Final verdict: B+
Final playtime: 4 hours or so maybe?
Whoa. I wasn’t expecting this. This is some damn cool shit.
LIMBO is filled with the kind of charm that only indie games seem to be able to manage, and even then pretty rarely. It’s got that artistic flare, while managing to be an enthralling, entertaining and challenging game at the same time. It reminds me pretty strongly of Braid; not because of the style or the gameplay, but simply because Braid was the last game that gave me this sensation.
In essence, LIMBO is a 2D side-scrolling puzzle adventure game, I guess. You play the part of a little boy in search of his lost sister, or something. That doesn’t matter. What matters is, limbo is a fucking scary and overbearing place, and you’re some insignificant kid who’s stuck in it, desperately trying not to die in one of many horrifying ways. Right off the bat you encounter a giant spider that tries to impale you on its huge legs, and you have to trick it and lure it into bear traps, and pits, and let it get hit by rolling boulders, until it finally dies and you have to use its body to ford a gap in a river to avoid drowning.
It’s all pretty scary and gross when you get down to it. At one point you see some weird little glowy white things floating on the surface of a pond, amongst floating corpses. You use the corpses to cross the river and notice on the other side of the water there’s a guy lurching towards you with a zombie-like gait and he has one of the glowy white things attached to his head. You realize quickly that it’s a parasitic worm thing controlling him and leading him to his death by drowning in the water. That shit is fucked up. But then later you get the same worms stuck to YOUR head and they control you, forcing you to lurch in one direction, only capable of jumping at the right moments in order to keep yourself alive against the will of the dick-worms. Light causes the worms to change direction, so a lot of the parasite-based puzzles involve you keeping yourself alive long enough to reach a source of light and send you in a more favorable direction, until a predatory plant-creature eats the worm off your head and gives you back control.
All the while as I was playing LIMBO, it was consistently surprising me with its variety of fiendishly clever and satisfying puzzles, and also the variety of disturbing and shocking ways it’s willing to kill a small child and make you whince or go “eurgh”, such as cutting the child’s legs and head off in giant saw blades, or drowning horribly with aforementioned parasitic worms stuck in his brain, or shot with poison blow darts, or electrocuted suddenly and violently. Every step of the way, it was extraordinarily creepy and mysterious. The landscape is deep and rich despite the extremely simplistic black and white color scheme. In fact, I felt as though the black and white left things to the imagination in such a way as to add to the depth of the sensations of forboding and eeriness. The absence of any narrative forces you to imbue the game with meanings and plots that aren’t really there at all.
It’s all very… unsettling. The world, the sounds, the darkness, the malevolent creatures and tribes of what appear to be feral humans that try to kill you with darts, the fact that some of the world is a gloomy and threatening wilderness and some of it is a derelict city, abandoned and fallen into disrepair. Or perhaps not abandoned. Who knows? And that’s sort of what I mean about it feeling similar to Braid – it doesn’t exactly give you any answers. It just shows you a bunch of locations and events and lets you draw your own conclusions from it all. I like that sort of thing when it’s done in this way. I think it’s a really good display of creativity, and in my opinion it’s more evocative, emotional and inspirational than mainstream games tend to be.
There isn’t much more I can really say about LIMBO, so I’ll bring this review to a close early and simply say that it’s fun, dark, at times frightening and tense, beautiful, eery, delightfully well put together, clever, completely fucked up, and it all comes together to make it brilliant.
If you enjoy sidescrollers, mystery, intrigue, puzzles, artistic games, or anything even remotely along any of those veins, you’ll probably enjoy LIMBO. Give it a try.
Final Verdict: B+
Final Playtime: 4+ hours give or take I guess
EDIT: Oh, right, shit. The bad stuff.
It’s short, the majority of the puzzles are really easy, and the controls can be a bit awkward at times, especially when jumping/grabbing onto ledges and stuff, and it’s always really reluctant to let you jump off of ladders when you want to.