Limbo is more of a horror game than "real" horror games.

Posted by BigBob (52 posts) -

I've now completed Limbo over the span of two evenings, and I can safely say that Limbo's one of the best games released this year.  Go buy it now. 
 
Beaten it?  Good.  It's easy to say that Limbo is creative, atmospheric, clever, funny (in a rather morbid way), but it also struck me in a way that most games don't: it's actually scary.  Even playing it in a room full of people I felt on the edge of my seat, scared that at any second a monster or obstacle would come out of nowhere and kill me (which they often did).  A tricky platforming section was massively unnerving, making me wonder if I would be able to complete it, and the gruesome ways the main character can die only add to the intensity, which can not only be entertaining for some, but a way of punishing those with weaker stomaches.  Sadly, the death animations are undermined somewhat later in the game, when trial & error is the only way to figure out a solution to some puzzles.  Yet the game retains its dark side and intensity despite constant auto-saves that drop you nearly where you left off. 
 
So why does Limbo succeed where so many other "horror" games have failed lately?  Resident Evil 5 had some gruesome monsters, but the game itself was never scary; the inventory restrictions were more of an annoyance than a frantic "take what you need only" mindset.  The cutscenes were laughable, and a lot of enemies were just ridiculous.  Everyone agrees that Resident Evil 4's scares were much better, considering the constant feeling of being overwhelmed, and a particular favorite of mine doing nothing but making creepy sounds the whole time.  You know he's there, but you have no idea when and where he'll attack; that feeling of helplessness is what makes horror games shine. 
 
Still, "horror" and "scary" can still be entirely different.  If you remember, Doom 3 was praised as being scary, but it was a very artificial scare; monsters would hide and pop out at you and ambush you, and after the player's initial jump, a bit of fridge logic sets in: why were those mindless monsters hiding there in the first place?  It's the equivalent of your friend popping out from behind a door yelling "ooga booga booga".  A good horror game will screw with the heads of players, such as Eternal Darkness for the Gamecube.  As you play, you'll notice that on occasion, something in the room just doesn't seem right, and the realization sets in that you're playing a fabrication only draws you in further.  Though, that game made the mistake of letting you see your sanity meter, thus giving you advance warning of when things are going wrong. 
 
It's a bit coincidental that this week's "Extra Credits" on The Escapist also talks about horror games.  One point he mentioned stood out, and it's about a game I've mentioned several times in this blog without actually going into it - Demon's Souls.  Demon's Souls can be considered horror in a very peculiar way; due to the way the game is set up, death is a huge punishment, costing you a great deal of playtime, as well as hitting your inventory.  As a result, when you play Demon's Souls, you're extremely cautious.  You take a peek around every corner to make sure nobody's going to ambush you.  Each new enemy is treated as if it's an elite soldier, and must be carefully studied before it is engaged.  And of course, sometimes the game requires you to take a leap of faith in order to progress, as the player bites his lower lip in anticipation of failure.  It's a kind of tension you don't see in games much these days (although Demon's Souls could go a bit easier on the player at times...). 
 
A good horror game can be especially unnerving and moving, and much more memorable than most run-of-the-mill action games.  Unfortunately, it's difficult to pull off right, which is why we don't see much of the genre.  Still, if a very simple XBLA download can get me on the edge of my seat, there's no way the genre can be dead.  Or, undead.

#1 Posted by BigBob (52 posts) -

I've now completed Limbo over the span of two evenings, and I can safely say that Limbo's one of the best games released this year.  Go buy it now. 
 
Beaten it?  Good.  It's easy to say that Limbo is creative, atmospheric, clever, funny (in a rather morbid way), but it also struck me in a way that most games don't: it's actually scary.  Even playing it in a room full of people I felt on the edge of my seat, scared that at any second a monster or obstacle would come out of nowhere and kill me (which they often did).  A tricky platforming section was massively unnerving, making me wonder if I would be able to complete it, and the gruesome ways the main character can die only add to the intensity, which can not only be entertaining for some, but a way of punishing those with weaker stomaches.  Sadly, the death animations are undermined somewhat later in the game, when trial & error is the only way to figure out a solution to some puzzles.  Yet the game retains its dark side and intensity despite constant auto-saves that drop you nearly where you left off. 
 
So why does Limbo succeed where so many other "horror" games have failed lately?  Resident Evil 5 had some gruesome monsters, but the game itself was never scary; the inventory restrictions were more of an annoyance than a frantic "take what you need only" mindset.  The cutscenes were laughable, and a lot of enemies were just ridiculous.  Everyone agrees that Resident Evil 4's scares were much better, considering the constant feeling of being overwhelmed, and a particular favorite of mine doing nothing but making creepy sounds the whole time.  You know he's there, but you have no idea when and where he'll attack; that feeling of helplessness is what makes horror games shine. 
 
