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Inside review: No way out

The spiritual successor to 2010's Limbo, Inside is a strange, marvelous game that tells a thrilling, dark story and plays in a tremendously satisfying way.

Jeff Bakalar Editor at Large
Jeff is CNET Editor at Large and a host for CNET video. He's regularly featured on CBS and CBSN. He founded the site's longest-running podcast, The 404 Show, which ran for 10 years. He's currently featured on Giant Bomb's Giant Beastcast podcast and has an unhealthy obsession with ice hockey and pinball.
Jeff Bakalar
3 min read

Inside is the type of game I love showing people who aren't aware that games can actually make you feel things.


The Good

Inside is a beautifully designed puzzle platforming game from Playdead, the studio that made Limbo. Its controls are seamless and it tells a wonderfully strange story.

The Bad

You'll just want more of Inside when it's all said and done.

The Bottom Line

Inside is a brilliant work of atmosphere that tells a twisted and engaging story. It's smart, bizarre and one the finest gaming experiences of the year.

That's the brilliance of Inside, the sophomore effort from Danish developer Playdead, the team that brought us 2010's Limbo. It's a remarkably emotional trip through a quietly horrific world that is as fresh as it is unique.

If you in any way subscribe to the notion that videogames aren't just about killing zombies and shooting soldiers, it's your responsibility to give Inside a shot.

It's been six years since Limbo creeped me out to the point where I couldn't play it alone (or with the lights off) and Inside hits every single mark I hoped it would -- and then some.


Inside is a natural evolution of the themes and platforming of Limbo. The most satisfying part is seeing all of its predecessor's nuances fleshed out and better realized. There's a maturity in every element of Inside, from its wicked puzzle design to its brooding score.

It's worth noting this isn't a game for everyone. It's dark, occasionally upsetting and downright macabre throughout. For me that's part of its charm, but I can't deny how brutal it can be.

Similar to that first reaction I felt to dying in Limbo, the first time you die in Inside might force you to let out a genuine gasp before the screen fades to black.

Your character, a faceless boy, follows a single line through a world that's somewhere between two- and three-dimensional. He can't interact with the fore and backgrounds, so he's essentially stuck on a plane all the way through the game.


Where Limbo felt like the whole thing was being shown through a dirty projector on the wall of an abandoned asylum, Inside has a cleaner look, opting for the striking visuals of a decrepit flooded industrial wasteland. Instead of black and white, Inside opts for shades of desaturated colors, but most of its bleak palette is made up of a variety of grays.

The camera follows the boy on a left to right adventure through a world that is isolating, oddly tranquil and cold. You're not sure how you got there, but you quickly learn there are people in this place who don't want you out and about, discovering their dark secrets of experimentation and control.

There's such a strong sense of helplessness. You're unsure of who the boy is, but you know so much about him. He has a sadness you can't ignore. His little breaths and pouts imply he's too weak to push on and every new area he enters seems to shrink him to an atomic level.


Everything about the setting of Inside is infinitely intriguing. It seems impossibly constructed, straight out of a Simon Stalenhag painting or a cyberpunk dystopian arcology.

The game's hypnotic and vexing atmosphere is matched beautifully by its puzzle platforming. It hits all the right beats. The puzzles are ultra-satisfying and smart -- even quite difficult at times. A few sequences had me guessing for up to 20 minutes.

If there's anything to lament it's that Inside flies right by. And that's not a criticism on value-versus-time-played, it's just that I didn't want it to end. I wanted to stay in that screwed-up world and learn more. You can load any checkpoint as you progress, which is perfect for reliving the game's remarkable moments.


Inside is one of the finest gaming experiences I've had all year. It does so many things so well and makes you feel emotions you don't expect. It's weird, beautiful and heartbreaking.

Inside defies expectations and delivers plenty of surprises. It's a triumph in storytelling, atmosphere and design. It's never boring or redundant and yet at the same time it's crafted with such a beautiful sense of style and feeling.

I'm stunned at the possibility of having to wait another six years to experience the next game from Playdead's twisted collective mind, but it's tough to argue that it wouldn't be worth the wait.

Inside hits Xbox One on June 29 and PC (via Steam) on July 7 for $20, £15 or AU$27. It's rated M for mature.

See GameSpot's coverage of Inside