XBOX 360 Review: Limbo
Limbo, when viewed on the surface, seems like a very simplistic game. After all it is a platformer that is displayed in black and white, contains just three actions the protagonist can perform at the behest of the player and contains virtually no narrative. But if one were to only view Limbo on the surface they would be missing an awful lot.
What they would be missing is a beautiful game that takes players on a journey through a hellish, yet fantastical world that leaves nearly everything open to interpretation. Upon starting the game players are immediately thrust into action forcing the boy to begin his adventure in the unknown and haunting world. The world of Limbo is a dangerous place, filled with enormous spiders, murderous beings and enough demented machinery to make Jigsaw smile in admiration.
The game gives no context for why the boy is in this twisted reality and there is no reason for it as the game does a fantastic job of making you want to see what awaits him next. The goal is not the purpose in Limbo, it is the journey and while that may sound pretentious, its not. Limbo is presented in such a way that it has stripped away the narrative reasoning for the player to be in the world, all that matters is the gameplay.
Of course this artistic approach that Limbo has taken would not succeed if the game did not feature excellent gameplay. Once again by stripping away extraneous details and limiting the player to only movement, jumping and an interaction button, the game is able to refine and focus itself. The platforming is spot on and all the puzzles work and have logical solutions. The game does rely heavily on trial and error but it never stretches into the realm of frustrating because of it. On many levels if plays like a classic. But where it really feels like a gem from a bygone era is in its visual style.
Developer Playdead decided to craft the game in black and white and, much like it is with film, this will be a turn of for some, however the visual style is what carries the emotional weight of the game and Limbo, as simple as it seems on the surface, is a heavy game. The world displayed as it is, is quite ominous. It is a dangerous world portrayed even more so because of the lack of color. Limbo would not be anywhere near as successful at accomplishing what it does if it had been in color.
Accentuating the ominous feel of the game world is the lack of a soundtrack used in the traditional manner. There is no rousing score to accompany the amazing feats performed by the boy instead only the ambient noises of the world, which helps to create a purely creepy atmosphere.
While the look and sound of the game help to immerse the player into the world of Limbo the game presents itself in such a way that it is almost impossible to not be immersed in the gameplay. Limbo presents itself as a continuous experience. The game never takes a break, it is always pushing the player forward by not lending itself to a set stopping point. The approach had me on the edge of my seat.
Everything in Limbo comes together to deliver something special. It is a game that pushes the boundaries of games as art and that is the difference between Limbo and other recent game releases. But much like its art style, Limbo is going to be a polarizing game. On one hand the game is going to criticized by many for its short length (three to five hours) and for its price point of 1200 Microsoft Points. For me personally, after having played it, I would gladly have spent $60 on it. However I can see where people would be apprehensive about it because $15 for an independent release in an old school genre is somewhat daunting. For me I can't recommend the title enough, its one of the best of the year, not just as a downloadable game but as a game in general.