I can't decide how I feel right now. I accomplished one of my weekend goals and finished Limbo last night. The problem is, I just can't come to terms with how it all turned out. I feel like I just read through a tale of two games. The first half is an intriguing adventure puzzler with some interesting scares and beautiful art style. The second half turns into an action platformer with awkward controls. So what happened?
In the recent Dead Island QL, Brad and Patrick were talking about how some designers seem completely unaware of what makes their game great. Nowhere is this truer than in Limbo. For me, this game is all about atmosphere, not action. When the game began I felt cold, alone, and confused. There was no direction and no hope, not even a splash of color to lift the player from the depths. If that one sentence is your introduction to the game, you would be forgiven for thinking it a terrible experience. But it's not; terror can be the most engaging and immersive facet of humanity. I really like the idea that I can be transported somewhere by a lack of stimulus as opposed to a picture perfect recreation of some fantastical place.
The gameplay begins along that same less-is-more ideology with only two action buttons. Trial and error is the name of the game, but that is to be expected. Just as in our world, the darkness permeates dangerous places and one false step means an early grave. Puzzles abound and the solutions are not always governed by the limitations we encounter on a daily basis. That being said, the abstract is never far from the logical and reason prevails with enough effort. If the game continued this way, it would be a masterpiece. Unfortunately, things take a turn for the worse about halfway through with too much jumping, pushing, pulling, and timing-based action. It's not that the game becomes overly hard (it never does), instead, it just becomes less fun. When the boy is being dismembered by a spinning saw blade repeatedly, the fear of death that had once been overwhelming becomes absent. The tension is gone.
I pushed through and finished the game, but it left a sour taste in my mouth. As excited as I am for the developers' next project, I can't help thinking of what could have been. Limbo remains an interesting game and has a fantastic first half, but beware the tonal downshift that comes with victory.