Tristan's Limbo Review
Hauntingly beautiful, this short indie title’s unique brand of minimalism succeeds in almost every way.
Some argue that games, as a medium, could never aspire to be art. Those people have obviously never been introduced to Limbo. The premise of the game is simple enough: a young boy wakes up in the middle of a forest and begins to navigate his way through a hostile environment that seems intent on destroying him in, literally, just about every way imaginable. As you familiarize yourself with this new environment, the most striking feature will undoubtedly be the game’s elegant, dark, presentation.
The second thing that you are likely to notice will be the simple control scheme. Four buttons suffice for your journey through Limbo; the left, right, and up arrow keys allow you to run and jump. Aside from this, our unnamed protagonist can also interact with his environment by grabbing or pulling objects with the control key. A great deal of this puzzle-platformer’s depth and accessibility is a direct result of this simplistic, yet intuitive approach.
In fact, Limbo’s approach to this genre could more appropriately be called “death puzzle platforming.” The game features merciless puzzles and scripted encounters that, on your first play through, will mostly be solved by trial and error. The result of even the slightest misstep or mistake results in a variety of gruesomely, animated deaths which effectively persuade you to consider another route. The puzzles in Limbo are never overwhelming though. Your success inspires a real feeling of accomplishment and an incentive to keep marching forward through the unforgiving environment.
Aesthetically, Limbo is very noir. The characters and environments are totally composed of striking black, white, and gray silhouettes. Playdead’s minimalistic approach to the game’s design is hauntingly beautiful and well animated. When it’s needed, this evokes a real sense of fear, urgency, disgust, and even hope – as fleeting as it can be. The visual design is further accented by the game’s non-traditional, acousmatic music. The only sounds you’re likely to hear are your own footsteps, the detached sound of nature, the creaking of machinery, brief thuds of movement, and large, crashing objects which may foreshadow danger or a possible solution to your predicament.
Gamers who enjoy a good tale may be somewhat disappointed to find out that Limbo doesn’t seem to have one – that is, at first glance. In keeping with its unique brand of minimalism, this title embraces the abstract. The nature of the game’s settings, events, characters and even ending are almost totally open to interpretation; is the game a metaphor for the search of companionship or an exploration of our darkest fears? You’ll likely arrive at your own unique conclusion after a bit of thoughtful reflection.
If Limbo is a state between heaven and hell, then the game’s title is fitting enough; its atmospheric, shadowy world successfully balances evoked feelings of fear and dread with fluid, enjoyable gameplay. Veterans of the puzzle genre will have fun but won’t see much in the way of a challenge here aside from the strict feats of timing that are required to progress. For the rest of us, Limbo will either serve as a short and challenging, yet unconventional take on platformers or an introduction to a new gaming addiction. It is a polished game that will keep you entertained and guessing what’s around the next corner from beginning to end.
· An elegant presentation with fluid animation.
· The puzzles are challenging but not overwhelming.
· Simple, yet intuitive controls.
· Very atmospheric.
· It’s very short.
· The game ends abruptly.
· Little replay value unless you want to unlock achievements.