For nearly a year I had been eagerly awaiting Limbo’s arrival to the PlayStation Network, since it was released exclusively as a part of Microsoft’s Summer of Arcade last July. Soon after I started playing it, I understood why this little 2D puzzle platformer was so beloved by the gaming community. From start to finish, I was captivated by the unique world and gameplay – so much, in fact, that I felt the need to literally stand up and applaud its developers, PlayDead, for creating such an amazing experience.
The game starts off with no words or sounds, and is completely void of color. The main character, a young boy, simply wakes up in the black-and-white setting, as he starts his unknown journey to an unknown destination. As you progress through the environments, however, you start to understand the situation – wherever you are, it’s a bad place, and you need to get the hell out of there.
The first half of the 4-6 hour adventure is set in a forest, of sorts. You’re greeted by strange creatures, bizarre traps, and other children that are not very happy to see you. The thing about this game that makes it so great is, first and foremost, the deaths. You can die a million different ways, and you’ll love it every time it happens.
The puzzles come in the form of fatal traps that you must avoid. When you first approach one, you won’t even realize it was a trap until you’re already dead. The deaths are gruesome, immediate, relentless, and laugh-out-loud funny. Thankfully, PlayDead did a great job of keeping the frustration to an absolute minimum, with the nearby (and frequent) checkpoints, as well as the simple controls. All you can do is run, jump, and grab stuff, so every puzzle utilizes a combination of those actions for the solution.
The second half of the game takes place in an abandoned industrial warehouse. The puzzles get increasingly more innovative and difficult, but unlike the forest, you’re completely alone. Sure, you’re supposed to feel the solitude of Limbo, but there isn’t even anybody trying to kill you. This was a bit disappointing, but the remarkable ending more than made up for it.
With no loading screens or cut scenes, it’s easy to get lost in Limbo. Plus, the lack of a standard soundtrack adds to the immersion. There are ambient sounds throughout the game, but music is used sparingly. You really get the sense that you’re alone in a creepy place, with such fantastic use of sound.
There are collectible eggs hidden throughout the game, and if you find all of them a new area that was previously blocked will unlock. Before accessing this area, I wasn’t sure if I liked Limbo more than Braid, another fantastic platformer. After finishing the hidden sequence, and earning the ‘Ding!’ trophy, however, my mind was blown, my nerves on edge, and my senses in tune. I had my conclusion – Limbo is freakin’ awesome!
Once in the hidden area, the door slams shut behind you, leaving you in a pitch black dungeon. The only points of reference you have are the eyes of the boy and the sounds in the room. As you progress, you’ll see a light that shows part of a familiar trap. After you pass it, it’s all up to your senses, forcing you to pay attention to the distinct sounds of the traps and the eyes of your character. Again, I was completely and utterly blown away at the design of this section.
Limbo is a brilliant, well executed game. The black-and-white aesthetics mixed with the 2D side-scrolling, puzzle platforming makes for a unique experience that you won’t soon forget. There are some moments where I wish there was more life to the environments, and the game is very short, but neither issue detracts from the overall value of the experience. Without a doubt, I suggest you download this game right now.