As the industry big boys push for better graphics, more sound channels, and hightened realism, the indy sector is pushing for one thing: different. Popular independent games such as Braid and Temple Run have shown that it doesn’t take bigger budgets and bigger teams to produce a masterpiece, just bigger ideas. And this is where Limbo truly shines.
Developer Playdead’s black and white beauty Limbo arrived in 2010 on Xbox 360 and in 2011 on Playstation 3. The game is consistently among the top sold games on the system publisher’s respective networks. I recently picked the game up on PSN and only just got around to playing it. What follows is a spoiler-filled review of this game. Please do not read if you have not yet finished Limbo.
Limbo begins with an unnamed boy in a beautiful black-and-white world. All we know to do is what is inherently instilled in all videogamers: run to the right. And thus the adventure begins. Our character will not utter a word, the game will have limited musical interludes, and aside from the title and pause screens, limited text. The young boy comes across numerous obstacles, most of which can kill him in the blink of an eye…violently. He frequently loses limbs, is stabbed, and drowns. Yet, he continues to venture forth. The player never really is told why, but I found myself continually enamoured with the game’s ambiance. The player eventually arrives to a final puzzle, wrought with more kill-you-instantly moments than most of the game has contained. Finally, upon viewing an abrupt end segment of the boy waking up in a field, we approach a shadowy figure of a young girl, at which point the game simply ends.
As strange and unanswering as the ending is, I find myself thoroughly enjoying it. The game’s open-ended story produces an urge in me to take part in one of the many online discussions on the subject. Was the girl his sister? Was he dead the whole time? Stuck between heaven and hell (Limbo, if you will)? We don’t necessarily know, but that proves this game’s staying power. It feels like playing one of David Lynch’s art school films. It’s simple, quiet, unnerving, and abrupt…and it’s phenomenal.
Limbo is a beautiful game that must be experienced. Clocking in at around two hours, you should consider playing through Limbo instead of sitting down to watch Netflix or Hulu the next time you have a few moments to spare. It’s not about the destination, it’s about the ride.