Game Review: Limbo and Inside

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Following Ori, I played Limbo and Inside. Both games were developed by the same company, Playdead, and both are essentially 2D puzzle platformer games. Limbo was the first one to be released, back in 2010, while Inside is considered the spiritual successor to Limbo and was released in 2016.

Both are very nice games, but Inside is definitely a couple of steps ahead of Limbo, in my opinion. By being puzzle games, their replay value is not very high. Once you know the solution to every puzzle, there’s barely any mystery left to discover. Other puzzle games, like Portal, give the player some more flexibility in the game mechanics and freedom when solving each puzzle, and use this to their advantage to propose new challenges even after the player has finished the game. In contrast, the puzzles in Limbo and Inside usually have one solution.

Limbo lets you control a boy in his journey through a surreal world full of dangers. The story is, more or less, open to interpretation. Controls are very simple: moving left, right, jumping and interacting with world objects. Artistically, the game is very focused. Its aesthetics are well-defined featuring black and white, noisy art, mixing marked black and white contrasts with soft gradients; blurry objects and borders with in-focus, sharp objects.

Its puzzles are quite interesting and somewhat challenging at times. As with many puzzle games, it’s possible you’ll find some puzzles to be easy while other people find them challenging and vice-versa. Overall, they’re balanced and fair, and make you work with geometry, gravity, momentum and timing.

While Limbo, like Ori, is a simple game that played flawlessly in my system, without crashes, bugs or any noticeable glitch, it’s somewhat limited by its self-imposed visual aesthetics, and its animations, sound effects and music are really simple.

Inside, on the other hand, shows much more effort, or perhaps a bigger team or budget. You, again, control a boy journeying through an unknown world. But this journey is even more surreal, dangerous, open to interpretation, larger and more varied. While its visuals are simple like in Limbo, they are way more refined.

Your character travels in 2D, yet the environments are clearly deep and three-dimensional. The game toys with camera angles and distances to strengthen this perception and show you what’s ahead, above or below. Its use of a simple color palette, volumetric lights and shadows no longer feels like a self-imposed limit or restriction, but like a powerful tool to emphasize objects and the environment. Animations are detailed, sounds effects are more varied and play an important role in telling the story and creating the game’s atmosphere. Its soundtrack is an integral part of the game experience.

Controls are still very simple, but interactions with the environment are more complex and Inside’s puzzles are larger, better designed, more varied, original and feature more elements in play. They rely more on geometry and timing. While they integrate and require you to use gravity and momentum on several occasions, they usually relate those two elements to objects and the geometry of the surrounding environment instead of your own character. Like Ori and Limbo, Inside also played flawlessly in my system.

Both games can be explored completely in under 10 hours and probably under 5 too. As for scores, I’d say Limbo is a nice 7.5 to 8 game, while Inside is easily an 8.5 to 9 game. If you plan to play both, which I highly recommend, play Limbo first. If you only plan to get one of them, grab Inside.

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