This was a surprise present from Mrs A at Christmas and it’s taken me a while to get to it, being in the middle of my Alien: Isolation replay. I must pay tribute once again to the quality of that game. Considering I had already played it, it had the same feeling of terror running all the way through.
So, moving on from that, I stepped into the worlds created by independent game developers, Playdead. This Danish company was founded in 2006 by Arnt Jensen and they have produced two games that share a similar feeling of dread. Both games feature a linear structure of puzzle solving and grim visuals, in which your frail but resourceful protagonist must find his way through increasingly devious situations that can lead to certain death at the first mistake.
There are spoilers below for anyone who hasn’t played, especially Inside, so be aware not to scroll down to the last pictures if you want a surprise. I think after 4 years I’m not risking anyone’s anger by sharing them.
I must say that I am incredibly late to these games, the first one, Limbo, being released ten years ago and its follow up, Inside, in 2016.
The design and visual aesthetic of both these games is gorgeous, making you want to take screenshots in every different room or area. They are blackly humorous and quite sickening in places. I’ll say a little bit about each one and share some of my favourite images from my journey through both. Honestly, it’s been really nice to play something that isn’t linked to a pre-existing franchise and it’s been a real eye-opener for me in terms of the games that are available out there if you look beyond big tentpole releases (he said, loading up Resident Evil 2 for his next game).
Limbo takes you through a nightmarish monochrome world that makes me think of David Lynch’s Eraserhead. You must guide a small boy with glowing white eyes through a horrific landscape populated by huge spiders and traps that will kill you in an instant. The laws of physics are turned on their head and you find yourself constantly on unsure footing. The traps and puzzles are brilliantly designed; just hard enough to keep you guessing and keep the level of challenge up. There are simple controls, left, right, jump and action, which means you always know what your options are. This was such an addictive experience and I was instantly hooked; my enthusiasm never dimming until I reached the conclusion. The landscape is beautifully layered with the dim background suggesting the size and scope of the bizarre world you inhabit.
Here are some of my favourite images from my playthrough.
You’re another small boy in this game, this time in a slightly more colourful world. Despite the colours, the world feels just as timeless and creepy as Limbo’s. You progress through a series of different environments, pursued by attack dogs and men with tranquiliser guns. The feeling of menace is present throughout the game and you can be caught or killed in an instant. As you progress, you get hints of what is going on in the world around you and are faced with strange creatures and mechanisms of death. Inside adds several things to the format of the first game but keeps the controls the same. Swimming is a new feature, as is piloting a submersible for a portion of the game, which adds a nice new dimension to the familar. Inside is a game that is truly unsettling. The animations are astounding, blending with the surreal visuals beautifully. I can’t get over just how beautiful to look at this game is. And the ending!!! Well, I’ve never seen anything quite like that before. Inside takes everything that Limbo did and amplifies it so that the game becomes much bigger in scope whilst never losing the personal nature of the gameplay. You get hints at what is going on around you but there is no real explanation and the feeling is so much better as a result.
Here are some images from this beautiful, haunting game.
Thanks for reading,
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