Usually when you bring the genres of puzzle and platforming up with me it usually goes one of two ways; either the game is too easy and I never feel challenged or it’s a sadistic game of mousetrap but the opponent has not only just stole all my pieces, they’ve put the dice across the room and me on a active landmine. Luckily for both my sanity and controller the developers at Playdead have found the perfect balance in their title Limbo.
Limbo has you control a nameless boy ( I named him little Jimmy No luck for reasons I will explain later) who after a pleasant little nap walks up in a creepy black and white forest hell hole with everything out to maul, squash, impale or decapitate him! The overall goal for Jimmy No luck is to find his sister so our little hero wanders off to discover her fate.
As mentioned above Limbo is a mix of platforming and puzzle solving presented in a 2D side scroller format. The game has you manipulate the objects and the environment as you progress through the forest and abandoned urban areas. Not only that, you get to noodle with machinery, electromagnets and anti-gravity elements (you know the standard stuff kids play with). Puzzles aren’t the only killers in Limbo you encounter a few enemies which could either be a huge spider which intends on playing stabby stab stab with you, body controlling glow worms which force you to only move in one direction or to a few human character who aren’t exactly friendly.
The developers explained they wanted the game to be a “Trial and death” experience and it certainly lives up to it. Little jimmy encountered many… many gruesome and painful deaths (hence the name!) which makes me think I should never have children. Even with all these death scenes I never felt the urge to lunge my dignity and xbox out the window, at times the puzzles can be quite challenging with you, studying the screen trying to connect the last piece of the puzzle, but you never get to the point where you feel like the stupidest person in the world. When you do eventually figure it out you realise the genius behind it as the developers have put some interesting and unorthodox methods in there. The game also has a very forgiving checkpoint system which makes sure your many..many…many deaths don’t set you too far back and very simplistic controls which don’t distract from the importance of the gameplay.
Limbo has a simple but unique graphic style which complements the overall mood of the game. The game makes great use of black, white and grey that helps create its creepy sobering backdrop. The colour palette does a great job of hiding traps such as the bear traps in the grass which will catch many unsuspecting Jimmy’s if they’re not careful. I love the visual setting of the game as it reminds me of old generic folk tales. You know, the ones that Disney would remake but unlike Walt’s version, the originals usually had grizzly consequences and an underlining sinister tone which was designed to scare, not entertain children. Add in a minimum amount of sound effects and music to the mix to heighten the tension, there isn’t any dialogue or voice acting so the game uses very little audio, but when it does you know something bad is coming your way.
Limbo in conclusion is a fantastic game which will cause you many deaths in many gruesome ways. It will never undermine your mental capacity or carry you through the game whilst whispering “there there baby, don’t worry thinking about it”. This creates a very rewarding gameplay that makes you want to play more instead of crying in the corner. Throw the creepy sinister world and colour scheme on top of this and your left with a great game. If I had to pick a negative element about this title it is that the game suffers from the “great content, short game” syndrome but don’t let this stop you from picking up this gem!