Latest Game Reviews
Limbo Review - Xbox 360
I think we have the Internet to thank for the resurgence of independent game design. There has never been a wider, more explorative, more accessible audience for the garage-made genre. And from the interbreeding App Store and Live Arcade indie explosion emerges Polish studio Playdead’s Limbo.
Limbo is much more than its 2D side-scrolling puzzle skeleton might suggest. Presented in stark, beautiful black and white, it’s sure to be brought up in those rather futile ‘games as art’ discussions that seem to reappear every couple of months in some new form. True, Limbo has more in common with “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” than most videogames, but it still relies on classic platforming tropes to subvert expectations.
The story of a nameless boy searching for his nameless sister in a bleak landscape, the game gives you just two actions to navigate a hostile, trap-laden environment: jump, and grab. Jump, grab and move. That’s all you have, all game. Simplicity at its finest, Limbo plays with your innate platforming experience to catch you out. As one example, you might trigger a swinging bear trap that decapitates you. Trying again, you might try to run straight through – but you’re not fast enough. Another death later, and you’ll think to trigger it, and then take a step back so that it swings past you. Clever – until another bear trap swings back at you in the opposite direction. They know how you think, and at every turn, the developers try to kill you in ways that will force your brain to break old habits if you’re to survive. And then you’ll have to break your new habits later in the game.
You’ll die a lot in this game, a result that typically produces an ooh of appreciation at the clever trap and the rather morbid mess of limbs that accompanies your mistake. There’s no penalty, though – no lives to keep an eye, no score that resets; in fact, no HUD to speak of. You just restart at the automatic, frequent checkpoints typically a few steps earlier. It auto-saves as you progress, and perhaps the only immersion breaker comes if you find one of the few hidden orbs that unlock an achievement. It’s beautiful in its elegance.
The game slowly expands as you work through the four to six hour experience (depending on your puzzle-solving abilities, of course). You begin in a forest, which slowly transitions from quiet stillness and navigation puzzles to action pieces that are at times creepy and always intense. Those who wish to experience Limbo untainted – all of you, hopefully – should not read the end of this sentence, which marvels at the interplay of water and gravity elements amongst a broken city and wheezing factory.
Man, this game is beautiful. The black and white aesthetic is not really that at all, but a mix of greys. The blurry backgrounds that gently scroll past, the brilliant particle effects, and amazing lighting transport you instantly to an evocative, lonely place. It’s like a ...(continued next page)
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