Limbo (PC) Review
When developer Playdead launched Limbo for Xbox Live Arcade last summer, gamers discovered an amazing, surreal, and chilling tale about a young boy whose sole purpose was to seek out his lost sister. Here we are one year later, and the game is finally live on the PlayStation Network. Not surprisingly, this is the exact same Limbo that Xbox 360 owners got last year, with all of its awesomeness intact. Now, another crowd has the opportunity to play this fine game. Limbo on PlayStation 3 is a godsend. If you didn't play it last year because you didn't have the means to do so, nothing should hold you back now.
In Limbo, you play as an unnamed child. This young boy has no backstory, nor is his purpose ever made clear. As a matter of fact, there is no in-game text to tell you what your objective is (thank goodness for the internet). Instead, Limbo leaves its narrative entirely open for interpretation. Most blurbs you'll read about the game mention how the boy is searching for his sister to rescue her, but is that really the case? Are you trying to rescue this girl? Or are you trying to take her away from her safe haven? Is the boy you play as alive? Or is he the suffering soul of a dead child, desperately fighting his way through limbo, hell, or purgatory to find heaven, represented by an innocent girl? Or are all of those internet blurbs dead on with their theories about the game? I don't know, and I love the fact that there is no wrong way to unravel this story.
At its core, Limbo is an elegant puzzle platformer that constantly challenges you to figure out solutions to its many brain teasers. You must push blocks, hit switches, move items around, create bridges, and perform all sorts of actions to progress through the level. As you press forward, you are constantly tackling different objectives and clearing puzzles. There's even a bit of combat sprinkled throughout to keep things interesting. Of course, these sequences don't consist of straightforward battles and instead play out much like puzzles, as well.
The increasing difficulty of these puzzles furthers the story along, making it clear the boy isn't wanted, and his destination is mysteriously off limits. Of course, the game's environments also continuously narrate the mystique-laden plot. Due to the evolving level design and increasingly tough hazards that stand in your way, the game goes from being haunting at first to legitimately terrifying as you reach the end. This makes the level design in Limbo worthy of so much merit, because evoking such strong emotions is something that is usually left for a game's plot; Limbo manages to do so with the imagery it projects.
This wondrous imagery isn't just limited to the game's level design. The visual aspect of Limbo is just as strong as its gameplay and stages. The whole game is in black-and-white, so there's this solemn and foreboding emotion that just bleeds through the game. Limbo is not a happy title, and it wants you to know that. With its foggy look, blurry backgrounds, and excellent use of silhouettes, Limbo manages to perfectly exude the feeling of isolation—and what a desperate and sorrowful feeling it is. This is a game that's just as enthralling to play as it is to watch in action.
Adding to the presentation in Limbo is an amazing collection of sound effects. As you traverse through the forest area, the creaking of breaking trees and the sound of a giant spider's footsteps create an eerie engulfment of pure solitude. You literally feel as alone as the boy you're playing as during these initial stages of the game. Later levels, particularly the industrial stages, also house their own gripping sound effects. You'd have to be completely devoid of emotion to not feel an ounce of surprise and fear for the protagonist as you hear the loud turning of saw blades. There's very little music in Limbo, but that doesn't hurt the experience at all, and the few creepy themes you do hear are absolutely fantastic—in a very dark way, of course.
Your journey through the delightfully dark world of Limbo shouldn't take you any longer than four or five hours. The game's puzzles are fairly challenging and sometimes fiendish in their design. You're likely to come across a handful of spots where you get stuck. Once you figure out how to progress, you get the ultimate feeling of satisfaction, and you move forward in anticipation of this game's conclusion. One of the primary complaints people have had regarding Limbo is its short length. I saw this as no detriment to the experience and actually appreciated the fact that Playdead created a game that can be completed in a sitting or two. Limbo is the type of game that you want to keep playing because it's so damn good, and because you're legitimately interested in seeing what happens next, and its four-hour length makes it a great game to play through in one go.
I never got the chance to play Limbo when it launched on Xbox 360. Now that it's on PlayStation 3, I'm glad I did, because this gripping download is a tour de force of emotion. It's a tale of redemption and perseverance. It's a saddening journey that will tug at your heartstrings and creep you out. Simply put, Limbo will stay with you long after you've completed it. Hardly ever does a game come along and completely capture such vivid feelings using just its imagery. Limbo is a rare exception, and it does its job as close to perfectlion as possible. If you never got the chance to play this astoundingly impressive puzzle platformer because you only own a PlayStation 3, there's no excuse for you to skip out on it now. At $15, Limbo is a download worth investing in. This is more than just a game—it's an experience you'll never forget.