A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Inside is a downloadable narrative platformer-puzzle adventure game for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and Windows PCs. It stars a nameless boy that's on the run from powers unknown. Frequently scary and haunting imagery depicts the boy struggling to escape armed men, dogs, and other perils. He encounters disturbing scenes that involve wiggling worms extruding from pigs and mannequin-like people divested of free will. The boy suffers bloody deaths that range from being blown to bloody bits to having his throat torn open by dogs. He doesn't fight back but instead attempts to evade his pursuers. He also uses his wits to overcome obstacles, solving contextual puzzles to keep progressing. Players will need to interpret for themselves much of what they see, but several clear themes -- including isolation, pursuit, and perseverance -- emerge as the story progresses.
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What's it about?
INSIDE is a side-scrolling narrative adventure that places players in control of a nameless, faceless boy on the run from mysterious forces. The game begins with the boy moving through a forest and past highways and streams as he tries to evade masked men with guns, vehicles, and vicious dogs. Soon, he enters more urban settings where he begins to encounter contextual puzzles that force players to work out how to manipulate objects in the environment to help him get around obstacles and access switches. Several of these puzzles also involve water, which the boy can traverse either by swimming or by piloting a small submersible. As the game progresses, it becomes stranger, with haunting imagery involving worms, puppet-like people, and a procession of strange, twitching bodies and limbs. The player's objective is simply to keep the boy moving by finding a way forward and avoiding his aggressors. He can't fight or defend himself, which means that his best bet is either to hide, run, or sometimes even find a way to blend in. It takes around five hours to complete, though players may find reason to play again if they miss any secret areas or want to revisit the narrative mystery with a fresh perspective.
Is it any good?
This excellent adventure is a follow-up to the acclaimed indie hit Limbo, and it shares much in common with that game. Both are mysterious run-to-the-right puzzle-platformers starring a young boy that feature dark themes and contextual conundrums involving switches, water, and objects governed by commonsense physics. That said, Inside takes a step further into disturbing territory with its haunting imagery and enigmatic story, which is likely to creep out many players even as it keeps them glued to the screen, craving answers and understanding. That understanding never comes -- at least not in clear, unambiguous terms -- but there's a certain satisfaction to be gleaned from a narrative experience that leaves much to the interpretation of individual players.
The riddles extend beyond the story and into play. The boy's frequently confronted with puzzles appropriate to his given situation that can usually be solved through a mix of experimentation and a commonsense understanding of physics and the world around us. Since controls are limited to a joystick for movement, a button assigned to jump, and another to interact with objects, solutions are usually just a matter of figuring out what can be manipulated and then thinking of different ways that those things can be used. You may get stuck, but the answers can usually be found either through perseverance or by taking a quick break and coming back to the problem with a fresh perspective. The real stars of the show, though, are Inside's compelling narrative, singular atmosphere, and empathic hero. The evocative final scene will stay with you long after the brief credits finish flashing across the screen.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about screen time. Inside lasts about five hours without chapters or clear breaks between levels, but what do you think is the best way to break up a game like this? Should you play until you become stuck on a puzzle and then take a break? Set specific time limits for each session?
Does a young protagonist make you more fearful for his safety? Do you play the game differently or expect specific abilities based on the hero's age?
Themes & Topics
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.