Limbo – Review
Limbo, XBLA – 1,200 MS Points
Review by Lewie Procter
Limbo is a story.
The story is a tale of a fragile hero. His powers are the abilities to run, to jump, and to interact with environmental objects. He uses these powers to try and accomplish a goal. Along the way he encounters some haunting images, some fierce opponents, and every inch of his mental and physical endurance is tested. His adventure, your adventure, is a series of menacing ordeals. There is a constant oppressive atmosphere, and you’re always driven onwards, deeper into a surreal realm of existence.
Limbo’s biggest success, the foundation that the entirety of the game is built on, is the nearly perfect animation of the player character. The one moment that a sliding block and a ladder confuse the animation is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. Once you feel that connection to “boy on the screen that you are in control of”, you can’t really let go. He needs to complete his quest, and you need to help him; a strong sense of empathy is developed as the game draws you into it’s world.
There is an underlying tone of symbolism; it feels like throughout the game, something much bigger than what we are witnessing is going on, everything is left mysterious. The story leaves more questions than answers, allowing for multiple interpretations. It’s interesting territory for a platformer.
It’s littered with all too brief narrative events viewed from afar. I don’t know what the BBFC would have to say about it. You aren’t particularity violent, but it’s a bit dark. At certain points you might find yourself horrified at what you’re experiencing.
It helps that a lot of video game conceits have been successfully eschewed. Like the best of the games in it’s heritage (Éric Chahi’s works mostly, ICO too), death is both a learning tool and a motivation to do better next time. There are no levels or load screens. You learn all of the controls in the first 30 seconds. It’s pretty much always fair.
Pretty quickly it gets quite hard, and it remains challenging throughout. Almost as if it assumes you already know how to play a platformer. It captivated my interest from beginning to end. It is short, I didn’t time it, and neither should you, but I was surprised it finished so quickly. I have been very ill and on lots of drugs, so maybe I just lost track of time. I’m sure it has more secrets for me though.
Limbo is a beautiful thing, a beautiful game. It’s clever, it’s very pretty to look at. But more than that, it’s got soul. It stays with you after you’ve completed it, and I’m certainly going to come back to it.