[Review] Limbo (PS3) – Dead and Coming Back for More
Also on: PC, Xbox 360; Publisher: Playdead; Developer: Playdead; Players: 1; Released: July 19, 2011; ESRB: Teen; Official Site
Often times, video games are credited as the great escape that people need from the monotony of life and powerless nature of humanity. Words are barely enough to describe the sheer joy that players can feel from taking control of a mobile suit and mowing down thousands of enemies in Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 3 or embarking on an epic quest in Dungeon Siege III. Every once in a while, a game goes the other direction and limits players’ abilities to more realistic realms. Limbo does so in a drastic manner and yet keeps players compelled despite their roles as a boy who can only jump, push, and pull objects.
At the heart of Limbo lies an unforgiving puzzle game with some action elements. Some puzzles may take more planning, while many will require equal parts preparation and timing. As expected of a weakling character, the protagonist doesn’t have much wiggle room throughout the game’s myriad of challenges. Anything from a fearsome giant spider or even simple bear traps will lead to the nameless boy’s demise. Fear not, because the player’s wit will make up for such an easy death. The game provides ample checkpoints to counteract the difficulty, but many puzzles have setups that can take time and become irritating to replicate.
The most standout aspect of Limbo has to be its presentation. Visuals are presented only in black and white and carry an overall eerie tone, representing everything in silhouettes. It‘s a great technique that makes the dangers of the world even more unnerving. The lack of background music was also a great choice. Whether it is a design choice or one that stems from the game’s indie roots is not even relevant. Without such disturbances, every bit of sound puts players on alert, such as the prattling feet of a giant spider, coming to hunt his prey.
Although the nameless, faceless boy’s history never becomes fully fleshed out and players will never even find out the point of completing the game, it never seems to matter either. Just playing as the underdog protagonist is motivation enough. In fact, the lack of an explicit story serves as a strong motivator as well. Progressing in the game doesn’t only bring more puzzles, but also the false hope that there will be more clues to the boy’s identity. The mystery works for this game more than a fleshed out, fully written story. To unveil the boy and his past would be an insulting end. Almost as awful as finding out the true meaning of rosebud or whether the spinning top would fall over.
Despite the frustration of meeting death on many occasions, players will find Limbo’s puzzles even more engaging with each successive try. While simple, the game’s graphics are also beautiful and create the perfect ambiance to go with the looming, inevitable deaths. Few games go outside the norm and do it so well. You won’t regret checking out Limbo.
Note: A promotional code was provided to Denkiphile for review purposes by the publisher.