I don’t post about video game soundtracks as much as I’d like, so I’m changing that today. INSIDE is a game that I personally haven’t played, but have watched a lot of footage of since its release in 2016. It’s a fantastic dialogue-less platformer / puzzle / thriller from the same team that did 2010’s LIMBO (Playdead), that will keep you totally entranced throughout its entire, decently short, length.
It essentially plays out like a movie that you can control, with super simple controls and objectives. The main character moves in more or less one direction the entire time; traversing a progressively harrowing landscape that reminds me a lot of the back half of Portal 2. The main obstacles are relatively simple puzzles that try to bar you from your main goal: to go. Run from some unknown entity that’s chasing you, whether it be dogs or strange men with guns. You’ll find that each area is blanketed in a dismal, oppressive fog that makes for gorgeous backgrounds and definitely nails the mood of hopelessness and confusion. What I like about these backdrops is that despite being similar in nature, each one stands out enough to keep things interesting and fresh throughout the game. There’s always something new to freak you out in ever new location and even though your main objective is to keep running, it’s tempting to just stand and look at your surroundings.
The main driving force behind the storytelling, besides the visuals, is the music. Composed by Danish musicians and producers Martin Stig Andersen (who previously did work on the LIMBO OST) and SØS Gunver Ryberg, the soundtrack to INSIDE is dark, compelling, and provides all of the perfect accompanying sensory cues and stabs to the pivotal moments in the game. The game is usually silent, aside from sound effects coming from the main character. But when something happens in game, ghostly synths filter through; confirming the actions the player has taken as correct or adding another mystifying layer of complexity to the current arc. There’s always an undercurrent of darkness throughout these pieces, hinting that there’s always something sinister lurking underneath the surface, waiting to strike when you least expect it. Nothing is quite all the way there – we’re constantly looking through a frosty glass window, watching our protagonist claw his way through.
Andersen and Ryberg avoid the usual trappings of soundtracks that rely on retro synths to further its story, like nostalgia baiting or sounding a bit too uncanny to other games. These sounds used here feel both totally alien and completely natural in the game’s environment. It’s as though they have always been there, in this wordless world the game exists in. The composers even went so far as to record the pieces they made as they played in a human skull, bending the quality of the sound and literally giving it brittle and hollow attributes. You can read more about that process HERE. It’s refreshing, original and perfect for the task at hand. I’ve listened to a good amount of ambient music in my day and not much elicits this much feeling out of me on its own.
Unfortunately there has been no official release of the soundtrack yet, very likely because the audio is so bound with the actual gameplay that purely putting the pieces together on an album as they are now wouldn’t make sense. They likely would need to rearrange them and figure a way to make them work on their own. Let’s hope that the team comes together and puts something out soon, cause I am ready to buy it. Thankfully, I’ve posted the work of the kind servant of the internet that has posted a game rip of the audio above, so if you haven’t already gotten into this yet, I highly recommend doing so, especially if you’re looking for a truly unique ambient experience. True spoilers for the game don’t start coming until probably 15:00. You can check out gameplay & buy the game below.