by Chris Priestman
reviewed on PC
Limbo is a game that needs no introduction. When Playdead’s side-scrolling debut hit the Xbox 360 last summer, it struck a chord with just about everyone who played it. Fortunately for those who were unable to experience this unique title, a PS3 and PC version has now been released, so there really are no excuses to not pick up this must-play title. Those who already own the Xbox 360 version may want to consider purchasing Limbo once again, not just to support the fantastic talent who made the game but also because some extra content has been added to these new versions.
The Shadow Of Death
In describing Limbo, it seems impossible to not mention the game as a piece of art – this covers not only its visual design, but also its narrative structure and how it affects the player’s emotions. The game’s Danish developers bring a variety of different European art aesthetics into the game, the most notable being German Expressionism in the monochromatic, silhouette style and a focus on otherworldly landscapes and architecture. Heavy shades of black and film grain are used to highlight the bizarre and hostile environments the game takes place in. This style serves to complement the ambiguous nightmare that the narrative centres around. Much is left open to interpretation; the minimalist presentation provides a blank canvas for players to project their own thoughts and feelings on to. Saying this, many notable themes are touched upon such as childhood, fear of the dark, industrialisation and quite obviously death and the afterlife.
As is suggested by the title, Limbo lies between reality and fantasy. The game opens up with a small boy lying unconscious in the grassy floor of a dark forest. The player is unaware of the current situation and usually waits for something to happen; yet nothing will until they press the movement keys. It’s a clever device that instantly draws the player into a relationship with the small boy. To start the game and embark on this strange journey, the player has to prod the boy awake. It’s simple but effective. From here on, the player will travel through the forest which is easily the most memorable part of the game for its puzzles, incredible atmosphere and of course the struggle with a giant spider. Immediately present in the game is the use of pathetic fallacy to shape player emotions, especially in the forest with its crooked branches and heavy rainfall when things go from bad to worse. More obvious dark tones are showcased with the likes of people hanging themselves and crows pecking at dead bodies suspended in cages. Were this game not portrayed through silhouettes it would have been more widely recognised for the very grim and upsetting perspective on life and death that it takes.
The game eventually takes the player through machinery-laden areas and vacant towns, which serve as step up in the difficulty each time, both in terms of the environmental puzzles and the necessary precision of the platforming sections. More so than many other games, Limbo varies up the gameplay very regularly to ensure the whole experience is fresh and to keep the element of surprise on the side of the game designers. The puzzles are all unique and different enemies and threats appear with every screen. Many complain that Limbo is too short, but the diversity present in the game is far better than simply repeating mechanics and gameplay elements in favour of length any day.
Horrifically beautiful, totally unique, game design is extraordinary, new content
Some may feel it is too short