Limbo – PC
Release Date: July 21st 2010
Nerd Rating: 7.5
Reviewed by: Babe Sauce
If you’re looking for a puzzle game that is intellectually stimulating without forcing you to look for overly obscure cues you would have never thought existed, you’ve come to the right review. Limbo isn’t a particularly big game; it fits into the category of Xbox Live Arcade –where it was also released–as well as the smaller games on Steam that you play between big titles. Luckily for me, my brother turned me onto this hidden gem. Though the control scheme and interface are incredibly simple, the mood of the game is so uniquely eerie that I couldn’t keep away.
Let’s start off by waking up in the middle of a black and white forest with minimal environmental audio and no directive. This is how the game starts–and I kind of really dug it. Unlike most games, a tutorial and introductory cut scene is non-existent. The only way the player has any idea of what’s going on plot-wise is by reading the game’s description from wherever they bought it: “Uncertain of his sister’s fate, a boy enters Limbo.” That’s all they give you, which is something else I actually found really attractive about the game. My mind constantly kept creating situations and scenarios as to where the hell I was (HAH, Hell…. LIMBO… GET IT?! …sorry). In fact, if you ever play the game and remember ANYTHING from this article, please remember that I said there is no introductory cut scene–I literally sat there at my computer waiting for something to happen until I started playing around with the usual control keys. Low and behold, the right arrow made him move to the right.
The game is a 2D side-scroller with very minimal controls aside from the left and right arrow keys, assigning you only two other maneuvers: jump and grab. This simplicity may be off-putting to some players, however there is an advantage in terms of solving the puzzles. You worry less about the physical possibilities about what you can or should do, and are much more able to look at the puzzles theoretically, which I extremely appreciate.
That being said, don’t take simplicity as the game not being challenging. The puzzles start off easy enough as to where you can get a feel for how the game expects you to think. As it progresses, however, you’ll come to find that you’ve been pushing a crate back and forth for twenty minutes and you know you’re right at the edge of figuring it out but damn it you just can’t get to that ledge. With that being said, let me emphasize that these aren’t the types of puzzles to piss you off–they challenge you just enough so you have this overwhelming sense of accomplishment with every progression, but you’ll also catch yourself saying “oh man how did I not see that sooner?”
However, my absolute favorite component of this game is the eerie environment I mentioned earlier. There’s no magical checkpoint where everything turns into color, nor is there ever a point when things get any cheerier or escape the 2D universe. Aside from the literal visual interface, Limbo is a pretty dark game. Starting out, you don’t expect some of the graphic gore you later encounter. One of the things that impressed me was the capability of the developers to still produce a sense of graphic violence with only mere silhouettes. The controversy of children dying or being injured in any way in a game is often one that’s difficult to get past, but Play Dead successfully built a great game around it. For example, let’s take a look at a few screenshots. They’re not spoilers, I promise.
Creepy? Yes. Incredibly. Now another one:
Take a guess what that is. Go ahead. It’s a giant spider. Chasing after you. But surely he just wants to be friends, right? Maybe form an alliance?
Yeah…no. Unless you’d like to be an optimist and see this as the spider preparing to give the kid a piggy back ride. What you do with the spider later is even more creepily bizarre in the best way, but I’ll leave that for you to find out.
The only potential weakness of this game is the fact that it is in fact so ambiguous. The background story is never really defined or revealed, but that didn’t stop me from spending hours of my life on this. Your encounters reel you in, driving you to crave an answer for all the settings you pass through and why.
The developers have mentioned that the purpose of the ambiguity is so that players can interpret the story for themselves, so if you’re anything like me, the ideas of limbo and Hell will put you in a pondering state of what might even be fear for a few hours before you decide to finally hit that right arrow button to see what Limbo has to offer.
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