2016’s Best Game is…

inside-game-playdead…Inside

I had been saving Playdead’s follow-up to their critically acclaimed Limbo for a special a occasion. The reviews for Inside have been spectacular to say the least – usually I would be sceptical of such high praise but with countless scores of 10/10 and 5 stars you can’t ignore such hype forever. That’s why when I decided play the game, I wanted to wait until I had a quiet period and give it my full attention. Queue the Christmas holidays, and once all the merriment, drinking and stuffing my face with as much food as possible had subsided, I was left with a few spare days to catch up on all the things I had been holding off on.

So Inside…. WOW! From the first time the game’s protagonist fell onto the screen to the incredibly bleak finally, I was hooked. Hooked on three things – the exceptional game-play, the draw-dropping art style and the ever intriguing story which builds and builds to the most unimaginable crescendo.

Game-play is king. That’s what Colin Moriarty always says and how can anyone ever really argue with that?  Inside keeps things simple, in fact you only ever use two buttons. It is this simplicity which makes the game-play so fluid and responsive. It strips away all of the faff and leaves the player to decipher the controls for each puzzle. Its elegant to say the least. The puzzles are also incredibly varied. You rarely have to do the same thing twice. Mechanics are used one minute and often never used again for the entire game, its totally refreshing.

inside_shot_07

The visual style of the game stays with the player long after they have finished playing. I am sure anyone who has played it will remember the classic moments such as the lorry’s headlamps at the start, the cornfield, or the line of zombie-like people. They all shine despite the almost monochrome colour palette. Everything seems to have been carefully considered and nothing has been slapdash. Like the game-play, the visuals have been polished to such a high standard that it is likely to impact how you view all other side scrolling games from this moment forwards. What really blows the mind is the level of detail that the developers have gone into with the character animations. It seems like every single jump, climb and death has a completely new animation model – probably not true, but the whole experience is remarkably fresh.

The story is something that has been discussed in depth on every gaming forum going. Theories that the game is an allegory for anything from cancer to overpopulation. Everyone seems to have their own idea on what the game is trying to say. I think the fact that is has spawned so many theories is testament to have brave and thorough Playdead have been in crafting how this story plays out. Especially when you consider that this is a tale with no words spoken – just complete background story telling. Its wondrous. When my granddad died a few years ago, someone at his funeral remarked on his quiet personality which I think rings true with this game…

“Some people talk an awful lot and say very little. Others say few words but speak volumes.”

I think that’s a great note to finish on. Playdead have given us a very special game and should be extremely proud of this fine achievement in game design and storytelling. 10/10

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