Limbo is a 2D platformer created by Playdead studios. It combines simple, smooth puzzle solving gameplay with a dark, surrealist backdrop to create a nice atmospheric experience. Being a primarily FPS and RPG player, I didn’t have many expectations going into Limbo. I had heard that it was a great game, and everywhere I looked I found that it had at least 4 out of 5 stars and excellent ratings.
So I decided to give it a shot. I honestly can’t say that it exceeded my expectations in the gameplay department, but it did come alive with it’s dark and daring world.
The storyline of Limbo is… well it’s hard to pin down whether there really is one. The character is a child, or rather a twiggy stick figure with a bobble head attached. You play as a kid that wakes up in a dark, otherworldly dimension. How? You don’t know.
The story is mostly just for show. There is no dialogue, and most of the interactions that take place are between giant spiders or suicidal kids. But this is also where the game shines. The interactions between your character and other “kids” in the world display the darkness and hopelessness of the world well. Your character will come across dead bodies, terrifying contraptions, and the occasional hungry monster. It all helps to deepen the construct of the world brilliantly. The lack of dialogue actually works towards the game’s advantage. Having lengthy dialogue would take you out of the immersive experience.
The story of Limbo is simplistic. And that’s its strength. For a 2D platformer, it creates a well crafted, creepy universe in a purely organic way. It doesn’t bog you down too much, or try to force tension by introducing a main villain. The tension comes from experiencing a frightening world through the eyes of a child, and it does this very well.
It would be a mistake to call the gameplay of Limbo “a masterpiece.” But, it does manage to stay fresh without seeming overbearing. As a puzzle game, it doesn’t push the boundary, but having not played many 2D platformers before, I found all of the puzzles to be interesting and sometimes challenging.
A lot of the puzzles require precise timing, which I found to be the most tedious and time consuming. Place your object, turn a crank, and run/jump towards the exit. This all worked well, but It left me feeling exhausted at some points. Having to retry a puzzle again and again because you didn’t place the object within the proper centimeter, or because you clumsily jumped down the wrong way, broke the tension for me. Most puzzles were well crafted, and those that did require timing weren’t so bad that I stopped playing.
Graphics and Sound
The graphics of Limbo are very minimalist in nature. Nothing is there that doesn’t need to be there. The game runs smoothly and all the shapes seem rounded out. This created a nice feel for the game and overall looks really very pretty (despite the despot nature of the game).
I never had any problems with sound because, much like the graphics, the sound itself was very minimal. There is no dialogue or loud explosions, so all the sound was consistent.
Same as the rest of Limbo, the controls are extremely simple. Hold X to hold or drag an object, A to jump, and use the analog to move. That’s it. Again, this fits with the theme of the game very well. Something would have been lost if the character would’ve been able to do more. It helps to portray the theme of hopelessness and despair. Not to mention a child with superpowers would have seemed a little ridiculous in this type of world.
The difficulty of Limbo is, not to overuse the word, very difficult. Your character will die. A lot. There is no way around it. The challenge is what gives the game its flavor though. It is difficult enough to keep you engaged and, as I said earlier, doesn’t get so bad that you will throw your controller on the ground while cursing the gods of Limbo.
So yes it’s difficult, and there is no way to change it. But despite this, the game still melds a good blend of new elements. It’s hard to say that the puzzles get harder. They certainly do get more complex, but rather than creating the same puzzles over and over with increased difficulty, new elements are added to keep things fresh.
There is even an achievement in Limbo for getting though the entire game in one playthrough with 5 deaths or less. If you know someone who has gotten this achievement, seek psychiatric help for them.
Limbo is not a game I would praise for replayability, unless you’re going for that impossible achievement and you have way too much time on your hands. You may return to it from time to time for some nostalgia, but other than that once you’ve finished the game you’re pretty much done with it.