by Justin Snyder
reviewed on X360
Fade from Black
Limbo, at its simplest, is an XBLA puzzle platformer developed by Playdead Studios. Light on plot, the game sees you take on the role of a nameless boy who wakes up at the edge of hell and immediately sets off in search of his missing sister. Thatís pretty much it. Fortunately the game doesnít rely too much on its story to make it great.
Starting the game the screen fades in from total black to a boy lying unconscious, in the forest. Limbo has no tutorial or an introduction of any kind so you are on your own figuring out that pressing A will open the boys eyes and get him to stand up. Beyond that, the controls are whatís to be expected. A or Y to jump, B to interact with objects, and the left analog stick to move. Interacting with the game is so intuitive that when I found myself needing to grab a box and move it for the first time, I just knew to press B in order to do it without so much of a conscious thought.
There is absolutely no color in Limbo. Everything is either black, white, or some shade of gray. This style, among other factors, has led many reviewers and gamers to call Limbo an art game. While that point can be argued until everyoneís blue in the face, thereís really no denying that this gameís presentation is quite unlike anything thatís come before it and it serves to amplify its horror elements.
And there is more: Limbo has no music either. The world is completely quiet, save for the sounds created by the nameless boy and the people and creatures he runs into. While you might expect this to make the game feel empty, it actually did a lot to suck me in. I became so engrossed in the game that I didnít notice that there was no music for a good portion of my first game.
The world of Limbo is... nightmarish for lack of a better word. It is intended to be the edge of hell, and it certainly gets across that vibe. The forest contains nothing but dead trees, grass, and decrepit structures. The city that the player will come to later is a frightening place too. It is almost completely empty and practically falling apart. Combined with the gameís minimalist art style and lack of any kind of ambient music and it makes for a pretty scary setting, even without something jumping out to scare you every few seconds, as survival horror games have been doing for years now.
Coupled with the frightening setting is death as a major theme. Sure, most platformers will have you falling in traps or down bottomless holes if you donít time a jump correctly but usually not - every Ė time you do so. Limbo is far more unforgiving: if you make a mistake, you die, violently. More often than not youíll find yourself impaled on spikes, caught in a giant bear trap, crushed by a falling boulder, lit on fire, etc. Death is everywhere. The only other characters you come close to all try to kill you or run from you, which one can assume means that they think you will kill them.
Figure it out
While some of the puzzles can be challenging, the game is pretty straightforward. The real challenge here is fully completing it. There are eggs hidden throughout the world, some of which can be very difficult to find or figure out how to get. Oddly enough, completing the game and finding all the hidden eggs will only net you a 98% completion rating. A second set of eggs can be found after you have found all the regular eggs, that can bring you to a 111% completion rate. Getting that will be a very satisfying, but time-consuming goal for many, as is the ďNo Point in DyingĒ achievement which requires completing the game in one sitting with no more than five deaths. Did I say satisfying? Maybe it is realistic to say that this one will have many players tear out their hair in frustration.
Thereís only one slightly negative thing to say about Limbo: itís fairly short. I donít really look at that as a negative, per se. For those that like to fully complete games and like competing on the leaderboards, there is a lot of replay value to be found in Limbo. Even without that, it is hard to hold this gameís length against it. At 1200 Microsoft Points, itís not bad to get the three to five solid hours of gameplay that this game presents to everyone, not including hunting for all of the hidden eggs.
Playing Limbo, I didnít want to put it down for anything which is the hallmark of a great game. While the experience may not be the most long-lasting, it is immensely enjoyable. If youíve actually made it this far into the review and still donít have Limbo, go get it. You wonít be disappointed.
You won't be able to put down your controller until you\'re finished
Some may find it a bit short