LIMBO is a platform puzzle game, developed by PlayDead for the Xbox Live Arcade, quickly making its way onto PC via Steam and then later onto current generation consoles (Xbox One and PlayStation 4). Winning a number of different awards throughout its release.
You play as a young boy, awakening in a strange and dangerous place. There is no explanation to why you are where you are and the player is thrown straight into the action.
Although not strictly a horror game, there is certainly an element of horror within it.
The stunning black and white scenery and the amazing Depth Of Field effect all adds to the eerie feeling of waking alone with no idea why you are there. Steam gives a little insight stating ‘Uncertain of his sister’s fate, a boy enters LIMBO.’ However, this is not as it seems. Yes, indeed you find clues that the boy is in LIMBO for that exact reason but as you play through the levels, the sister aspect seems to take a back seat. By the second half of the game you are in a deserted industrial area void of any type of life where the challenges become harder and harder.
Although not strictly a horror game, there is certainly an element of horror within it, certainly for an arachnaphobe such as myself. You are forced to solve riddles and try not to die in the process (You will die! Many, many times!) and chased by a giant spider as well as other children who crop up during the game.
The atmosphere around you, the feeling of isolation is something you are never far from.
There are of course issues with this game, a lot of the first half is about learning how the game works (there is nothing wrong with this!) which can get a little samey. The second half of the game however, seems to turn a full 360 as the player is in a completely new environment which is completely deserted and your “hero quest” has seemingly been forgotten. Interestingly, while playing that is not such a big issue. It is not until after you’ve finished the game and read up on why you are supposedly where you are that you realise some of the elements simply don’t make sense. Admittedly, overcoming a giant spider and working out the puzzles which have a timing aspect is unbelievably fun and pretty interesting, I just wish the story had as much care as the puzzles.
The puzzles at the beginning of the game, such as how to get past the giant spider, do not necessarily have the most obvious solutions which can become quite frustrating. Obviously this only gets worse as you play through the game. The boy you play as seems to get killed by literally everything… a box falls on your head, you die, you trip over, you die (you get the idea). The atmosphere around you, the feeling of isolation is something you are never far from, a subtle soundtrack coupled with the black silhouettes of not only yourself (with bright blinking eyes) but the other creatures that are around you.
The controls are deceptively simple (on PC and I have heard from console users that this is true for their gameplay, for the purpose of this review I am talking about the PC version.) just the arrow keys left right and the up key to jump and CTRL to interact with various objects and buttons in the game. These controls don’t need to be any more complicated, you don’t need anything else to traverse the environments as each situation finds a way to incorporate the simple controls. Annoyingly, sometimes the controls work slightly against you, jumping off something and not being able to catch a rope (or something similar) and you have to restart that part of the puzzle. This can be equally irritating… having to re do the same part of a puzzle just to fail at the same part, due to controls (actually, according to my friends my own stupidity) failing.
When my friends say my own stupidity, what they mean is my grasp of physics and how physics work is not great, most puzzles rely on some sort of physics and because I don’t have a great grasp on it I fail… a lot. The puzzles are mainly environmental and it’s something within the environment to overcome, this is eerily realistic, most things that happen in the world of LIMBO could realistically happen in the real world… ok… not giant spiders and not how strong the boy is and yeah he probably would be able to swim… but the way you solve puzzles could be solved in the real world.
All in all, this game is a stunning, film noir style, 2D platformer puzzle game which is reasonably short (it took my about 5 hours) and enjoyable. Not one cut scene interrupts your game experience, you are truly in for a unique experience within such a stunning game.