Written by Micah Messer
In a 2D puzzle-platformer game, your goal is generally to manipulate your environment in a way that gets you from point A to point B. These are the fundamentals of the genre, and this is how Limbo functions. It doesn’t re-invent the wheel in any way in terms of gameplay, but it does deliver thought-provoking puzzles, an interesting art style, and outstanding atmosphere all in a disturbing, creepy black and white setting.
Limbo starts you off controlling a young boy waking up on his back in the middle of what appears to be a very dark, eerie wilderness.The game makes no attempt to explain who you are, forcing you to overlook that question for the time being, and set off to explore the aforementioned mysterious forest. It becomes quickly apparent that this is a hostile environment, full of things that kill you, often in horribly gruesome ways. With no real goal to work towards, the only thing you can do is move forward and try to survive.
Are… are you okay?
The game’s environment and atmosphere are its strongest features in my opinion. From the moment you start playing you become immediately immersed in the dark disturbing world of Limbo. Unlike something like Portal where you complete a puzzle, get from point A to point B, you get a loading screen, and then you start back at point A for the next puzzle. Limbo has no dialogue, no cut scenes and no loading screens. You simply move forward in the environment. This helps to not break the immersion that the visuals try so hard (and succeed) to sell. It should also be noted that the game looks great. The black and white film noire style looks awesome and animations are very smooth for the most part.
Limbo also does something that I’ve never really seen before. It mixes faint but definitely apparent, horror aspects into a puzzle-platformer game. The outcome is a little unsettling. At one point in the game you have to run from a massive spider that tries to impale our short little hero. It’s an incredibly intense sequence that forces you to traverse over obstacles as fast as you can with the colossal spider following closely behind you. Top that off with the occasional hanging corpse of a child in the back round and the god damn brain-controlling worms, we’re talking about some genuinely unpleasant stuff.
RUN LITTLE GUY, YOU CAN MAKE IT!!
Although Limbo’s strongest points are it’s presentation, it’s gameplay holds up too. Like I said before, it’s nothing particularly new or exciting. Limbo sticks to the classic puzzle-platformer fundamentals, which isn’t a bad thing because it does it damn well. Puzzles are generally very well made and a lot of fun. With almost every failed attempt to solve a puzzle resulting in your death, the game could seem like it would get frustrating and times. However, this is not really the case. When you die, you respawn at a point about 10-15 seconds before your death. There are no lives and no game overs. This may make it sound easy, however, I can assure you that the game is quite challenging. Trust me, with the amount of times that you die in this game, having to worry about lives would be impossible. A lot of the puzzles will leave you scratching your head as you repeatedly die trying to solve them. Although, occasionally you get the kind of puzzle that isn’t actually hard, you just weren’t looking over in the dark corner that has a box that solves everything.
The platforming is also very enjoyable. The physics take a little time to get used to, as with any platforming game, but they work very well. Jumping from obstacle to obstacle feels great, and that’s always a good thing in a platforming game. Some of the challenges towards the end of the game involving gravity shifts, albeit more platformer than puzzler, are particularly impressive. It was a whole lot of fun timing my jumps to avoid a buzzsaw while the entire level turned gravity all over the place.
You do not want to see what happens if you miss this jump.
Limbo is not without flaws though, the main one being the length of the game. It might be different for others, but I beat the game the same day I got it, taking me about 4 to 4 and a half to hours to complete. Fortunately, throughout the experience you will most likely never be bored, and the ending is fantastic. It’s interesting to think that a game with absolutely no text, no dialogue, no cutscenes and no real over-arcing plot can still have an ending that makes you say “OH WHAT THE ****!?” out loud.
Overall Score: 85
Few games can get you as immersed into their world as Limbo, and it does it all without any dialogue whatsoever. Limbo is an accomplishment in atmospheric gameplay. It’s short length is fairly disappointing, but it makes up for it in quality of content and a great ending.
Genre Score: (Puzzle-Platformer) 82
Limbo sticks with what works, and does it well. You won’t find any genre defining elements here, but you will find fun platforming, great puzzles and a fantastic atmosphere that any fan of the genre will enjoy.
Images taken from limbogame.org