LIMBO (PC) – Review

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LIMBO, an indie puzzle game from Playdead, was released around this time last year for the Xbox Live Marketplace.  It has now recently become available on the PSN and has today been released on Steam for PC users.  Much of the game’s story is shrouded in mystery, and the description for the title simply reads: “Uncertain of his sister’s fate, a boy enters LIMBO”.

As the game opens you, the boy, awake in a forest and begin your side-scrolling journey.  The entire game is presented in greyscale.  This darkness is entirely suitable for something called LIMBO and it leaves you feeling incredibly unwelcome, unsafe, and lost.  But at least because it’s a side-scroller you can generally assume to go right!

Expertly placed boxes - helping you solve games since the dawn of time!

The music is sparsely used to a much greater effect.  For the most part the game only has ambience noises, a few birds chirping, perhaps some lights buzzing.  And when you trigger a trap, or death is fast approaching it flares up making the situation all the more imminent and pressuring.

The story itself is left almost entirely open to interpretation.  You are a boy and you awake in LIMBO in search of your sister.  Everything else is left untold, which allows you to make up your own mind about the events and passage of the game, what each part signifies (if anything!).  Because of that deliberate approach there has been a lot of speculation about what various factors really do mean, and the discussion is rather interesting.  I’m not going to say in case there are those who want to play it and discover things on their own and come to their own conclusions, but if you’re interested you can easily check out the theories (wikipedia is a good reference point).

Raising a little extra cash as a plumber. Mario got nothin' on LIMBO boy.

LIMBO is a puzzle game that has avoided at all costs the repeated use of any puzzle mechanic, so the gameplay really becomes trial and error with massive helpings of death thrown in.  This is because not all traps will be immediately obvious and you’ll be caught off-guard and die, and then in the following attempt at a solution you are likely to get decapitated, drown, or otherwise have the lights go out.

As for the controls, while it’s playable with just a keyboard whatever finger you use to run right will probably get tired or strained considerably quicker than the rest.  For that reason I decided to change and instead use a gamepad, which, if you’re going to play through the whole game, I thoroughly think is a good idea.  My ring finger thanked me after I switched.

LIMBO is a short game, with approximately 3 or so hours of gameplay, and that is perhaps the biggest challenge facing the ongoing success of the game.  It is an engrossing little title but many people will be put off by the trade-off in price for game length.  The nightmarish style is amazing and my fear of spiders didn’t at all kick in at any point.

Not even once.