Most of you already know about LIMBO, the debut game from indie developer Playdead. I’ve played through the game and I have mixed feelings about it.
The first thing you notice while playing Limbo is the really strong aesthetics. It strives to be a creepy game with blurry and noisy graphics reminiscent of an old black and white television, silhouettes for characters and scenery, and no soundtrack to speak of besides creepy ambient noise. Ultimately it succeeds very well at creating an unsettling atmosphere. The spider you encounter early on is quite eerie in its movements and the sinister shadow figures that you meet are disturbing as well.
My one complaint about the silhouette graphics is that they can occasionally make it difficult to actually know what you’re looking at, which is a big problem for a puzzle game that revolves around interacting with objects the environment. For instance, there was one puzzle where I was expected to push a log into the water to cross a gap, but the log was so perfectly rectangular and different-looking from all the logs I’d seen previously, I didn’t even realize it was a log at all. This doesn’t happen often at all though and overall I think the visual style is superb. The lack of music is a bit disappointing and I think the game could have been every bit as creepy with… well, a creepy soundtrack, as opposed to relying on silence to achieve this, but it’s not a big deal and the audio design is very good.
The part I’m not as crazy about is the gameplay. It’s certainly not bad, but I feel that it’s inconsistent. It’s really one of those games that has its moments. Some parts I enjoyed were the aforementioned encounters with the shadow people. It was fun being antagonized by them and wondering who they were and what they had against me, and also figuring out how to squish them or whatever. There were also a couple of WOW moments that I won’t spoil, but they were few and far between. A lot of the puzzles just weren’t satisfying for me though. Some of them were interesting and required enough thought that solving them felt like a worthwhile accomplishment, but others were less inspired and honestly felt more like an ordeal. I knew exactly what I had to do immediately, but it was a pain in the ass.
I did feel like I want to continue playing LIMBO, but primarily because I enjoyed the look and feel of the game and I kind of wanted to see where it ended up. I wouldn’t really call it that fun of a game though, which is kind of a shame.
Anyways, the later parts of the game polarized my mixed opinions even more. On one hand, some of the puzzles in the later parts are among the best in the game and were very satisfying to complete. On the other hand, this was also where some of the most frustrating challenges in the game came in. I call them challenges rather than puzzles because that’s really what they are. In some cases it just wasn’t enough to figure out what you’re supposed to do, and the actual challenge was in the execution. That’s all well and good if the execution feels reasonable, but the endgame of LIMBO is frustrating as hell. Imagine you are playing VVVVVV (and hopefully you have to understand what I’m saying), and the objective is to manipulate gravity in such a way that you can cross a gap without dying. Now suppose that instead of VVVVVV’s fast-paced action and tight controls, this is happening very sluggishly. Remember when you died in VVVVVV and you would instantly respawn and get to try again, being able to attempt a challenging maneuver dozens of times in one minute? In LIMBO, each death often means you have to redo a fairly lengthy and tedious process, and after a while it just starts to piss you off. It is fine for a game to be hard as hell, and it is fine for a game to be slow as hell. Pick one.
The final thing to talk about, I guess, is the “story”. Well, there isn’t one. That’s fine, of course, but it bears mentioning.
At the end of the day LIMBO is a very interesting game with some significant flaws holding it back from being really fun. It isn’t very long though, and you probably already own it from Humble Bundle, so it’s worth a playthrough just to experience the brilliant atmosphere and a couple of interesting puzzles. Just don’t expect any replay value.