What if you woke up in a strange place with no friends, no colour, a whole lot of nasty stuff that might (definitely) try and kill you in vicious ways, and the ability to only move left or right on a 2D plane? Well, according to the imaginations of the folks at games company Playdead, you’d most likely be in Limbo trying to save your sister, though you won’t have known this unless you actually read the description for the game.
Limbo is an Xbox Live Arcade game that was released just the other day for the modest price of 1200 Microsoft Points. It’s a fantastically visualized, film-noir stylized, beatifully animated, 2D platforming bundle of joy, all about a young boy trying to rescue his sister from the nightmarish world of damned children (apparently). On your journey through the black and white land full of dangerous trials, murderous kids, and one freakin’ massive spider, you’ll be tested both mentally, physically, logically, and not to mention gravitationally, as you try to solve a whole bunch of bizarre, mind bending puzzles, most of which require complete focus and smarts, and others that simply need you to be damn quick with your buttons.
There are quite a lot of challenges to overcome, and though you’ll find the pattern of moving crates and beartraps around repeats itself quite a lot, the ways in which you have to use them become far stranger and more complicated the deeper into the game you go. It means you are constantly changing the way you think about how you might solve the puzzle you’re up to and reach the next location. As with all good puzzle games though, the immense sense of satisfaction you get when you beat them is greatly rewarding. It might be frustrating when you just can’t figure out what to do next, but if you just stick at it, you’ll eventually see it and probably kick yourself for not getting it sooner, but when you know you’ve beaten it it doesn’t matter anymore.
The game throws a fair few ways to die at you, and more often than not it takes you completely by surprise with traps and enemies dotted around to stop you. You could be ambling along, minding your own business, when suddenly a giant spider leg shoots out of the shadows and impales you through the chest, or you might drop off a ledge and land right in the middle of a bear-trap large enough to completely sever your head from your body. Don’t worry though, if it’s not static traps relying entirely on your stupidity, it’s a bunch of mysterious shadowy children with a variety of weapons and rigged deathtraps who aren’t particularly welcoming to visitors, but rather happy to fire an arrow from a bow, right through your face.
So what’s the story to this game? As I said earlier, you’re apparantly a young boy trying to find his sister trapped in Limbo, but nothing in the game tells you this and – unless you read the description on Xbox Live – you’ll be running a rather pointless marathon of death. It’s kind of nice when you know exactly what the purpose of your character is, but then at the same time I don’t particularly know how I would have taken it had I not known anything about it.
All in all, Limbo is a rather short game, rather suited to this short review, and took me about 2-3 hours of solid play to complete – including all the time it took to solve the puzzles. However, the game is so gorgeous to look at, with a load of inspired and unique elements to include in a game, that you will barely notice it didn’t take long to finish. In fact, it looks so nice and feels so great to play, you may well want to come back and play again and again. I’m certainly going to be making a second run at it, least of all because there’s some bloody interesting looking achievements to get!
One return ticket to Limbo please, Mr. Log Driver!