GameZone's 31 Games of Halloween 2013: Limbo
If we've learned anything from GameZone's 31 Games of Halloween this month, it's that a video game doesn't necessarily need to be the traditional definition of “scary” to fit in with the month of October. Take for example our last entry The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. That classic Nintendo 64 title isn't just one of the moodier games we've showcased, it's also one of the most downright depressing. In that sense, today's entry Limbo is a lot like Majora's Mask, albeit for very different reasons.
Now let's explore a black-and-white world filled with giant spiders, treacherous buzz saws, and creepy children.
Why it stands out
Limbo originally launched back in 2010. Around that time, we saw the indie movement on the rise and slowly cement itself as a mainstay of the gaming industry. Developer Playdead was able to showcase its ability and prove that even smaller games could resonate strongly with players, and that's exactly what Limbo does.
The entire time you're playing, you don't get any narrative bits, and your hand isn't being held by the game. Instead, you're dropped into this gloomy world, left to discover everything for yourself. I'm not just talking about the mechanics, puzzles, and enemies, either. The very mystery of Limbo and its main character is left for you to both discover and interpret. It's a thought-provoking method of letting you craft your own story for this character in your head.
In the four-hour journey that Limbo spans, you encounter a sinister world filled with death and despair. The environments couldn't be more amazing to witness. It's one of the more visually haunting worlds seen in a video game, and it's damn near impossible to not be left in awe at the incredibly surreal environments that surround your character.
As far as the plot of Limbo is concerned, it's the details you don't get that really make this tale stand out. All you know is that you're playing as a little boy who wants to save his kid sister. That's it. You create the lore of the setting, the reasoning behind the horrors you encounter, and the end of the game itself. Playdead took a minimalist direction with Limbo, and the game is all the better for it. I get the feeling that this experience wouldn't stay with players long after they've finished it if a traditional plot and storytelling methods were used.
Is it scary?
There are a number of things that make Limbo a truly creepy game. The ominous setting is dreary enough, but the hazards around you make it even more unsettling. Saw blades spin violently, ready to remorselessly rip you apart and take your life. At one point, a giant spider follows closely behind you, forcing its threatening, intimidating presence on you. Then there are the children, who stare at you with no emotion or liveliness. (It's weird how kids can be so creepy when used in works of horror.)
Probably the darkest thing I witnessed in the game, however, was the hanging body of a dead child. Playdead wasn't messing around with Limbo. The very idea of a dead kid is pretty damn hard to stomach, and yet it's used as an avenue to make this particular game even more depressing. Even darker is the fact that you can create your own reason for this rather awful sight. Was this child executed by some monster or perhaps the other children? Did he kill himself? It's up to you to decide how this tragic even unfolded.
As you play Limbo, you understand that it doesn't follow the proverbial textbook on how to be scary. Instead, its brooding imagery and dark themes make it a piece of storytelling that's horrific to witness in a completely different way. You wouldn't want to be stuck in a world like this, and as you guide the silent protagonist over dark ditches and pitfalls filled with buzz saws or spikes, you fear for his survival. You also fear for his sister, because you have absolutely no idea what's happened to her, yet you know you need to find out.
Why play it on Halloween?
While Limbo doesn't follow conventional horror standards or offer up predictable scares, it delivers a more hopeless experience. This is a dark world, and it's riddled with death, monstrosities, and mysteries. In actuality, this world is very beautiful, because it's filled with so much mystique that you can't help but be intrigued by it. As you get deeper into it, however, it becomes very apparent that this is no welcoming haven.
At four hours, you can get through the many dangers Limbo throws at you in one sitting. The inviting length makes this an outstanding choice for Halloween. Load up the game at night, dim the lights, and enjoy all of the eerie splendor it has to offer as you hear the sounds of trick-or-treaters enjoying themselves outside. This creates the perfect contrast to the hellish nightmare world that the children of Limbo are enduring.
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