Short Horror Week #6: Inside

Search for a way out of a creepy, unsettling hospital

By Ian Coppock, Originally Published on February 22, 2013

What is it about mental hospitals that makes them such a popular horror venue? I run the risk of stereotyping by saying that it’s because of all the crazies, but in any case, we’re back in an insane asylum for Short Horror Week installment #6: Inside. The goal of the game is to get from inside to outside. Or, in layman’s terms, the hell out of here.

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The Story
I know that I just stated the game’s objective, but I didn’t know it until I’d won. The goal is implied with the title screen at the top of the article, but that’s pretty much the only story: get out of the creepy building. I think the developer may have been going for a very minimalist bent in making this game, but the outright lack of any sort of goal or direction was frustrating. I had to press random buttons until I found the flashlight, which didn’t inspire confidence that this game’s developer wanted me to survive. Meh. On I went.
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This place is less than neighborly…

It took me a while, but I eventually inferred that the goal of the game is to keep climbing until you get to a roof access doorway. Each floor contained its share of scares, but they were somewhat repetitive.  I was either getting stared at by a creepy dwarf-looking thing, or assaulted by flying rows of red, bald statues that looked like the arch nemeses of the Blue Man Group. Either way, after suffering the same tactic over and over for six minutes, it got old fast. Eventually, I wasn’t scared. Inside also relied on a loud sound effect to startle me rather than the visual of the scare, which was underwhelming. Also, some areas were blocked by invisible walls, and I couldn’t explore them. This made me sad, because if I can’t fulfill my lifelong dream of being the next Sherlock Holmes, I might as well not be playing games.

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In Mental Hospital, each scare was different and unpredictable. Randomness is key to pulling off good scares, and if the same one is employed repetitively, the game’s tension, and therefore its atmosphere, becomes more difficult to get immersed into. There was an enjoyable and somewhat comical surprise at the end of the game, but it didn’t outweigh the negatives. I hate to rag on game designers, especially indie, because it’s not like I could do any better. But, Inside was not particularly impressive in the story or atmosphere departments.
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A waterfall of blood. Scary? Mmm, I didn’t really think so. It reminded me of spaghetti sauce, or neon red paint.
The Artwork
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Inside‘s environments were extremely spartan. Aside from a few mattress frames and cardboard boxes, there wasn’t much in the way of detail. The environments all looked the same: a barrage of gunmetal-gray corridors with flickering lights and dark windows. The lack of detail made me bored, because once I’ve seen all there is in an area, I’m ready to move on. A lot could have been done with that space. Again, I hate to keep hitting the person who made this game, but I have the impression that it was hastily done or not tested very thoroughly. It was still dark, and somewhat eerie, but the creepiness was taken away by the harmless and repetitive jumpscares. That happens in a lot of games; the art and gameplay work at cross-purposes. Unfortunately, such was the case with Inside.
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Should I get it?
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I’m not sure I would bother. There’s better horror to be had with other games. Inside can be scary at moments, but after 10 of the same jumpscare, it just becomes obnoxious, not terrifying. I completed it in about six minutes and wasn’t that scared or impressed. But, if you feel like evaluating all of this for yourself, feel free to do so.
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