I was one of the unfortunate who never got around to playing Limbo on the XBox Live Arcade. I’d heard many things about it, and being a huge Braid fan I was told numerous times I would fall in love with Limbo, but for some reason I still never had the opportunity to. I’ve always loved Indie titles, and not just to support Independent Developers–which trust me, I do!–but there’s something about Indie titles that always piques my interest. Maybe it’s the special ingredient of independence from the standard big developers and publishers these days, but either way it has some sort of extra appeal to me. When I heard Limbo was coming out on the PlayStation Network I just had to give it a whirl. Now that I’ve finally played through Limbo, and beaten it, it’s time to share my thoughts and feelings on one of the largest independent titles to hit the consoles in my Limbo PSN Review.
$15 – $12 for P+
Reviewed by Steven Mills
When you first play Limbo, there’s no introduction or backstory like most games, just a dark black-gray-white world with eerie music. Slowly your character blinks and sits up from laying down on the ground and immediately you can see the direction in which Limbo is headed. This world is dark: and not just in a visual sense. There’s no instructions, tutorials, or anything like that: just your dark silhouette of a character with his bright white eyes. Immediately the tone of the game is set and if you’re anything like me, your anxious, curious, scared, and a bit excited all at once.
The controls are very simple yet effective. You can run left and right by pushing the control stick in its respective position, as well as walk in those directions by just slightly tilting the control stick. The ‘X’ button is used to jump, and the ‘O’ button is used to grab onto things such as boxes so you can move and position them accordingly to help you in later puzzles.
The game is in an essence a puzzle platformer, with the puzzles getting more unique and difficult as the game goes on. Just as you start to master how a specific type of a puzzle is supposed to be completed, a new type of puzzle is presented to you. There’s man ways to fail in Limbo, which initially sounds a bit discouraging. However, Limbo features a very gracious death-checkpoint system. Dying normally only sets you back a few seconds or so, and at the very worst the beginning of a puzzle. I never once got frustrated with dying in this game. Whether this is due to the lack of setback or due to the fact that each death features its own beautiful animation–accidentally stepping in a trap will cause it to immediately snap shut with a loud ‘clang’ as body parts go flying, for example–I will never admit.
While the Limbo experience is linear, it’s very engrossing. Just a bit into the game you will encounter a giant spider as well as a Human population in this dark world, both of which are out to end your life. I can’t stress enough how dark and lonely of a scenario Limbo paints for you and your character, but that makes it all the more fulfilling when you successfully survive a trap meant to end your life, or complete a puzzle seemingly created only to slow you down. Though your character never says a word, or does anything rather than run around, jumping and grabbing onto objects with his bright blinking eyes, by the end of the experience you feel connected with him: you care for him. It’s impressive what PlayDead was able to do in terms of character development in a way we’ve never seen before.
Even though Limbo is a 2D experience–which many often sigh at when it comes to a console title–it’s beautiful. The graphics are crisp, the animations flow perfectly, and the effects are simply amazing. The sounds of Limbo only enhance the experience even further. As if the dark and empty world didn’t paint enough of a picture, the sounds of only your footsteps pattering across the ground as you run across the screen do it even more justice. You stop running; silence. You start again, just your footsteps. The sounds of everything else in the game fits wonderfully too. The water sounds realistic in this otherwise quiet world, and if the realistic clang of a trap going off when you first accidentally step into one doesn’t cause a brief panic then, well, you’re just plain weird.
Even though the Limbo experience is rather brief–five hours or so–it’s an immersive and intense five hours, not to mention fun and exciting. Of course the game also includes trophies for those completionist’s out there. Most of the trophies involve collecting a hidden egg, often placed off to the side of the otherwise linear path, or revealed once you perform an out-of-the-way puzzle. One trophy is hidden, which I won’t spoil or go into detail about, but the other unique trophy increases the replay value of Limbo. The silver trophy No Point in Dying challenges you to complete the game in one sitting…with five or less deaths. It’s definitely no easy feat, and while I’ve tried a couple times myself, I often find myself dying to the same thing multiple times, or panicking which leads to my death. Despite it’s difficulty, it doesn’t seem impossible by any means, which is good.
In the end, when I finished Limbo I was satisfied. Of course, like any quality game I wanted more, but even the brief five hour experience was easily one of the best five hours in my game-playing life. My recommendation to any Platformer–correction, and Gamer–is to pick up Limbo. The experienced alone is beyond worth it, and I’ve even had a couple friends over just to show them the game. It’s a breath of fresh air in an industry that is becoming polluted with unoriginal gameplay and story elements, and even more invigorating when you remind yourself it’s an indie title. Simply put, Limbo is the quality of game every game should aspire to be.
*This game has been nominated for GameGuideWorld’s Downloadable Game of the Summer.*