Ambiance, Mood and Simplicity
Ambiance is what defines Limbo as a game that is both stunning and appreciable despite its obvious simplicity. The simple graphics, controls, audio and interface all establish a mood that is present throughout the entire game and that is at the same time, immensely profound. This mood and the game’s refreshing simplicity are what separates it from most modern games and yet still presents it in an incredibly appropriate manner. With a quiet and haunting ambient soundtrack along with the silhouettes that make up every object in the game, the mood of Limbo is stark, obvious and intense. Everything is in black and white which is coupled with a grain effect in which lighting plays a heightened role. This unique theme is augmented by a layered environment which creates the perception of depth in the game world that really immerses the gamer.
Along with the spectacular artwork is superbly fluid animation that is obvious in every object and character that moves from the grass that sways in the wind to the dust kicked up by movement. With the near silence that is usually heard in the game, the usage of sound in Limbo is significant as it always signals a new element of a puzzle such as the noises of an oncoming boulder or the sounds of a spark of electricity. These sounds are all used in meaningful ways and thus provide an added layer of depth into the game. Everything about the game culminates in the creation of a world which is more than believable and definitely immersive.
A little boy on a quest through the world of limbo to uncover his sister’s fate is the entirety of the story; and this is why Limbo is such a unique experience. The game doesn’t bother with dialogue of any sort or even any real characters aside from a boy who demonstrates his loyalty and at the same time, innocence and curiosity as he wanders through a world of innumerable dangers to find his sister. Interestingly, Limbo’s presentation lends itself to a very cinematic experience which fits perfectly with the sparse story as the boy’s actions effectively speak a thousand words.
Gameplay is fairly simple and Limbo plays like any other side-scroller although with the significant addition of puzzles. With only two actions available to the player (jump and interact), the game really focuses on understanding a puzzle, rather than merely pushing you through them. Trial and error is an integral part of the game as most of the puzzles and sequences require near-perfect timing to successfully complete.
The controls work surprisingly well, as controlling the boy is easy and at the same time very precise. The simplified controls lead to incredibly unique puzzles that progress from simple platforming to sequences which involve factors such as water, gravity and magnetics. The puzzles in the game also rely heavily on the stellar physics that allows the usage of momentum and weight in nearly all of the puzzles. Quite often you’ll find yourself swinging along ropes or pushing objects into place and these sections of the game work perfectly because of the great physics engine.
The pacing of the game is perfect as checkpoints are placed frequently between puzzle sequences which themselves are varied and rarely repeated without ample reason. At the same time however, the simple control system leads to puzzles that mostly involve trial and error, which is both good and bad for the game. The very nature of Limbo is what will either draw a player in, or immediately shut him/her out.
There’s no way to ignore Limbo’s obvious difficulty as the game is unforgiving and brutal. You will die frequently and all of those deaths will be shocking. At the same time, understanding and completing a puzzle is immensely rewarding which is why Limbo is such an enjoyable experience and one that is relevant to all but the most casual gamers. A simple premise coupled with beautiful graphics and a jarringly pervasive theme, along with perfect controls, makes for a unique gameplay experience that really shouldn’t be passed up.