by Chris Priestman
reviewed on PC
As innocent and gentle as Limbo initially appears to be, it contains many dark secrets and is a much more scary place than it seems at first. This is best demonstrated in the character deaths; the small boy is clearly very lonely and vulnerable which actually makes it quite upsetting seeing him literally torn apart by the many hazards littered through the game. Buzzsaws will tear away limbs, decapitate and expose internal organs, high drops will break bones and spike pits will rip through flesh and penetrate tissue. As ugly sight as this is, it is the flawless sound design that really affects the player emotionally and thus further embeds them into the body of this small boy. When his head is submerged under water the sound reacts accordingly with a muffled effect, and it is these subtle touches of realism that make this a disturbing and scary experience for the player. But the diegetic sounds are only the start to the creation of the horror in Limbo; much more obvious are the various music cues that are, once again, only subtle with most backing music being a low bass rumble or a single high note to reflect the mood demonstrated by the visuals or current threat to the player. Combine this very well crafted sound design with the unique visuals of Limbo and you have yourself one of the most memorable atmospheres ever created in gaming.
Although Limbo was thought by many to be a perfect package, the developers have been at work creating a whole new area for the PC and PS3 versions. To be able to access it, the player is required to collect all of the hidden eggs throughout the game. These offer a reason to play through the game once again, as if a reason was really needed for players wanting to become part of the experience for a second time. The eggs are fairly challenging to find and most will probably use a guide to do so, and it is certainly worth getting them to see what else has been added. With all the eggs found, the player can revisit an old area and find that there is a new opening. Upon entering, a huge door slams down behind you, plummeting you into complete darkness.
The new area is challenging in a whole new way as it requires most of the navigation to be done in the pitch black. By doing this, the developers actually showcase how brilliant the sound design in the game is. At one point in this new section you are required to dodge a number of large buzzsaws in the dark. By far the easiest way to do this is to just shut your eyes and measure the distances with the help of the sounds. Once you have the timing right you will get through with no problem. One cannot help but think that the developers were inspired by Terry Garret who completed Oddworld: Abe’s Exodus despite being completely blind. It is a totally different way to play a game, and certainly a viable one when designed in a way that caters to hearing-only gameplay. Not to mention how this added section literally plays on the fear of the dark that runs as a theme throughout the rest of the game.
Limbo is one of those games that came out of the blue and made people think. Not only players, but also game developers as it made excellent use of such basic design concepts. If you have not played it yet and have the platform available to do so, you should jot Limbo down into your must-play list. As has been said, the game is fairly short and may not suit everyone, but its genious cannot be denied. The PC version is arguably the best realised version simply because it is the only one that runs the game at 60 frames per second, and of course contains that extra content (as does the PS3 version).
People will be talking about Limbo for years to come because of the impact it has on its player and its adherence to support games as art. Do not be fooled by the label as ‘art’ though, this is not only a compliment towards the game’s visuals, but also the gameplay design and truly unique narrative. The ending has had people arguing for over a year now, and it is certainly going to keep going. One day, people may realise that the ending is left open for interpretation as this is a game about you; it is your inner fears, outlook on life and past experiences that are explored in gaming’s finest example of player-game interaction.
Horrifically beautiful, totally unique, game design is extraordinary, new content
Some may feel it is too short