I guess Kotaku are liking my reivews?

Limbo (XBLA)

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.


I got published!

I wrote a Reader Review for Kotaku Australia. Evidently it passed muster and was posted to the main feed.

I’m not sure what else to say about it, other than to paste it here holus-bolus. It doesn’t really deserve to be reposted here, but I’m pretty pleased about it and it’s my blog, so there.

DeathSpank (XBLA)

From the mind Ron Gilbert of Monkey Island fame, DeathSpank is a RPG-lite title in the vein of the Diablo series, utilising a controller instead of a mouse and keyboard (until it arrives on PC and PSN anyway). Our hero, the titular DeathSpank, dispenses Justice through the use of magic, crazy weapons and utter heroic stupidity.


Humour: This is a funny game. Everything from item and quest descriptions, monsters and regularly respawning/teleporting via a system of outhouses exude a Gilbert-esque charm. Fans of Monkey Island will welcome the familiar tone.

Voice Acting: The game is entirely voice acted. Every character DeathSpank meets along his journey is full to bursting with one-liners and innuendo.

Action: DeathSpank’s penchant for meting out painful Justice upon pretty much everything in his path provides many opportunities to hit X enemy with Y weapon. Melee attacks are supported by some ranged damage via the use of crossbows and magical abilities provided by Justice Attacks.

Co-op: Drop-in/drop-out co-operative play is supported through the use of DeathSpank’s sidekick Sparkles the Mage. Sparkles is equipped with a stock set of unchangeable abilities which level up with DeathSpank including a magic bolt, heal spell, exploding clones and flamethrower-like attacks. A one-choice character select screen implies that further co-op characters will be available in the future via DLC.

Phat Loots: There are a huge number of items available to DeathSpank throughout the world. Armour sets, weapons, potions, limited one-shot powers and even a poop hammer are at your disposal.

Locales: The world of DeathSpank is a colourful 3D environment populated by numerous quest givers, monsters, treasure chests and 2D pseudo-sprite features. The entire area is presented with an exaggerated curvature to give the impression of distance. I suspect this is also an attempt to limit the amount of terrain displayed at any one time for the sake of performance.


Voice Acting: As welcome as full voice acting is, it can become wearisome, especially in the case of DeathSpank himself. Luckily, all conversation can be skipped through liberal use of the B button.

Abilities: Despite the sheer number of items available throughout the game, most players will find themselves sticking with melee attacks. Most ranged weapons are woefully underpowered compared to level-appropriate melee weapons and all other abilities are provided through rare one-shot items. Some non-item based magical ability would be welcome.

Lite: This is definitely RPG-lite. Steer clear if story and character development are an important factor in your purchase.

Length: The game is only 6-8 hours long, depending on your patience for side quests. This is ameliorated by the $US15/$AU19.80 price tag.

DeathSpank is a title well worth the asking price if you enjoy a light-hearted RPG romp through colourful locales littered with fragile enemies to dispatch with wild abandon. Playing with a friend makes Ron Gilbert’s particular brand of lols all the more lolable. Highly recommended.