Still, "horror" and "scary" can still be entirely different.  If you remember, Doom 3 was praised as being scary, but it was a very artificial scare; monsters would hide and pop out at you and ambush you, and after the player's initial jump, a bit of fridge logic sets in: why were those mindless monsters hiding there in the first place?  It's the equivalent of your friend popping out from behind a door yelling "ooga booga booga".  A good horror game will screw with the heads of players, such as Eternal Darkness for the Gamecube.  As you play, you'll notice that on occasion, something in the room just doesn't seem right, and the realization sets in that you're playing a fabrication only draws you in further.  Though, that game made the mistake of letting you see your sanity meter, thus giving you advance warning of when things are going wrong. 
 
It's a bit coincidental that this week's "Extra Credits" on The Escapist also talks about horror games.  One point he mentioned stood out, and it's about a game I've mentioned several times in this blog without actually going into it - Demon's Souls.  Demon's Souls can be considered horror in a very peculiar way; due to the way the game is set up, death is a huge punishment, costing you a great deal of playtime, as well as hitting your inventory.  As a result, when you play Demon's Souls, you're extremely cautious.  You take a peek around every corner to make sure nobody's going to ambush you.  Each new enemy is treated as if it's an elite soldier, and must be carefully studied before it is engaged.  And of course, sometimes the game requires you to take a leap of faith in order to progress, as the player bites his lower lip in anticipation of failure.  It's a kind of tension you don't see in games much these days (although Demon's Souls could go a bit easier on the player at times...). 
 
A good horror game can be especially unnerving and moving, and much more memorable than most run-of-the-mill action games.  Unfortunately, it's difficult to pull off right, which is why we don't see much of the genre.  Still, if a very simple XBLA download can get me on the edge of my seat, there's no way the genre can be dead.  Or, undead.

#2 Posted by jonnyboy (2920 posts) -

Have you played The Suffering? It's creepy as fuck. Not just jump scares but what the developers do with sound in that game is un-nerving to say the least. You play a convicted child murderer (I know right?), and in one spot for example, after entering a dark basement you hear a child screaming "Please Daddy no, I'll be good I promise, Please let me out Daddy" which, especially as a father, was pretty unsettling. Also when confronted by an NPC you can choose to kill or help him (without a contrived text prompt, why can't all games assume you aren't an idiot?) , anyway, in your left ear you have the voice of your dead wife saying "Help this man, he has a family, he needs you" and in your right ear you have a sinister voice saying "Fuck him! He Deserves to die!" And it only get worse from there.
 
So not always scary, just proper unsettling.

#3 Posted by Icemael (6314 posts) -

I've seen people say a lot of things about Limbo that've made me go "lolwut?" but this takes the cake. "Scary". "Unnerving". 

lolwut?

#4 Posted by LordXavierBritish (6320 posts) -

I was never scared or unnerved while playing Limbo. 
 
Did you seriously just compare Limbo to Eternal Darkness?

