Finally, after a year of waiting, Playstation 3 and PC owners can experience the much talked about Limbo, from Playdead games. Can a year of hype crush this small indie game, or is this a unique experience that everyone must experience for themselves?
The first thing gamers will notice about Limbo is the striking visual style. This game is purely black and white, where only the silhouette of characters are visible. This game revels in a visual desolateness that is enhanced by a thin layer of fog and empty, sprawling background art that suggests there is very little life remaining in this world. While players will first traverse simple hills and cliffs, eventually they will encounter a broken city, where electricity sparks with a bright ferocity, gravity can change at a moment’s notice, and enemies use intelligent traps to try and halt the main characters progress. The visual tone of Limbo is the highpoint of the game, and for that alone it is something every gamer should take note of.
Following in the footsteps of the visuals, the story of Limbo is murky and sparse. Only by reading a synopsis will players realize that the main character, a mere boy, is searching for his lost sister in this strange world. That’s about it. One can’t help but think a more cohesive plot would work better to tie the game together, and, if anything, this is the game’s weakness. Even though there is no story to become emotionally invested in, however, the fact that the main character is only a child can create some truly tense and heartwrenching moments.
Limbo is not an easy game. The puzzles are complicated, and death can come quickly, with no warning. Only by trial and error will players learn how to traverse from chapter to chapter, and once you are given the ability to manipulate gravity, the puzzles can halt your progress for quite some time. It never feels unfair, though; only that the solution is just beyond your grasp. The result of a trail and error style of gameplay means you will die, a lot. Death in video games is rarely ever seen as a morbid consequence to failure, but rather a minor setback that players can simply brush off. This is not so here, when your small child of a main character meets all sorts of grisly ends via decapitation, electrocution, and even the especially vicious drowning. Watching a child’s ragdoll body go limp with each death hits home in a way that doesn’t exist anywhere else, and through this fear of your character dying comes the emotional core of the game that can not be found in the nonexistant story.
Limbo is a beautifully somber game, with a sense of hoplessness looming over your every move. This isn’t something you pick up for a few minutes to have a gleeful diversion from your daily life. Instead, Limbo will make you stop and think, and make you regretful of failed decisions and overwhelmed by triumph. Much like the world of this game, there is something intangibly special here that shouldn’t be avoided. It’s over in a flash, but Limbo will stick with you long after the credits role.