Limbo (e)

This is an old review I found on my computer.

Walking in a creepy, disturbing Wonderland

So what can you say about Limbo? Basically, this Indie-Jump-and-Run-Game is about a little boy thrown into a hostile, unreal and most of all frightening world, looking for his missing sister… and that’s it, more or less. If you’re looking for a storytelling monster, you better look elsewhere. Limbo draws nearly all of its quality out of atmosphere and fluidity. Now, what sets Limbo apart from most of its genre companions at first glance is the graphics style. While the dusky and depressing black-and-white look of the game may imply that this could be a gloomy experience, the dark tone adds impressively well to the overall feeling of this game, conveying both the life-threatening danger the boy is in and most of all the fear the main character is obviously going through, even reaching levels of panic in certain chapters of the game when he – and the player – is in some high pressure situations (Shelob-sized spider comes to mind). The world the player is set into is a dark and dangerous one, and it looks the part. The superb work with lighting and shadows also helps to the conclusion that Limbo is better off without any colours. Speaking of presentation, the at the same time rash and dreamy sound effects are also a big part of the menacing atmosphere that is built up from the first second and never lost until the ending. Last but certainly not least, the subtle but unsettling soundtrack rounds off a presentation surpassing those of many far-higher-budget titles.

Well, there you have it. If there is one word that I’d use to describe Limbo, it would be „unsettling”. There’s not one word spoken throughout the whole game, but instead of raising my eyebrows at that I can’t help but get the feeling that this illusion the game creates would have been thoroughly destroyed by the spoken word. It’s not like there’s much plot to speak about, anyhow. Limbo is a firm believer in the get-involved-by-playing-and-enjoying-the-atmosphere-way of selling a game which so many Indie programmes nowadays seem to follow. „Get involved by playing” in this case means an entertaining mix between jumping, running and overcoming obstacles by solving riddles. The latter are executed beautifully most of the time, both in variety and difficulty, not once feeling forced and yet often requiring some clever thinking to get through. Now, that doesn’t mean Limbo is a difficult or even unfair game; apart from one point when I personally wasn’t able to identify a gravity arrow (those who played the game will know what I mean) I had no problems whatsoever and that, coming from someone who is an average-at-most gamer and riddles solver, should dispel any doubts over difficulty concerning Limbo (if anything, the riddles could be harder every now and then). In fact, the pleasant level of playability reminded me of Portal in some ways, which managed to balance gameplay between fluidity and challenge extremely well.

What’s also adding a lot to this feeling is the outstanding animation of the game. The movements of the main character are just downright perfect, no action – jumping, running, climbing, falling – of the boy ever gives the feeling of jerkiness or abruptness. However, what is definitely (and intentionally) abrupt are the various and numerous dying sequences of the little hero. Here, the game shows no mercy at all, regardless if the boy is squashed, stabbed, sliced, electrocuted or even more disturbing things to death – don’t expect anything but ruthless depictions of flying body parts and intestines of the hero. But again, it’s not like these things make the game appear needlessly gory or that it wants to draw any attention on itself by those death scenes – I always had the feeling that this was fitting for this game, and the knowledge that my main character would suffer a horrible and disturbing (after all, he is a kid and, well, some developers might have second thoughts while discussing exactly what angle the head of the boy should be catapulted away after he jumped into the giant buzz saw and was torn apart in a spray of blood) demise adds very well to the overall impression of the grim, dark and frightening place he has to track through.

So, everything’s shiny in Limboland (apart from the fact that the game obviously takes place in the freaking underworld)? Well, not entirely, of course. In the later stages of the game, some types of riddles do get a bit old, and the jump-and-run sequences aren’t all that much of a challenge. And I know it’s an Indie game and they don’t have any money and everything, but for all the fun I got out of the four hours I needed to complete the game I really wished there would have been more.

Other than that, maybe a few words on the story or the lack of one, for that matter: No, I don’t think this game necessarily needs any great explanations, since it works really well on its creepy little self. However, I can understand those who were a bit disappointed by the ending because there were certainly many questions left unanswered (like: the spider, the giant machines no one seems to own, the murderous children clan, and who for God’s sake had the idea with those freaking „Whee-you-are-now-a-lemming-hooray”-snail-thingies?). I for one didn’t really mind that, and the open ending – which, for me, was both exciting and mysterious, like it was intended, I guess – does cause a lot of interesting discussion just what in God’s name happened in this game.


~ by Der Industrievertreter on 29/04/2012.

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