[Horror Game Review] INSIDE: Escape from the Mind Controllers

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I’ve put off reviewing this one for too long. I’d simply do a let’s play except this is a non-VR title and my let’s play channel is VR only. It really deserves more attention though, as one of the more shocking, sobering and thought provoking game experiences of the last ten years.

Somehow INSIDE manages this without even a single line of written or spoken dialogue. Absolutely all story telling is done through the characters and environments, a truly impressive feat. The game’s refusal to explicitly explain itself only intensifies the cryptic feeling.

You’re thrown right into the thick of it when the game starts, tumbling down a rock ledge, apparently on the run from police. Or men with flashlights and guns anyway, as it’s never fully clear who they are. But it does become all too clear, soon enough, why they are after you.

Everyone else being herded into trucks like cattle appears to be in some sort of trance. They are brainwashed, obedient and docile. You’re one of the few who has escaped whatever process was used to mind control everyone else. Naturally that makes you public enemy #1 to whatever shadowy regime is responsible.

However once you discover the master helmets used to control all the brainwashed human cattle, you can turn this against your enemies. Many of the best puzzles in the game center around this mechanic, wherein you are able to take control over five to twenty people and use them to overcome various barriers impossible to pass on your own.

What becomes of the brainwashed people? They could easily have left it to the imagination, but you will see for yourself later on. There’s some implication of alien involvement early on, with parasitic worms emerging from the backside of a pig. But surprisingly we don’t see those worms again after that, and the enemies appear to be regular humans in some sort of secret organization thereafter.

Are the worms also inside the people chasing you? You encounter a totally different creature in the underwater portion of the game that is seemingly unrelated to all of it, and perhaps supernatural. How does it figure into all this? Was it human once?

There is a transformation scene later on which implies the organization has the means to mutate humans into other forms. For what purpose? Better hosts for the alien slugs? It is never explained. The game shows only what’s necessary to answer the biggest few questions that relate directly to gameplay.

Unfortunately this trend extends to the ending, which comes totally out of left field and resolves nothing. It is my only, and biggest, criticism about the game. There is an immediately obvious alternate direction they could’ve taken the ending which would have been immensely more logical and satisfying, but so it goes.

All in all I can do nothing but recommend INSIDE. The puzzles are maddening but clever and satisfying to figure out. The theme is oppressive but mysterious, and greatly resembles the themes in my own writing. This could well be one of my stories had they not made the game first. I’ve had friends and long time fans come to me and ask “did you have anything to do with this?”

I will say that a gamepad is a must-have, without which it’s a chore to play. The Xbox One gamepad is the best way to go, as many newer PCs have built in support for it and the build quality is excellent for what you pay, thanks to economies of scale.

Overall I give INSIDE a 9/10, docked one point only because of the big letdown of an ending. It’s $9.99 on Steam, and up to you whether it’s worth that much based on what I’ve written and your own thematic/gameplay preferences.

Check out this fan trailer btw, it’s what originally sold me on the game:

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