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Inside is a beautiful, well framed, puzzler narrative game, telling the story of a boy escaping a totalitarian world of mind controlling devices and human drones. Despite that, I have an apprehension about giving Inside the hasty recommendation I would normally grant a novel, artsy game.
There is a manga artist I once stumbled across called Kago Shintaro, who emblemises the problem I have with Inside. I don't recommend you look him up without a google safe search. Shintaro is a tremendously imaginative artist, capable of true feats of lateral thinking and creativity, and yet its all in service of producing utterly obscene things. To speak plainly, he creates scatological gore porn of children being dismembered in elaborate ways. Anyone who has already played Inside might realise where I am going with this.
Inside is a game where you guide a boy through a series of deathtraps. Owing to the puzzle design, you won't anticipate a lot of these deathtraps until you have already run headlong into them, and then you are treated to a meticulously animated game over, where the child might be torn apart by dogs, blown apart by sonic blasts, or (the one that gets to me the most) having their windpipe crushed against a metal railing by a faceless adult. There is a horrific imagination at play here, trying to figure out the most unpleasant ways they can make you watch a cartoon boy die: a turret that shoots out crude harpoons hooked up high voltage, or a massive ventilation fan that bisects anyone passing through.
I will sit through incredibly graphic content, but I feel like the story has to justify it for me to give it a pass, and I doubt Inside does that. There's a quiet threshold where entertainment can go from being candid to being indulgent. 10 years ago I complained that the movie Watchmen doing this, to the discredit of the story. Comedic movies like The Machine Girl revel in it, and I guess that's fine for the effect its going for, but if I'm expected to take a story seriously I need it to justify showing me four hours of child butchery.
Inside has clever puzzles, an engrossing scenario, and a beautiful minimal art style. Also, there is a glorious part of the game, four fifths of the way through, where your protagonist is finally granted the power to turn the tables on the tyrants, having gone through the rest of the game facing a chain of insta-death scenarios. It feels great. But as with Shintaro, this one issue of basic decency is sticking out in my mind. Even though the content isn't particularly graphic, I struggle to give Inside recommendation. That said, if you are reading this, smirking at my prudishness, then by all means give it a go.
Just to note, Kago Shintarou seems to be the more accurate transcription, for those eager to not look it up. And I feel this is an unfair way of describing their whole work. Sometimes there are adults.
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