#5 Posted by JJWeatherman (14558 posts) -
@jonnyboy said:
" Have you played The Suffering? It's creepy as fuck. Not just jump scares but what the developers do with sound in that game is un-nerving to say the least. You play a convicted child murderer (I know right?), and in one spot for example, after entering a dark basement you hear a child screaming "Please Daddy no, I'll be good I promise, Please let me out Daddy" which, especially as a father, was pretty unsettling. Also when confronted by an NPC you can choose to kill or help him (without a contrived text prompt, why can't all games assume you aren't an idiot?) , anyway, in your left ear you have the voice of your dead wife saying "Help this man, he has a family, he needs you" and in your right ear you have a sinister voice saying "Fuck him! He Deserves to die!" And it only get worse from there. So not always scary, just proper unsettling. "
Now I want to play The Suffering.
#6 Posted by jonnyboy (2920 posts) -
@JJWeatherman said:
"@jonnyboy said:
" Have you played The Suffering? It's creepy as fuck. Not just jump scares but what the developers do with sound in that game is un-nerving to say the least. You play a convicted child murderer (I know right?), and in one spot for example, after entering a dark basement you hear a child screaming "Please Daddy no, I'll be good I promise, Please let me out Daddy" which, especially as a father, was pretty unsettling. Also when confronted by an NPC you can choose to kill or help him (without a contrived text prompt, why can't all games assume you aren't an idiot?) , anyway, in your left ear you have the voice of your dead wife saying "Help this man, he has a family, he needs you" and in your right ear you have a sinister voice saying "Fuck him! He Deserves to die!" And it only get worse from there. So not always scary, just proper unsettling. "
Now I want to play The Suffering."
Trust me you wont regret it. You can pick it up for next to nothing. Play with head phones. Also has 'making of' and haunted prison documentaries on the disc.
#7 Posted by JJWeatherman (14558 posts) -
@jonnyboy said:
" @JJWeatherman said:
"@jonnyboy said:
" Have you played The Suffering? It's creepy as fuck. Not just jump scares but what the developers do with sound in that game is un-nerving to say the least. You play a convicted child murderer (I know right?), and in one spot for example, after entering a dark basement you hear a child screaming "Please Daddy no, I'll be good I promise, Please let me out Daddy" which, especially as a father, was pretty unsettling. Also when confronted by an NPC you can choose to kill or help him (without a contrived text prompt, why can't all games assume you aren't an idiot?) , anyway, in your left ear you have the voice of your dead wife saying "Help this man, he has a family, he needs you" and in your right ear you have a sinister voice saying "Fuck him! He Deserves to die!" And it only get worse from there. So not always scary, just proper unsettling. "
Now I want to play The Suffering."
Trust me you wont regret it. You can pick it up for next to nothing. Play with head phones. Also has 'making of' and haunted prison documentaries on the disc. "
You know if it will work in a 360?
#8 Posted by LordXavierBritish (6320 posts) -
@JJWeatherman: Yep.
#9 Edited by jonnyboy (2920 posts) -
@JJWeatherman:
 
Yes, for the most part. A few texture glitches, but it's just as good on the PS2 if you still have one lying about.
#10 Edited by Make_Me_Mad (3054 posts) -
@JJWeatherman:
You're in luck!  According to the Giant Bomb wiki, the first game was made into Freeware back in '08 and is now free and perfectly legal to download.  Haven't played it myself, but I've only heard good things.
Online
#11 Posted by JJWeatherman (14558 posts) -
@Make_Me_Mad said:
" @JJWeatherman:You're in luck!  According to the Giant Bomb wiki, the first game was made into Freeware back in '08 and is now free and perfectly legal to download.  Haven't played it myself, but I've only heard good things. "
Nice! I googled it and am downloading now. I hope it works on Windows 7. :/
#12 Posted by jonnyboy (2920 posts) -
@Make_Me_Mad:  You should try it.
 
@JJWeatherman:
Let me know if it works on Win 7.
 
 
Also one thing to bear in mind, is this game (as stated by the developers) is heavily influenced by Stanley Kubrick's 'The Shining', ie: the concept that if a physical place (in this case an island) is exposed to many bad horrific events, all the hate and despair will seep into the walls and dirt, thus haunting it and affecting all those in it. You don't see many 'haunted house' games any more.
#13 Posted by JJWeatherman (14558 posts) -
@jonnyboy: It's a no go so far, although I haven't tried restarting my computer (which I probably should). Tried compatibility mode for XP Sp 2 and 3 as well. I'll restart and try sometime later. So far, doesn't look good though.
#14 Posted by jonnyboy (2920 posts) -
@JJWeatherman: Thanks bandwidth is precious round here.
#15 Posted by demontium (4707 posts) -

Limbo scared me once, then I was ready for all the re-usage of hiding beartraps and spiders in the back or foreground.

#16 Posted by Make_Me_Mad (3054 posts) -
@jonnyboy:
Arguably Silent Hill applies the concept to a town instead of a building, at least during Silent Hill 2.  In 1,3, and 4, it had more to do with certain people in the town causing it, but all the crap that went down pretty much changed the town into a twisted, evil place, that oddly enough acts like it wants to help people sometimes.  Just, you know, help with horrible monsters and killing you.  I will say, though, I do love me some big haunted evil environments.
Online
#17 Posted by BionicMonster (1032 posts) -

Does anyone else think that acting macho anonymously is kinda lame?

#18 Posted by TheGreatGuero (9130 posts) -

Now I'm totally afraid of playing Limbo.

This edit will also create new pages on Giant Bomb for:

Beware, you are proposing to add brand new pages to the wiki along with your edits. Make sure this is what you intended. This will likely increase the time it takes for your changes to go live.

Comment and Save

Until you earn 1000 points all your submissions need to be vetted by other Giant Bomb users. This process takes no more than a few hours and we'll send you an email once approved.