Desolate and dusty, Inside’s dreary tale of corporate obedience, rogue science, and life without enthusiasm is a visual masterpiece. It’s also trite, simple, and all too legible.
Oddworld: Abe’s Odyssey was a working class satirist, genuinely chill in its story of gentrification, consumption, and blue collar exploitation. A classic. Inside’s hazy gloom is in opposition, but with the same ruminations, nihilist and spiteful, with a child alarmingly ripped, torn, and bloodied by a quite literal corporate machine (and the pieces therein). So literal, colorless blue collar workers stomp in zombiefied unison to clock in. Others are hauled off in cages. Mostly, they’re braindead, controlled by mechanisms which give them life, as in-depth as an English Lit 101 essay on Animal Farm.
In the upper floors, white collar offices. Executives, PR. A recently lit cigarette billows from an ashtray; a phone hangs from its wall mount; everyone drops what they’re doing and runs toward a new discovery. Fearful excitement exists for their corporate breakthrough, a surreal and deliberate amalgam of Inside’s trite, overly communicated anti-capitalist parable, resting in a blackened, lifeless bubble. No one at the executive level appears aware of the human cost, and if they are, it’s indifference compared to the potential profits.
Inside starts with ambiguity and grows. The nameless child, faceless, identity-less, wanders for unknown reasons. He runs, toward the corporately-owned monolith which seems a poor choice, if perfect for Playdead to recreate the unsettling, caustic violence which stretched through their prior work, Limbo.
Limbo was airy though, less certain and less real world. A collection of rotting nightmares, fed through the plausible mind of a child. Inside chews on tighter, less ambiguous themes, senselessly aided by the perspective of a boy whose deaths feel perversely conceptualized and executed. Inside does nothing by casting a pre-teen as the protagonist other than seek out ready made empathy, and then never props up the decision with any justification.