Jack be nimble, Jack be quick... Jack get impaled by a stick.
The tagline is “Uncertain of his Sister's Fate, a Boy enters LIMBO”, and that’s pretty much the only thing I can tell you about the story. There’s a very light touch narrative told through gameplay, but nothing that’s overt. Limbo is more about the experience instead of trying to tell a story.
Presented as a black and white 2D platformer with many shades of grey, you control the boy in fairly typical platforming controls. You’ve got a jump button, an action button and analog movement, all of which are used to continue your journey moving left to right in a very dire world.
Along your path you’ll often encounter puzzles that vary in their difficulty, starting off simple and becoming more complex, but there was only one point where I really got stuck and had a tough time figuring out what needed to be done. I’m not saying that Limbo is an easy title, but it’s certainly not something that will give puzzle veterans much of a challenge. I’d go into some explanation of cooler puzzles, but that would be ruining the one mechanic this game has. Suffice it to say, there’s a handful of clever devices interspersed with the fairly standard and I honestly hoped for more out of them.
The biggest strength that Limbo brings to the table is its presentation. Every foreground object and character are silhouettes while the rest of the non-interactive world is contained within a misty embrace and is mildly out of focus. Character animation is handled wonderfully and the attention to detail is pretty staggering. Sliding down a slope will produce small pebbles along your feet, ropes will flop around realistically, and when you get dismembered by a saw blade, your body parts really do come apart quite well.
Sound design is also in step with the graphical. Generally, there is no musical score except during key moments. Instead, Playdead opted to focus on the sounds that objects and beings within the world create. While a fairly quiet and subdued game, it makes things like the aforementioned saw blade that more menacing. The combination of relatively featureless characters with sparse audio cues creates a unique, albeit bleak game world.
Once you finish the game, there’s really nothing left to go back for unless you’re into getting all the achievements. In one playthrough, I was awarded with a single achievement, but if you’re a masochist there’s one in there that asks you to finish the game in one sitting, dying fewer than five times as well as several others that are fairly cryptic in their descriptions.
Limbo is a solid and atmospheric puzzle platformer that is a bit light on difficulty and replay value. Despite my adoration for the fluid character movements and minimalist design, I came away feeling like I wanted more. It’s a good way to spend an evening, but don’t go in expecting a Braid-esque experience.
Score: 3.5 out of 5
- Great hopeless and somber-filled atmosphere.
- Character animations are top notch.
- A very brief experience.
- Puzzle veterans will have little trouble overcoming the obstacles.
- Saw blades.