I have never been the biggest fan of the term “Indie games.” Not because the term doesn’t fit, but more-so because it always makes me think of Indiana Jones. Well, shoot, now I have to figure out how to tie Indiana Jones and Limbo together. Let’s just say that they are both great adventures in their own way: Indie is more about fun romps while shooting Nazis, Limbo is more a minimalistic mind-freak puzzler.
Look at this sweet ass game.
Limbo comes from the Danish video game studio Playdead. With a name like that, you can only assume what we will get into with this game.
Limbo, as far as playing goes, is a fairly straightforward sidescrolling affair. You run to the right and jump on things, and there are puzzles involved. What makes this game even more great is the presentation that surrounds it.
As you can see from the image above, everything in this game is set against an eerily beautiful monochrome setting. Very film noir-y, complete with a hazy grain. There is generous layering of objects in the foreground and background. The environments on screen all exist in varying degrees of focus, and while other games exhibit such graphical effects, I found myself really noticing it in this game. And that’s a complement. So many other little graphical things draw you into the little world that Playdead has set up. When you slide down an incline, for example, following you are little bits of gravel and debris. Or when your character grabs an item, he reaches at the exact angle of it. Or when you fall, the character reacts appropriately for the angle and momentum. It all looks incredibly great. I cannot say anything but good things about the way this game is visually, and how great it helps create the dark, moody atmosphere.
So what about the story?
We are given very little about what this game actually is or means. Wikipedia has this to say:
The primary character in Limbo is a nameless boy who awakes in the middle of a forest on the “edge of hell” (the game’s title is taken from the Latin limbus, meaning “edge”) who then begins to seek out his missing sister.
If Wikipedia did not exist, you would have no idea. The game itself gives you none of this information and you are left to interpret it all yourself. There is no dialogue in the entire game, its story is told through the context clues you come across as you go. Even still, with those clues it is rather difficult to nail down a perfect storyline. Its ability to have multiple interpretations, however, is part of the fun.
It should be noted that this game is incredibly gory. It’s rather shocking at first. When you make a misstep or spring a trap accidentally, there is a 90% chance that the poor boy will have at least one limb hacked off. An option exists to make these deaths less gruesome, but why would you want to do that? No music exists in this game, simply eerie sounds that help heighten the tension at certain points. I began my journey in the game right after midnight a few days ago. Some of the visuals – coupled with the sounds – crawled right up and under my skin and I enjoyed every bit of it. That is to say that this game is not necessarily a horror game; there simply exists some horrible things that can happen. Some horribly awesome things.
I should go back and clarify my quick blurb about its sidescrolliness. Sure, the game is a sidescroller, but at its heart it is a puzzler. The never faults you for dying, which is great because you will die quite a bit your first play-through. Most of the action you will come across in your journey involves figuring out a tasty puzzle. It reminded me, and many other reviewers it would seem, of Braid. The differences here sit with there being no time travel in Limbo and that Limbo isn’t broken up into “stages.” The entire game can be played through in one run without any breaks. There’s even an achievement related to that, for those courageous enough.
Does anything suck?
The only faults of the title that people have brought up are that there are some areas you will get to that are incongruous with the story that the game begins with and the length. On the first part: I can agree with this to an extent. There is a section near the beginning of the game that I wish would have fleshed out more, but in the end I am not wholly upset about it considering what I’ve learned about the entirety of the game. I simply thought as I was going through that it would lead in one direction and it went in another. On the second part: The game can be finished in but a few hours. I have read the average time is about 4-6 hours. Does that make it a poor purchase? No, of course not. Games come in different shapes and sizes. This one happens to be this length. You know what else can be beaten in about six hours? Modern Warfare 2.
And that is the long and short of Limbo. Will you understand everything about the story? Maybe not. Will you find the game to be exceptional and great? Yes, yes you will. For me, I was completely sucked into the game and really didn’t want to stop playing my first night after downloading it.
You can find Limbo on Xbox Live for about 1,200 magical spacebux. Unfortunately, there are currently no plans to bring it to other consoles or PC.
The official Limbo site can be found here: http://www.limbogame.org/