Visual artistry and well-designed puzzles collide in Limbo.
I really have to leave it to indie developer Playdead for this magnificent Xbox Live Arcade title. Because while Limbo may look like a simple and by-the-numbers 2D-plattformer with a film-noir look to it--It turns out to be something much, much more. Limbo offers no exposition, no in-game tutorial or any form dialogue whatsoever and the lack of any narrative direction is one of the key elements in Limbo that will really draw you in. The basic setup is that you play as a young boy who wakes up on his back in the middle of a dim-lit forest--clueless as to where he is or how he got there and while the vague description in the Xbox menu reference a "missing sister", there really isnt much of a plot here to sink your teeth into, and thats fine.
The sound design is also a work of art. There is very little music to accompany the game as the sound instead focuses on ambience. You´ll hear the wind gush above you, screams echoing in the background and the abrupt sound ques will literally make you jump. You might be walking through the middle of a forest, only to hear the loud noise of a bear trap snapping, decapitating you in a gruesome manner. Limbo features some shocking, laugh-out-loud death animations that will kind of make you flinch from time to time, yet it goes a long way towards making you feel submissive in this disturbing and seemingly hostile world.
As you begin navigating the treachearous path that lies ahead, you´ll realise just how simple and elegant the controls are. You can move, jump, climb and interact with the environment, thats about it. That´s not to say that the brain teasers in Limbo arent well-crafted and thought out, because they certaintly are. You´ll dodge traps, manipulate the environment, play with gravity and little else. The early stages in Limbo are quite easy, but the difficulty ramps up overtime and the puzzles become more and more devious.
The environments you´ll tread through feel distinct from one another. The first half of the game mostly takes place within a forest, populated by natives and other children who would very much like you dead. They rig traps for you, try to chase you down and its legitimately freaky to stumble upon corpses of other, unlucky adventurers. Also, you´ll be harassed by a giant spider early on and the moment where you finally put him out of his misery is one you wont soon forget. Later on, the game takes you to more industrial looking environments, where the puzzles become more trickier. The creepy atmosphere does take a bit of a back-seat though, and no other humanoids show up.
Reaching the end credits took me a little over five hours but there were also hidden collectibles in the form of eggs to go back and find, adding some replay-value. I personally didn't think that the game too short and while the game´s abrupt--albeit beautiful--ending was a bit of "huh?" moment for me, the stellar quality of the experience was well worth the 1200 Microsoft points investment.
Limbo is the kind of the game that needs to be experienced. Its a very interesting and abstract title that will reel you in right from the get-go and it won't cease to amaze you with its incredible art-style and clever gameplay. So dont let the short length scare you away, and pay the price to experience this engrossing plattformer that lingers in Limbo.