Winner of the Visual Arts and Technical Excellence awards at the Independent Games Festival for 2010, Limbo has successfully navigated its way through the dark forest of small budget independant game development and into the neon-bright halls of XBLA’s Winter (Summer for those of you on the other side of the equator) of Arcade. Limbo is a powerful, foreboding experience which pits a seemingly helpless young boy against a barbarous world, the few inhabitants of which ready to pounce on any and every misstep.
Loneliness: Limbo is oppresively atmospheric. The entire game is rendered in a black/grey/white and from a multi-plane 2D side-scrolling perspective. There is very little text in the game outside of the main menu, even to the exclusion of any sort of objective. The player quicly learns which objects in the environment are dangerous, though mostly thanks to have been brutally ravaged by it previous to being dropped back at one of the game’s frequent checkpoints. The game’s soundtrack is incredibly sparse, the most common sound effect being the depressingly lonely footsteps of the protagonist. Music is all-but absent aside from a subtle score presented as though from the oversized horn of a phonograph.
Tactile: The way that the protagonist moves just feels right. Timing jumps, climbing both up and down ledges, ladders ropes etc are all very intuitive. You will never find yourself dying thanks to unresponsive controls, there is little here for a poor workman to blame. Limbo is not complicated, control-wise. Move with the left analogue stick, A to jump, B to interact. Complexity comes with how the protagonist is able to interact with the world, and perhaps more aptly, how the world interacts with the protagonist.
If At First You Don’t Succeed: The game’s ability to chew you up and spit you out (sometimes, quite literally) would normally result in many players frustrated by the difficulty. In this instance, the game checkpoints very frequently. This means that you will most likely not need to replay a difficult section after being perforated immediately by the one following it.
Moreish: I found this game incredibly difficult to put down. There is a lot to drive you forward here, from the beautifully terrifying scenery and the new and interesting puzzles to the reveal of a new, shocking expository story element. The game is short, but I think that plays to its strengths, much like a certain other short, brilliant albeit cake-obsessed puzzle game.
Creepy: The art and audio direction of the game is surprisingly horrifying. Deaths are visceral. I generally hate this term thanks to its over/misuse, but in this case it is both literal and accurate. Not for the fainthearted.
Very Little: I guess it’s kind of short? Clocks in at around three hours. I struggle to find fault with this game.
Playdead is to be commended for this title, preferably through the purchase and recommendation of the product. Limbo is an absolute must-have for Xbox 360 owners.