Limbo - game review

Author: Przemysław Zamęcki
Date: 2010-07-22 13:59:00
The review was based on the X360 version. Also applies to the PS3 version

Limbo: in Catholic theology, an abyss, a void that is part of hell where the souls of people who died before Jesus' crucifixion and children who died before being baptized reside.

Limbo: an arcade and logic game prepared by Playdead, a little-known independent Danish developer based in Copenhagen.

When I launched Limbo for the first time, I more or less knew what to expect, but I was not prepared for such a heavy and brutal atmosphere of the game. Black and white tones, pulsating black in the corners of the screen, as if on a worn celluloid tape, blurry plans, a black figure of a child with white eyes that stand out from the rest of the body, almost no music. Only a dark forest and ambient sounds coming from the speakers. No introduction, no explanation of why you ended up in this unfriendly and unpleasant place. I just am.

I am trying to rationalize and somehow collect everything that comes to my senses. I feel a bit like ICO , PJ Winterbottom , Another World , Braid and a few other titles rolled into one. Of course, this is only an initial impression, and probably wrong, because the Limbo is unique in its own unique way. Ascetic and full of emotions at the same time. Artistic avant-garde. At least when it comes to the audiovisual setting.

There is no clear division into stages in the game. The transition to each next is smooth, almost completely imperceptible. In fact, each section contains a larger logical puzzle that requires perceptiveness, a little thoughtfulness, and a little dexterity. And also a lot of patience, because in Limbo watching the hero's death happens very often. We learn about the environment and the possibilities of manipulating it mostly through trial and error. Either we come up with a solution to the problem right away, or we "touch" it in several ways. Not that it matters, because each puzzle can be solved in only one, predetermined way. However, watching a character die has something perverse about it, because it often looks a bit different. And this will impress a large spider on one of its legs, then we will fall into a hole, we will be crushed by a large stone or a cable car, we will run into a rotating saw blade, we will fry on a fragment of a high-tension floor or we will drown. There are many possibilities. To prevent players from becoming frustrated on this occasion, checkpoints have been prepared. They work well enough that usually no more than a few seconds pass from the time the game is reloaded to the place of the last death.

A dark and brutal world does not mean a cruelly difficult game. Yes, the first time our method may not work, most often we will not notice some important element of the environment, but with each new approach we have a clearer and clearer picture of the situation. Why am I writing about replaying the game, or at least some parts of it? Because the first time around, don't expect your gamerscore to increase and your account will get new Achievements. Their acquisition requires the so-called mastering a given stage of the game.

The difficulty level is clearly graded. At the beginning, the puzzles are a bit simpler and they are solved in a smaller area. As the progress is made, the matter gets a bit more complicated, and in the end it leads to the rearrangement of the gears, changing the slope of the floor or playing with gravity. The game was also divided into three stages, taking place in a slightly different environment. First, we make our way through an amazing forest, where from time to time it becomes necessary to cross, almost without getting our feet wet, to the other side of a pond. The controlled character cannot swim at all and as soon as he submerges himself in the water to the top of his head, he has no chance to save him. At a later stage, we go to a factory flooded with water, and then to a real factory. Such with levers, gears, and even an electric elevator.

Living opponents are a scarce commodity in Limbo . A spider, a few times weird, runaway characters that at some point even want to shoot us from their bows, or an overgrown mosquito that offers a lift to a higher level. The real opponent here are puzzles and the elements: water, electricity, gravity. At the same time, as I mentioned, it is more difficult to solve puzzles to notice the interactive elements than to just get an idea of what to do. It is appropriate to show off your finger dexterity and reflexes several times. The latter, especially when a glowing parasite is attached to the character's head, which works by blocking the ability to move in both directions. The character then goes one way, unable to take a step back, but only to brake or stop when reaching an obstacle. During this time, we have to figure out how not to get killed.

Two-dimensional platform and logic games are returning to fame with services such as Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network. A long time ago, in the days of 8-bit and 16-bit computers, this genre was dominant and then almost every novelty breaking the mold was treated as a separate quality. In the era of voodoo cards and other accelerators, the proportions were reversed. 3D productions and various types of FPP shootings dominated. Today we can say that history has come full circle again, only that different game genres seem to exist on the same market and each of them can count on their fans. Of course, there is no need to compare their sales, but independent developers should probably be satisfied with the situation. At least it seems so at first glance, without going into details. Then it turns out that it is not so rosy anymore.

Limbo is a title that stands out above mediocrity, mainly due to the avant-garde audio-video setting, although it is not the first game whose authors put the emphasis on it. Exactly, because apart from food for the spirit, there are not many attractions left for gray cells. In terms of the puzzles offered, the game is neither innovative nor particularly demanding. The whole thing can be done in one sitting. And if we don't die more than five times (he, he), we'll even get an achievement.

However, the above reservations do not change the fact that Playdead's production is undoubtedly worth buying - as I know life, soon a game will be created somewhere, after starting which I will shout: "Oh, just like in Limbo!". And yet it is known that the original will always be better than even the best counterfeit.

Przemek "g40st" Zamęcki