From the moment one saw the enigmatic bright eyed boy of Limbo, one could not help but be intrigued at what developer Playdead were up to. Screenshots began to appear, all in black, greys and whites and all with some eery captivating notion embedded in every pixel. What was Limbo and who was this little boy.
The answer is a fairly simple one, this little boy is you, a gaming character of no specific name or address, the silhouette of a tiny hero looking for his sister in an eery, disturbing world. That world is, Limbo, the place between heaven and hell and abode of death (theologically speaking). In gaming terms Limbo is a shadowy world of darkness, of nightmarish and devious creatures and even more evil traps.
From the moment you begin, Playdead Studios Limbo the game lures you in, as you wonder just what on earth this is. Is it a game, it doesn’t feel like a game in its most generic sense, it feels like an interaction, an immersive story in which there is little sound, no orchestration, just you, searching in the dark, your tiny feet crunching on damp grass as strange insects chirp in the distance.
Graphically speaking Limbo is a true dichotomy, for it is bland with its lack of color, whilst at the same time, managing to be one of the most wondrous gaming worlds seen for some time. The misty blacks and greys add to the overall mind-fuck that is this world of Limbo. Playdead Studios have managed a triumph of subtle horror, of simplistic yet intricate world design. Just wonderful.
Sound in Limbo is barely present. There is no overpowering orchestration, no booming explosions, screams, no blood curdling or maniacal sound bites one would usually associate with this sort of genre. There is an aural mood of peace and subtle terror. It is here again where Playdead have excelled themselves as masters of deception, for this mix of a peaceful soundtrack with the abject horror of those moments where a trap snaps shut, or there is a zap of deadly electricity only heightens the mood and atmosphere.
At its heart Limbo is a puzzle title, where one must traverse the eery backdrop for a lever to pull, a boulder to avoid, a jump to make, a switch to throw. Despite this however, Playdead Studios somehow manage to inject newness into the genre, at least for the first half of the game. Herein lay traps so devious Grimtooth himself would smile agog at the thoughtful design and mechanisms herein.
Sadly there is a downside as was just previously touched upon, the game seems an opus of two very distinct parts. For the first 10 or 12 chapters everything is new, it defies the very nature of the puzzle genre. Yes there are traps to avoid and switches to pull, but this is almost done in a magical manner. Then there is a tipping point, where Limbo makes a move away from this wonderful newness and steps back into old genre shoes. An eventuating shame, but not one that ruins the game overall, for those earlier levels will no doubt stay with one for a very long time.
Control in Limbo is as gentle as the masterful art style and subtle soundtrack, everything is simple, there are no insane complicated combination’s. The only complaint regarding control would be that sometimes the “leap of faith” mentality of darkened levels leaves the player feeling duped, as though luck plays a larger part than skill or logical thought. This though is a minor flaw and does nothing to ruin what is a superlative title.
Should you purchase Limbo, despite it only lasting a few hours and costing a rather steep 1200 Microsoft Points? Yes. Support Playdead in there efforts to burst the stagnated bubble of “same old same old” video game titles we are forced to endure month after month. Hopefully if they make another Limbo styled title they won’t change up the overall feel of the game half way through, which is this reviewers only true complaint, well, that and the lack of true ending. Limbo left one with something akin to the feeling felt when one finished Another World as the credits rolled by.. what.. that’s it?! What about those creepy little Lord of the Fly Boys? I want to know more Dammit!
Limbo by Playdead Studios is a wonderful title featuring a fresh approach to how sometimes less is more. There is no dramatic soundtrack, no masses of textures and color to make the eye pop, there is just style, meets craft, meets art. Limbo is a wonderful title that only stumbles ever so slightly by changing the overall feel halfway through and forcing us to endure a few “leap of faith” gameplay moments. If you love gaming, at the very least download the demo, then prepare to purchase Limbo.
Limbo by Playdead is the cute / quiet babydyke you crushed on at school. Complicated, beautiful and subtle. You will definitely want to hire that U-Haul and move Limbo on in. The first half of your time with Limbo though will be the best, fresh, new and exciting.
Limbo gets the “Stendhal Syndrome” L Word Rating here at Lesbian Gamers. Remember when Bette Porter starts crying at the beauty of the art before her, left agog at its ethereal wonder? Well that’s pretty much how the first hour or so of Limbo might make the more tender-hearted gamer feel. It is beautiful yet terrifying and it is definitely art meets game design. Now go wipe your tiny white blinking eyes.