Review: Limbo

Or rather, its outskirts.

Welcome to Hell.

It is a proven fact that LusipurrCom loves indie games. They are cheap, they are innovative, and their developers take risks. One would think that with a shorter game would come a shorter review, but many indie games nowadays are on par with the industry’s biggest titles in terms of presentation and as such require an equal amount of consideration when it comes to their critique. As such, this week’s review of Limbo is no exception

Developed and published by Danish studio Playdead, Limbo is a adventurous platforming puzzle game that revolves around an unnamed young boy, searching the strange and dark titular world of Limbo for his lost sister. This is the part of the review that would normally focus on providing a short synopsis of the plot and criticizing the depth of the game’s character development. However, this game has neither of those; the only story to be found is in the description through whichever platform it is purchased from.

It is worth noting, however, that just because Limbo does not have a narrative does not mean it cannot convey a deep and meaningful story. Rather, Limbo conveys its story almost entirely through its setting: The player must guide their avatar through a landscape that is lifeless and unforgiving. The game is surprisingly gruesome, as it shows a proclivity for having traps and hazards that kill the Boy in numerous ways, starting very early in the game with a seemingly-innocent object that players will quickly learn is a bear trap with a penchant for decapitation. The choice to have the game routinely show the Boy being killed in such violent ways in-game is malevolent, but integral to conveying the cold and uncaring nature of the world. During the game there is little music; it only appears at times of danger and will often put the player on edge, making the soundtrack itself a sort of bizarre adversary.

The isolation and atmosphere of the game scared me more than the murderous giant spider, to be honest.

Some of our readers may not be entirely comfortable with certain portions of this game.

Limbo‘s controls are adequate enough for its content, utilizing only a directional control, a jumping button, and a grabbing button used to pull switches and push and pull objects. While the art of the setting is undoubtedly the central focus of the game, the platforming and puzzles are still very fun. The levels are well-designed and interesting, with surprising twists and fake-outs mixed in with classic tropes of platforming levels. Puzzles are similarly well-designed, ranging from standard manipulation of items to make platforms and weights, puzzles involving buoyancy and water transfer, timing problems, gravity manipulation, and everything in-between. And while the first half of the game focuses primarily on platforming and timed jumps, the game subtly increases the density of puzzles until the player is left primarily with real mind-benders. The game’s only problem with regards to gameplay is the length: most players will be able to complete the game within four to five hours, leaving players with little else to do once finished save hunting for achievements, or just taking in the scenery once more.

That child looks bored. She should play this game.

No. That is wrong.

The game is top-notch in terms of aesthetics and immersion. The colorless environment and grisly content are reminiscent of German Expressionism films of the 1920′s such as Nosferatu and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, with some elements of film noir in certain levels. The game uses shadows and silence to its advantage, with each of the levels having at least one part in which the player must guide the Boy through complete darkness, using only the light of his eyes. The levels are varied, taking the Boy seamlessly between haunted forests, savage villages, rainy cities, and nightmarish twisting factories and ruins. Hell has never looked simultaneously more chilling and stylish than in Limbo.

Limbo is a fantastic game, plain and simple. Play it. The aesthetics of the game tell just as much as a narrative could in this case, and the platforming and puzzles are complex enough to keep players immersed. Limbo is available on Steam, XBLA, and PSN, and is well worth the fifteen American dollars you will pay for it!

5 Comments

  1. evilpaul
    Posted 2011.09.06 at 14:29 | Permalink

    So I got past a floor buzzsaw by jumping over it by standing on a box and have no idea where to go/what to do next? SOLVE FOR ME! (I think 23rd chapter on the PC version?)

    Also, Lane already reviewed this!!!

  2. Emmori
    Posted 2011.09.06 at 14:47 | Permalink

    @evilpaul: GameFaqs!

  3. Slab Bulkhead
    Posted 2011.09.06 at 19:41 | Permalink

    That spider has 5 legs. What?

  4. Emmori
    Posted 2011.09.06 at 20:24 | Permalink

    @Slab Bulkhead: The preceding puzzle has the player destroy three of its legs to shoo it away. That spider is pissed.

  5. Lusipurr
    Posted 2011.09.07 at 00:12 | Permalink

    @Emmori: That poor spider has nothing but trouble.