Limbo will dance under all cynicism and into your heart
Limbo an Xbox live arcade game released as part of Microsoft’s now annual summer of arcade extravaganza in 2010, is a puzzle platform game by Playdead, featuring a strikingly understated black and white art style and minimalist storytelling.
There is no explicit story really, nor is there any narrative text or dialogue in the game. You simply wake up as a young boy in a wood and just run from right to left until the end. Now obviously it not as simple as just running to the right, there are numerous and deadly traps placed in your way, quite often placed where you least expect them leading to frequent and quite gruesome deaths.
Deaths can be extremely frustrating in some games. It is not an issue in Limbo however as the checkpointing is frequent and smartly laid out. Smartly laid out is a tag you could append to the puzzles in Limbo also. They are challenging but never so ambiguous that you’ll spend an hour banging your head against the wall trying in vain to find the solution.
Once you do find that solution you will not be wrestling with complicated controls. The simple and responsive controls features only 2 buttons A or Y to jump and B or X to grab or hit a switch, while movement is controlled via the analogue stick. The controls then, comprising of 3 simple elements more than get the job done better than similar games that comprise many more.
Colour is another area where Limbo utilizes more of an effect with only 3 elements in which others cannot with myriad more. The black white and shades of grey in the game that plays out in silhouette form are stark, striking and utterly beautiful. It really does prove the old adage that less is more.
Music and sound effects are another area in Limbo that shows that less can be more. There rarely is any at all. Sound effects are only really used to draw your attention, either to some imminent danger or to environmental changes. Music similarly is really used as a narrative tool to ratchet up tension in the appropriate areas of the game.
There are multiple areas in Limbo starting in a Forest where our hero awakens and finally ending up an industrial environment. There is no discreet loading of the different area’s however the game simply flows from one to another until the end.
How quickly the game flows to it conclusion is one of the main criticism that can be aimed at Limbo. Your journey through Limbo will probably only last 3 or maybe 4 hours and for 1200 points of Microsoft’s magic money it is definitely not the bargain of the XBLA catalogue.
I do feel it would be churlish however to not add Limbo to your catalogue of games solely on price however, in so many ways Limbo offers an experience that is truly unique for the service and should be considered essential for anyone not afraid of trying something a little bit out of the ordinary.