Let me put this out there from the get go: Limbo isn’t as big and amazing as everyone has made it out to be. Yes it is a good game. Yes the art style is new and unique, perfect perhaps. But it isn’t the Mona Lisa of all video games.
Limbo is a platform-puzzle game developed by Playdead, a studio located in Denmark. The studio name accurately sums up my experience with Limbo, because you play and die a lot. Players take the role of a nameless little boy who awakes in a dark forest, only to find his sister is missing. You then go through a relatively short story to find the missing girl.
Due to the fact it’s a platformer in its simplest form, there isn’t a lot of control depth or advanced stuff to do when it comes to controlling your character. The controls are simple and easy to master, however that adds to the brilliant way in which the game is both displayed and played. Everything is controlled by literally three buttons. A/Y lets you jump, and the left joystick is responsible for movement. It’s so simple even a five year old could figure it out basically.
A lot of the time you’ll find yourself just jumping and climbing to defeat the multiple puzzles that are scattered throughout every level. This never gets boring though due to the beautiful art style and sound mix within Limbo, something you’ve no doubt heard about prior to reading this review. Everything in Limbo is presented in Black and White which gives it a film noir aesthetic, making it really easy and enjoyable to look at. There is rarely a lot happening on the screen and that minimalistic approach is beautiful, and I commend Playdead for that, however as I previously mentioned the beautiful art style isn’t enough to save this game.
Underneath the shallow platforming gameplay that is occasionally broken up by some difficult puzzles, Limbo really isn’t that new or unique. The developers have described it as a “Trial-and-death” type game, but I call it a cheap ploy to promote more play time.
Most of the deadly traps throughout Limbo require you to actually die before you know they’re there, which breaks the immersion they’ve obviously tried so hard to create, and makes the game a push over. I finished this game in an hour, and it would’ve been quicker had I not of been killed time after time by traps and puzzles I didn’t know where there until I got killed by them. The extreme gore is pretty surprising the first time you see it – something I was taking back by as a matter of fact. In comparison to the simple story and gameplay, the brutal punishment of death was quite contrasting.
The puzzles should be approachable in a way that makes you say: “Oh, so that rope is there, and so is that trap, I’ll drag the rope into it!” as opposed to “Oh, so I can’t swing on that rope because that trap fucks me up. I better drag the rope into it!”. One method requires you to use your brain, the other requires you to play like an idiot – you work out which is which. I think the real value of Limbo comes through interpreting the ending, as well as the gameplay experience itself. I was in awe when I was playing, because of how simple and engaging the game is, something that many others have failed to do (Be simple and engaging at the same time).
I think my largest gripe with Limbo is confusion. I loved the game, I’ll play it again and again, but I don’t get the public reception to it. When Activision announced that the Modern Warfare 2 Map Packs were going to cost $20 AUD everyone was up in arms, furious even. People billed it a rip off, money grabbing, and a lot more. However the Modern Warfare 2 maps offer hours and hours of playtime, with thousands of people. Limbo retails for $20 AUD (Factoring in MSP), and people are completely fine with it.
To summarise, Limbo is a brilliant game, but it’s definitely not the cream of the crop. A rarely seen art style, simple gameplay and a story that is left to the player to decipher doesn’t do enough to cover the shallow experience and time-to-price ratio. If I am paying 20 bucks for a game, I expect the play time to be 5-7 hours and not 1 hour on my first playthrough. If you’re looking for a new experience and you’ve got cash to burn, go for Limbo, just don’t expect hours and hours of gameplay.
+ Great art style and minimalistic look
+ Sound makes the environment feel eerie and spooky
– Thin replay value
– Priced incorrectly – Definitely worth 800 MSP. 1200 MSP maybe not.
LIMBO was developed by Playdead Studios and was published by Microsoft Game Studios for the Xbox LIVE Arcade. The game released in the United States on July 21st 2010 with a retail price of 1200MSP. The game was played til completion in Single Player. LIMBO was played on an Xbox 360 Pro with a 60GB Hard Drive, Logitech x530 5.1 Surround Sound, Tritton AX720 5.1 Dolby Digital Headset and a Samsung P2350 23″ (1920×1080) LCD Monitor was used for display.