Friday 9 December 2016

Games: Grotesque, bizarre, brilliant

Inside, (XO/PC) 5 Stars Age: 16+

Published 10/07/2016 | 02:30

Inside, for PC and Xbox One
Inside, for PC and Xbox One

It begins in a quiet forest and climaxes on a stoney beach but these visions of pastoral peace bookend a disturbing, elliptical story told with commendable economy.

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Coming from the creators of 2010's wonderfully macabre Limbo, Inside strikes a similar note, drawing on a near-monochromatic palette to depict a boy's struggle to escape, well, what exactly? We're never quite sure. But Inside invokes Kafka, Roald Dahl and even the Holocaust as the boy sneaks, runs, swims and clambers his way through a nightmarish 2.5D world.

Avoiding searchlights, guard dogs and bizarre creatures represents perhaps the least of his worries thanks to a gauntlet of often fiendish puzzles made trickier by frequent trial-and-error deaths.

Like Limbo, Inside mercilessly punishes mistakes, killing your character in gruesome fashion yet quickly restoring you for another attempt.

Lest it sound relentlessly grim, Inside brims with black humour and moments of pathos and beauty. Expressive animation and clever 2.5D design make you forget not a single word of dialogue is uttered.

Inside lasts barely three hours (with just a few secrets to justify replay) but it's an absorbing experience and a triumph of understated storytelling.

The Mighty No. 9

(PS4/XO/WiiU/PC) 3 Stars Age: 7+

A Kickstarter-funded successor to the classic side-scrolling Mega Man series, No. 9 feels like something from another era - and not entirely in a good way. Dull scenery and flat combat come briefly alive only when the player learns to chain dash-and-kill combos to take down a procession of robotic enemies. Boss fights provide a smidgen of variety but they're not enough to return No. 9 to the glory days.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan

(XO/PS4/PS3/X360) 2 Stars Age: 12+

A co-op brawler from the makers of the peerless Bayonetta, Mutants in Manhattan does TMNT a disservice with repetitive action and none of its stablemate's visual flair or tight controls.

Gameplay defaults to button-mashing and slogging through endless waves of identikit enemies. One to avoid.

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