Danish developer Playdead has firmly established themselves as one of the top-tier studios for indie games.
Game designers Arnt Jensen and Dino Patti formed the studio in 2006 to begin work on Limbo.
The puzzle platformer launched to critical acclaim and has been ported several times since its release in 2011. Playdead seamlessly transported the quality of experience with the game still averaging 88/100 on Metacritic across platforms.
The team followed up with Inside in 2016 that received similar plaudits from industry professionals. Inside picked up 16 gaming awards upon release and averaged 90/100 on Metacritic. The game built on a lot of elements established in Limbo leading to a superior experience for many.
Now Playdead has announced they are into development for their third title which has been labelled their most ambitious project yet.
It’s unusual for a studio to achieve such a president after releasing just two games in 13 years. The time was well spent though with both games being loving constructed. That attention to detail has established a trademark brand of quality now associated with Playdead.
Both games are visually striking despite using minimal colour and textures. There’s a haunting beauty to both titles that convey the emptiness of the worlds. There is little in the way of outright narrative but the level design does consist of environmental cues.
Limbo is a 2D monochrome platformer that leans heavily into a dark aesthetic. The only light present in an eerie grey glow that provides the backdrop and the glowing white eyes of the protagonist. It creates an obvious juxtaposition between protagonist and setting, suggesting he does not belong to the world.
The game is ambiguous by design with nothing more than a boy searching for his sister in limbo as confirmed narrative.
A common opinion is that both characters have died in an accident. The sister has yet to accept her death and her resistance is manifested in the obstacles and supporting characters.
The boy must reach his sister in limbo so that the two can move on. The closing title screen seems to confirm their bodies have decayed through the presence of flies. Suggesting the two have reconciled and left their physical forms behind in a bittersweet ending.
Inside built on a lot of the haunting themes of Limbo and transported them to a new setting. The story was again ambiguous and again focused on the adventure of a young boy.
Moving from 2D level design to a 2.5D format, Inside also added a spattering of diluted colour. The boy’s red shirt is the main element of colour in another monochrome world, again making him standout.
The game takes place in a dystopian world and begins with the boy on the run from captors. The journey reveals a society on brainwashed zombies marching to the beat of some overseeing scientists.
Our silent protagonist breaks into a medical facility – freeing a creature known as the Huddle.
The being – comprising of a glob of human limbs – escapes and runs amock, killing scientists and escaping the facility. Inside also features a secret ending where the boy accesses another facility and pulls a big plug before entering a zombie-like state.
Levels and puzzles were seemingly more narrative driven in Inside, but the overall arch is left to fan theories. One suggests that Inside is a meta-commentary on gaming, as opposed to an accepted theory the boy is under the control of the Huddle.
The protagonist becomes a fugitive by being forced to follow the commands of the player thus breaking the established code of the in-game world. The rest is a consequence of the player’s interference, with the dystopian features representing a sort of anti-virus patch.
The ending of the game is the boy severing his connection to the literal controller and hence returning to his zombie norm.
Playdead Untitled Project
Both games are magnificent and are a good reason to be excited for anything new from the studio. We don’t know many specific details of the project yet but it was announced to be in development almost immediately following Inside.
The game was rumoured for release in 2017 but we are still awaiting an official announcement. What we do know is that Jensen has confirmed it will be the studios most ambitious project to date. The game will centre on feelings of loneliness which is in keeping with previous Playdead releases.
We also know it will be a sci-fi adventure, so we’d hazard a guess the protagonist will be exploring an alien planet. Following a crash landing, the sole survivor must navigate the harsh, unfamiliar environment to seek an escape or any signs of life.
Expect mystery and another dark, moody landscape. We are also expecting Playdead to shift dimensions up again to a full 3D experience. Jensen seemed to confirm these details in an interview in his native Denmark last year.
“It will be a bigger game than the other two. It becomes more open, and then it becomes a 3rd person’s game with a much larger area that you can move around in. I’ve become tired of the limitations of 2D games.
“It’s a sci-fi adventure out in the universe. But it draws on the same feelings as the other two games, so it becomes small-melancholy. The feeling is about discovering an unknown place in the universe.
“In our game, a lot is going on between the lines of putting emotions in motion, so that people can draw their own conclusions.” – Translated from DR interview with Arnt Jensen, co-developer of Playdead.