Genre: Platform, Puzzle
Rating: T for Teen
Indie gaming is becoming a household name. With websites like Steam, GameJolt and Indie DB, it’s easier and easier for developers to get more recognition. Games like Rocket League, Five Nights at Freddy’s, and Ink are getting more attention without having to rely on a large group of people to get the game done. Limbo is another game in line to be a contender for one of the more memorable indie games to date.
You are a nameless boy looking for your sister in a dark world. While searching for her, you must solve puzzles and travel deeper into the unknown realm, all while encountering strange people, even stranger creatures, and a giant menacing spider. The developers intentionally made the remainder of Limbo‘s story ambiguous so the player could determine their own interpretation of where the character is and his motivations.
The only thing to be wary of in Limbo are the death scenes. These can range from beheadings to dismemberment and they do not go easy on the detail. The blood from these death scenes are in black and white, but the physical result of these deaths are still plain to see. On the PC version there is an option to censor the death scenes, but unfortunately on the PS4 version, it is not available.
What makes Limbo work so well is its simplicity. It is a 2D platformer that involves no combat—just running, jumping, climbing, pushing, and pulling. However, this does not prevent your journey from being any less dangerous. With traps around every corner, you have to keep a sharp eye out for every silhouette and creature or person you may encounter. Limbo is essentially a trial and error game, as most of the puzzles that you encounter are not easily figured out on the first try. Luckily, you do not have to go through a loading screen each time you fail; you simply are set back a few steps before the puzzle that is giving you problems.
Dealing with enemies ranges from evading humans chasing you with blowguns to overcoming slugs that will latch onto you and will take control of your character, forcing you to walk in a certain direction until you walk through a beam of light to change course. While human enemies bring a sense of danger to Limbo, the slugs seem almost unnecessary. They add little to the progression of the game and do not enhance the difficulty of the puzzles they are involved with. If you’re an arachnophobic like I am, the parts with the giant spider are especially creepy but short compared to all of the slugs you have to deal with.
Limbo has you exploring a forest, a small city and an industrial complex, all with puzzles coinciding with the environment. If you’re in the forest, watch out for bear traps and get ready to climb some trees. While in the small city, plenty of platforming including working with puzzles involving electrical grids that you have turn on and off to advance and avoid death. In the industrial complex, things change considerably with having to move between giant cogs, avoid saw blades, and manipulate ever-changing gravity to hit switches and maneuver through deadly obstacles to reach your goals. There are also secret eggs that you can find throughout each stage to help with completing your trophy collection. Unfortunately, Limbo is ridiculously short. With the main story only lasting around 3 1/2 hours, the experience ends all too abruptly.
Aiding in the simplicity of Limbo, the black and white graphic style is beautiful, using light and shadow to enhance the sense of discomfort to the already unsettling atmosphere. Along with the monochrome graphic styling, the grain filter incorporated into Limbo makes everything seem just out of focus to mess with your senses even more. The art direction makes the game play out like a silent film, making the need for dialogue or voice acting unnecessary.
Limbo’s music is haunting yet soothing. With heavy synths and subtle orchestrals work, the soundtrack can stand on its own as music that will be remembered not only as the perfect mood for Limbo, but also as the groundwork laid for a vexatious experience. Its soundtrack could even be confused for something out of the Silent Hill franchise, as it shares a lot of the same qualities like inputting industrial sound effects and repetitive chord progression.
The sound effects are phenomenal. You can hear each crunch of leaves under your footsteps and the stretching sound of tightly wound rope. Playdead Studios has made the sound effects just as important as the gameplay, which unfortunately is all too rare. Not only does this add to the game itself, but it also enhances the whole experience, especially when wearing headphones.
Limbo is one of those unforgettable instances that only happens once in a blue moon, but with indie games becoming more accessible on consoles through Playstation Plus and Microsoft’s Games with Gold, hopefully we will see more innovative games like it and more developers like Playdead receive recognition for their hard work. With a story that is almost completely up to the player to discern, eerie music, and an unsettling atmosphere, Limbo is an experience that anyone who enjoys indie games should try at least once. With fun puzzles and a great soundtrack, it’s one you do not want to miss.
The Bottom Line
Limbo is a great experience filled with tense moments and fun puzzles. If you are not familiar with indie games, Limbo is a good place to start.