Game Review: Limbo
Release: July 19, 2011
Genre: Adventure / Platforming / Puzzle
Available Platforms: PSN / Steam / XBLA
ESRB Rating: T for Teens
Website: Official Website
What is Limbo, exactly? You would say it is a concept based on uncertainty, or a place full of rejection and confinement; its definition states so. This Limbo is all of that, but it executes those ideas in an intriguingly perfect way. It’s a dark, somber and mildly mature experience wrapped in simple visuals and mechanics, while boasting a carefully crafted atmosphere, dismembered children and good ol’ fun.
The very first thing you’ll notice about Limbo is its unique visual style, which relies on a clear film-noir reference in order to give this stylistic and exquisite sense of isolation and despair; the whole thing is monochromatic, there’s film grain, and it uses low and high contrast dynamics. All of this is spiced up by some brilliant art direction that brings you really disturbing creatures and situations; the game doesn’t shy away from dismembering the main protagonist in gloriously explicit ways, nor showing environments full of either dead or homicidal children. Its pretty clear Playdead‘s artists were inspired, and put a lot of hard work and love into making Limbo look as unforgettable as it does, while making it completely playable.
And being playable is specially where Limbo excels, as you won’t find a game so simple and yet intrinsically complex as this. You jump with the X button, grab things with circle and that’s pretty much it; you’re not given instructions, nor a story background, the nonexistent HUD is designed to make you act by instinct. This is Limbo after all, and uncertainty is always the name of the game. As an adventure game with platforming and puzzle elements, the game is particularly slow paced, specially considering there’s no way to predict what’s coming or how you can interact with certain objects in the environment. Everything’s all there, though; falling rocks, crazy homicidal kids, bear traps, waiting to either kill you or let you play with them. Of course, gameplay mechanics like this one means you’ll be doing a lot of trial and error (or trial and death, as the developer elegantly puts it), but this game is a lot more than the sum of its parts, so the whole experience rarely gets tiring, and never stops giving you a few surprises.
Technically, gameplay is pretty tight most of the time, being only slightly disappointed by the somewhat clumsy jumping. The game really shines conceptually, though; the level design, and how they are scripted, are what really makes Limbo what it is. The first half of the game takes place in some sort of forest whose inhabitants are not the friendly type. This portion of the adventure is quite visceral, offering puzzles that often rely on a certain type of shock (like the usage of dead bodies), while the second half takes place within a synthetic environment, featuring fairly complex puzzles that will challenge your perceptions of timing and physics.
It’s noteworthy that the audio, designed by composer Martin Stig Andersen, complements the whole spirit of the game; becoming completely essential in the last puzzles. There’s little music, but all the environmental sounds have been cleverly recorded and masterfully implemented, creating a genuinely unique atmosphere.
Julian’s Final Say
Xbox 360 owners have had the sweet agony that is Limbo in their libraries for a little more than a year, so if you haven’t had the opportunity to experience it, this is your chance; Limbo is that uneasy, isolated and restrained place you just love to visit repeatedly.
- Gorgeous visual concept and intriguing atmosphere
- Great sound design
- The trial and error nature of the game might turn some people off
- The puzzles are great, some of them are awesome
- A challenging yet short adventure. It will last 5 hours tops
Final Score: 9 out of 10