Guest review time! Faithful readers, please give a warm welcome to the latest WITWAR guest writer, Toast! She very graciously decided to take time away from working on her own site, A Girl and Her Blog, to review an XBox Live Arcade game for all of you. So please, enjoy this glimpse into the mind of an enthusiastic and dedicated gamer, and be sure to check out her other posts at A Girl and Her Blog! [click the jump-link to read on]
Playdead’s LIMBO, an Xbox Live summer exclusive about a boy searcing the ether for his sister, is a platformer/puzzle adventure. Minimalistic in design and style, Limbo is a neatly packaged XBL title perfect for a rainy Sunday.
The goal of LIMBO is to aid the player character, Boy, through Limbo, a grayscale landscape of physics-based obstacles, to reunite him with his sister. The gameplay is basic as the controls (move, jump, and action) aren’t combinable (no running or double-jumps) and each new obstacle tends to be an evolved version of an earlier encounter. However, though based in simplicity, Limbo is not easy. Many puzzles took dozens of frustrating attempts to unravel. In order to figure out most of them, death is necessary, other times completely unexpected. As the main character is only a little boy, he can’t take much damage. What may be considered a short fall will snap Boy’s knees and send his body into a ragdoll tumble. I’d complete a puzzle that would utilize perfect timing only to have my progress destroyed by Boy slamming into an arbitrary spike or saw. (There’s a reason there’s an achievement for less than five deaths.)
One of the later puzzles that had me stumped contained 2 gravity switches and a platform on a rope that I had to reach to cross a chasm. Despite any combination of triggering the switches, running, and jumping, I couldn’t make it to the platform before it began its descent.
Finally, after playing with the timing of the switches, i successfully made it onto the platform. I sailed across the chasm only to be impaled by a column of spikes. Only slightly deterred, I tried again, this time clearing the spikes, only to over jump and fall into an off-screen saw. At its core, this game is about trial and error. (Also, testing my patience.)
Limbo itself is a beautiful, hazardous world populated by feral humans, giant spiders, hotels, and Indiana Jones-like boulders. It is constantly evolving and moving, thus adding to the complexities of the puzzles. Hidden within the shades of gray are hints to help you progress further, as well as items of demise, and sometimes, just whimsical scenery.
My only gripe is the lack of story. The listing on Xbox Live only says “Uncertain of his Sister’s Fate, a Boy enters LIMBO.” I’m a sucker for exposition, and wish at least some of this was explained. How did his sister arrive in Limbo? How did he? Are the creatures you encounter stuck in limbo, or are they figments of your imagination? Even upon completion, none of these questions become clear.
Playdead should be proud of its first venture. LIMBO delivers a deceivingly difficult game in minimalist packaging. The basic storyline and easy-to-grasp gameplay can mislead players to underestimate LIMBO, but once the game begins, it quickly becomes obvious that the game is not as black and white as it seems. I’d rate LIMBO an 8/10, as I’m still left with so many questions.