of the most thought-provoking, beautiful little games I’ve ever had the joy of playing.

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I thought I would show a few screenshots I captured on my Xbox One. Straight away you can appreciate its black and white tones and the lighting used, but what you can’t get from simple screens are the grainy animations and minimalist sound design, which all add up to create a wickedly eerie experience.

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And it is an experience. In terms of gameplay it’s wonderfully simple but very clever. It’s a platformer and puzzle game and I’ll hold my hands up, I got stuck plenty of times. I also died plenty of times, as this is a hellish world where almost everything can and will kill you.

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The plot is as wonderfully understated as the aesthetics. A boy wakes in an evil forest and must make his way through in order to find his sister. Along the he encounters aggressive creatures (such as a giant spider which is freaking terrifying, and parasitic maggots which take the movement of the boy out of your control), violent people (?) who lay traps and throw projectiles to keep the boy from escaping alive, and the environment which, with its sheer drops and sharp edges, will hinder your progress at every turn.

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The game has received critical acclaim, and if you own a PC or gaming console and haven’t given LIMBO a try yet, you should. It’s an absolute bargain, a haunting, beautiful game, a disturbing, never-ending dream. Or nightmare.

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First pay check of the new job earned last Friday, and I made the spontaneous decision to sell my Xbox 360 (which wasn’t really getting used) and splash out an Xbox One. It was delivered this morning, and I’m pretty psyched to get playing. I went for the Sunset Overdrive Bundle, which comes with a limited edition white XB1 console and controller, as well as a digital download of Sunset Overdrive, a slightly insane action-shooter.
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As you can see it looks very nice. It’s a good looking bit of kit. The console itself, usually in black, looks extremely slick in white. The controller feels great in your hands and again nails it aesthetically.
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I’ll try not to let this guy get in the way of regular updates. Promise.