The following contains spoilers for Inside
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Silent protagonists are common in video games that want to create a cipher to project the player onto. Playdead’s pair go a step further; these characters are not only nameless but faceless, their only defining facets being a male gender, a slightly awkward gait and their diminutive stature and age compelling you to protect them.

Yet Limbo shrouded its world in darkness; playing on a fear of isolation, it hinted that there was life in the glints of the protagonist’s eyes and that when daytime dawned it may be a different story. Inside is bookended by night, but is equally comfortable with the sun and bright light revealing visages on every character completely devoid of facial features.
Inside is about anonymity then. While its tenser moments are about running, alone, pursued by beasts both familiar and mysterious, its messaging concerns itself with the dangers of group thought and the erosion of individuality. You start the game pursued, presumably having broken free of a facility that produces a factory line of mindless drones.
This creepy parade is among Inside's highlights.

This creepy parade is among Inside’s highlights.

These awkward shambling guys can be controlled with mind control caps to create handy helpers; think Glukkons of the Oddworld games, to which Inside owes a distinctly heavy debt of gratitude. In your command, they’re block pushers, door openers, personal jump pads and all purpose keys to the doors Playdead creates. In Inside’s society, they’re worker bees to whatever high society sees fit, operating fork lifts, performing menial tasks.

The perception is of the worker bee middle class,  literally trudging along a production line. One of the game’s most effective moments is when you have to trick a security system by participating in behavior tests with a queue of drones. You have to remain in lock step, pausing to turn on the spot, or jump in unison, while security cameras and suited onlookers assess you.
The trick is of course that the upper classes have little more autonomy than those beneath. All are uniformed, all resolute in their tasks. Children appear in the background, and are rebuked for lingering in a scene. The background is little more human than the foreground, but is intent on controlling it nonetheless.
By the end it seems clear that the clipboard wielding suited scientists’ goals are to mould the entirety of the lower class into a large multipurpose amorphous blob, for some reason. As you sacrifice yourself to join this colourless mass of humanity and lend it sentience, you’re certainly treated to Inside’s highlight from a gameplay perspective; you’re a fleshy wrecking ball charging through scenery and your captors’ flesh. You’re also dooming yourself to a humiliating and cold death by the game’s ending, this featureless lump twitching by the side of a road. In Inside, resistance is thrilling, but fleeting and futile.
Inside demonstrates Playdead’s knack for direction more than anything else. Devoid of dialogue as the game is, its story is pulled from environments and background animations. As restrictive as the 2D plane may seem, camera zooms and pans highlight exactly what Inside wants the player to see, a game full of scenes that are perfectly composed and dripping with atmosphere.
This is what carries Inside through gameplay that often feels rote. Through its two to three hours, this is a sequence of block pushing puzzles broken up with chase sequences, as you run from dogs or strange underwater experiments. Similar ideas are repeated and rarely expanded upon, misdirecting pursuers to give you enough time to push a button or remove planks on a doorway, for instance. Aforementioned set pieces aside, there’s much you’ve seen before, and the game comes close to, but thankfully doesn’t cross the line of, outstaying its welcome.
That said, play in Inside is a means to the end of having you delve once again into its creators darkly comic minds and poke around with the ideas that reside within. It’s grim, bleak, creepy and funny and well worth an afternoon of your time.

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