Ever played a game that is as frustrating as the amount of times you die before you actually know what you are supposed to do? I have, it’s called Limbo, a puzzle-platformer released for the Xbox Live Arcade that I was quite literally forced at knife-point to play by a very scary guy who gets rather edgy as far as XBLA titles are concerned (*cough* Shane *cough*).
Beyond the usual “ooohs” and “aaaahhhhs” that accompany the first time one plays a new title for the very first time, I was left so dumbstruck by the noir atmosphere and almost soundtrack-less atmosphere that was before me. Dumbfounded to the point that I waited perhaps five full minutes (decades in “gamer time”) for the opening “cut scene” to begin, foolishly assuming the expected, but alas; there was no cut scene! It was a refreshing opening to tell the honest truth. A darkly lit forest scene with a constant flicker akin to the vintage film-making techniques, opens up and when you (eventually) press some buttons or wiggle a thumb stick because you think the game has locked up, a very cool-looking young boy character opens his bright white eyes (amidst a black body) and sits up. My perilous adventure into the imagining of the meta-physical state of limbo had begun!
With absolutely no dialogue and not even a clue as to what the little boy is doing in this plane of existence, the game manages to communicate more visceral, raw emotion and tone than all of the Twilight movies combined, while transporting the player into a world so hostile your head will fall off, or rather the young boy you play, instantly giving you a motivational drive for Limbo’s story: you don’t know what this place is but you need to get out.
After almost twenty minutes and a plethora of puzzles, it was quite clear that Limbo is one of the most astounding games, not only of its genre but also of any game, ever. Combining the basic building blocks of interesting and compelling gameplay, hauntingly astonishing visuals and oftentimes-creepy sounds, Limbo offers some of the greatest moments in any video game. With level designs akin to an Edward Munch painting (minus the colour?) and Inception-style gravity-defying puzzles, the game itself never gets boring.
From beginning to end, this amazing title surprises, delights and even horrifies the player in a way that engages all of the senses. Frustrating at times, it helped to just put down the controller, breathe for a moment then get back into the madness. Some of the highlights for myself were the astounding visuals of the distinct locales the brave young boy ventures through, from the dark woods and forest setting, to a rain drenched factory and an abandoned city-scape, the beauty of Limbo alone will sink you into its dreamy and noir atmosphere.
Finishing up, don’t miss this amazing title or overlook it like I did, pick it up, eat it, consume it and just immerse yourself in one of the greatest worlds ever made in a video game. Yes, you may get frustrated and die over and over again, but that is how you solve the puzzles – trial and error and thankfully I had never reached a point where I didn’t want to play anymore because frankly, its just too beautiful to miss. It is short but there are many hidden little achievements to keep you replaying the game. Regardless, Limbo is a title that you will enjoy every moment of, except when you’re grinding your teeth over tormentingly arduous puzzles.