We’ve had time to chew the mental food and the storm has finally settled. Last week I posted my “Limbo Afterthoughts.”, just me scribbling little things everywhere about my experience with Limbo. To say the least, I absolutely loved it. What ended up happening was a giant discussion on my thoughts of the game and also a few comments all talking about their own theories about the game. I urge you all to read into the comments section because it’s a rare chance that a game can be so thought-provoking that it asks people to find each other and talk about the game on less of a surface level.
SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS.
I think that Limbo is so strong in its artistic relevance because it doesn’t shy away from anything. I think it’s not the first time that you can play a child, but it is the first one where you can see a little boy being decapitated or being impaled by a giant Spider’s leg. In its symbolism, which is massively cryptic, it doesn’t shy away from its suggestions either. The title screen is perplexing at first, but once you finish the game, you come back to it and see flies buzzing over where the young girl and boy were standing. This can imply many strands of theories, which I’ll explore towards the end of this post.
What Limbo does, like no other serious game, is that it can be both simplistic and both complex. In its symbology, which is everywhere, it can refer to anything at any given time. Its actual gameplay is rather simple, there’s only ever two buttons, this all creates a juxtapose between simple and complex. I’ll reference juxtapose towards the end of this post too, as its one of the central themes of Limbo. One interesting thing about the seriousness of Limbo is that it’s not taken into parody. Everything feels… hallow and empty, grounded if you will.
Death is dull. Jim Sterling said a while ago that the real reason why real life violence is so graphic is because it is so boring. It is not a romantic lightshow or gibs flying everywhere. Real wars don’t involving taking a few shots and then camping in a corner, sucking your thumb and waiting for your health to come back. Real war is pathetic popshots at one another and the absolute dullness to it is what makes it so gruesome. Limbo takes this way of presenting its death, with little to no exaggeration. There is no “wa-wa-waaa” when the little boy drowns, just a muffled sound of the world around him.
There are no enemies in the game, except the obvious giant Spider. The children who you encounter, briefly, are not out to kill you. They see you as something different, something with a purpose in this Limbo world; out to find your sister. Naturally, like any creature, they attack you. I theories that these kids have been in Limbo for so long that they have formed tribes and lived centuries in the world. It’s evident by the actual age of the traps that they have ‘created’. Oh and I don’t see any adults in Limbo… kids don’t go to Heaven/ they have to find their own way?
The aesthetics of Limbo are… beautiful. It’s beautiful as in dead beautiful. It’s this world without colour, without life, that seems to give it an edge in every department. There’s just something massively obtuse about the way that Limbo goes about presenting itself. It’s dull in its way it deals with death, it’s not dark or grey it’s just cold hearted black. The environments all stem from childhood fantasy, maybe even a child from another time. The guns in the game sure look old to me, as does the landscape. It all looks weathered and that Spider sure has lived a while.
I’m now going to just put theories out there.
- He’s dead, searching for his sister so they can both go to purgatory – At the end of the game, above the treehouse, is a white light. The worms that crack into the boy’s head are hurt by this light, they switch the boys direction, so maybe this implies that the world of Limbo needs to keep kids inside of itself. That’s why there’s giant puzzles and creepy crawlies. The boy died, along with his sister, and must go across this land to get her and himself into the next world.
- The boy and the girl are the same person – Notice how the boy has to kill and squash nature in order to overcome environmental hazards? Obviously, the giant spider was attacking but even on its (literal) last leg, the boy is forced to pull it from its tendons and then us the spider’s body as a way to find the girl. At one point you even use a giant fly (which does look quite human) to get through a section. Instead of just letting go of the fly, the boy pulls off its leg. The boy represents the dark side of a person (the dark aesthetic) while the girl represents the good part (she was in the ‘light’ of the next world)
- Children don’t go to Heaven – There’s a giant hotel in this world of Limbo. A hotel isn’t exactly a place for kids? It looks to have been vacant and completely distraught for decades. Perhaps all the adults go to Heaven and have to leave the children to find their own path. Those who can’t make it are left behind.
- He broke out of Limbo – Towards the end of the game, you smash through a wall. It’s all very beautiful and I’ll get into that in my next point, but this symbolises him breaking from the world and coming into the next. Maybe the ‘cyclical’ ending that I suggested in my Afterthoughts would be flipped on its side. The ‘waking up’ is evident of the boy being in a new world, like what happened at the very start of the game.
- He died, or is in limbo within limbo – One thing to also take note of, after you smash through the wall, is the ‘shards’ of the wall. They don’t look transparent or little rubble either. In fact, I don’t think I’m wrong in saying that it sure looks like stars. Once you ‘wake up’ again, go to your left, there is nothing. A little pond, no evidence of the previous world. Perhaps the boy has gone further down into limbo in order to find his sister.
- He’s dying, and then dies – One thing to notice is the fact that gameplay does change quite dramatically. We go from simple running to simple puzzles, to being chased by Spiders to outwitting bear traps. We then go into an industrial complex, against guns and then something interesting happens. We start meddling with gravity, symbolising that his place in the world is constantly shifting place. The direction of the gravity changes in direction, eventually culminating in him crashing through one world and into the next one. Limbo was just a figment of his imagination, before death, maybe the giant spider was one of his fears and the little dog creature was his dog when he was a kid – all twisted.
- Limbo within limbo within limbo within… – Notice the background. What do you see? More environments, more layers. At somepoint it’s very clear that you can see other puzzles in this background. We never see into the foregound. Here’s a question – which way is forward?
I’d really like to talk about these in more depth. Let’s hear your take on limbo.