Day 198: Inside

Limbo-Developer-Playdead-Inside

You may notice this is going up much much later than usual. There’s a reason for that.

As you’d expect, this format doesn’t lend itself particularly well to long games and, in some ways, even less to long critiques of them. If I deem a game “important”, to the point of putting pressure on myself to do it justice, I essentially have to make a day of it, not only playing, but collecting my thoughts and making sure I put a little extra weight behind these words that I would otherwise present via stream of consciousness. Inside is one of those cases, a critically acclaimed release that’s still fresh in everyone’s mind, the follow-up to indie darling Limbo.

So I typed, making sure to check and double check everything before I moved on to the next point. For some reason, it was very important to me that I got this one exactly right. 600 or so words later, I’d finally articulated what are, honestly, some very conflicting thoughts on the game, only to have it all disappear in a flash.

The power went out. An entire day of work, gone, just like that.

So now I sit here, asking myself if I want to try again. I wrote something that I was actually quite proud of (which is rare for me) and no one will ever see it. Though I’ve certainly done some of my best work whilst in a bad mood, Inside, for all of my issues with it, isn’t deserving of that wrath.

As the one person in the world that didn’t like Limbo, I was in an odd position from the start, curious to see what had garnered such enthusiasm while also understanding that Playdead’s version of storytelling (or lack thereof) isn’t really my cup of tea. In particular, I felt that Limbo promised a lot in its opening moments that didn’t deliver, content to spend most of its time as a figgity puzzle platformer right up until the brick wall ending. To Inside’s benefit, it spends its intro promising very little, simply looking to establish a light status quo before turning everything on its head. By that same token, I expected very little, knowing that the answers to any questions swirling in my head would probably never have a satisfactory explanation, if one was ever presented at all. After an hour or so, I stopped thinking about it, just continuing to move right so I could see what the next room offered.

That disconnect is likely intentional, but is also the one thing that bothered me the most. When Inside wants to deliver, it does in the most insane ways possible, but independent of those moments, it was hard to care. As a fan of the odd and macabre, both of which Inside are familar with, I still came away with a sense that everything was still a little too… sterile? Lacking in substance? I can’t quite put my finger on it, which is why I spent those aforementioned 600 words trying to parse my thoughts and explore them a bit more. Chances are I’ll be thinking about it for a while to come.  I didn’t love Inside, but I respected it enough that I needed to understand why that was.

Looking back, that’s probably the highest compliment I could ever offer.

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