This week I bring you another game to make your eye sockets salivate. A fantastic noir styled 2D puzzle platform from Playdead, it’s LIMBO. This game is made of soft focus, black and white, silhouette amazingness.
There’s very little plot to this game, and I gather that what little story there is to tell is mostly implied subliminally. Instead it excels in suspending you fully in it’s shadowy atmosphere. A nameless boy wakes up in a forest (give him a nudge or he will lay there for longer than is awkward) and with only the motivation to survive, he must work his way through a darkened and unfriendly world.
For most of the game you’ll find yourself alone, which is fine because any other living thing in Limbo wants your boy dead. From giant spiders and mind controlling larvae to trap setting children. But mostly you’ll be alone, very, very alone. With an unsettlingly minimal soundtrack (Fans actually requested that it be released on iTunes!) you will find yourself regularly in a state of suspense, even more so when you’re sat playing in the dark, which of course is the only way to play horror games.
Like with most 2D platforms you have the simple choices of left, right, jump, and interact with push and pull. This game doesn’t need complex controls to make it challenging, so very little time is needed to get to grips with actual playing.
Limbo is a world full of horrific ways to die. It does not fall short on impalement, drowning, decapitation, crushing, grinding, bear traps, electrocution, being burned alive.. Chances are, if it’s got pointy corners or you can fall in it you’ll have to figure out how not to die that way the next time. Because every time you make a mistake in Limbo, you’ll pay for it with your boy’s life. Thankfully, to ease frustration, you have an infinite number of lives to discard and the convenient check point system means you’ll never be more than a short jog away from where your boy was last brutally mutilated! So don’t be disheartened.
Explore the environment. The way forward isn’t always just running to the right, and it’s seldom ever backtracking left. Although the game has a beautifully seamless flow in the environment, the puzzles themselves are sectioned into very small, numerous challenges and obstacles, giving you enough space to figure out everything you have to work with to move on. But of course part of the challenge is figuring out exactly what you can and can’t interact with, and since everything’s in silhouette, finding that elusive mechanism for moving forward becomes less and less obvious as the game progresses. And also the order in which events have to happen in each puzzle become more and more elaborate, especially when changing gravity is involved..
This game prides itself on forcing you to think differently about each puzzle you encounter. Even in the early stages of the game you’ll be presented with challenges that seem bleak and impossible when first attempted, all because you didn’t notice you could interact with that scraggy vine or that small piece you could’ve move over there. Again, persistence is key.
I found it helps to gauge the distance your boy can jump, don’t let the game fool you. During your journey the camera will pan in and out, under the guise of letting you view more of the area, but being so absorbed in the surroundings can throw your judgement when it comes to the distance you think he can jump. If you’re not sure, take a running leap of faith.
Despite the sometimes horrific trials you’ll have to endure in Limbo, I’d recommend this game for people who don’t usually enter into the genre. It’s bold and different, it’s challenging and innovative and also it’s just plain fun. And even with its difficulties you can just put it down for a week and come back to it exactly where you left the room to find a corner to cry in..
So I say, enjoy the ambiance and animation, be daring with your jumps and above all, enjoy the wet squelchy noises when you inevitably run into something you shouldn’t have..
There’s even a free demo on Steam, you have no excuses. Play here!