Credit PlayDead Studios for creating an atmospheric platformer that may potentially have players keeping the lights on when they journey through Limbo. As a platforming junkie myself, it’s safe to say that Limbo conjures up a unique tale worth embarking on; provided players aren’t prone to controller-throwing moments due to the trial-and-error gameplay. Granted, the story is barely held together by a shoestring, Limbo in its entirety is much more than a beginning, middle and end. It is a title that is on par with any arthouse film or contemporary painting that relies on visuals to wow its audience.
Strictly as a platformer, Limbo’s controls are simple to pick up and learn. Players aren’t forced to learn a complex control scheme; rather they must adapt to having few options for advancing forward, and they have to make the most of the environment around them. The basics include: running, jumping, pulling or pushing objects and climbing. Outside of that, players are forced to retreat from action and lure the enemies into traps to overcome the opposition. On one hand, it’s exciting to trick the computer into falling prey to being smashed by falling boulders or lying face down on a bed of spikes. On the opposite side of the spectrum, backtracking and losing control of the main character due to a white insect of sorts is a frustrating experience.
Where Limbo stands out from the crowd is its aesthetics and presentation. Clearly seen from the screenshots, Limbo’s world is represented by black and white scenery with heavy use of lighting and shadows. The aural side of the presentation takes a backseat as it’s often played softly in the background and only cues up in moments of tension. The brilliance of Limbo comes from how gripping the title can be due to the obstacles that stand before the protagonist. Whether it’s encountering the gigantic spider that creeps up from almost any location to the unknown antagonists shooting blow darts for unspecified reasons, Limbo is truly a rare video game that focuses on the art and nature of video games.
Even with the admiration for the art direction, Limbo still can’t be excused for its shortcomings in the area of gameplay. It was thrilling from time to time to see the death animations of the hero, but in the long run, death isn’t the most satisfying angle to sell video gamers on; especially when it’s them partaking in the dying. Much of the time spent through Limbo will be falling to an unavoidable death and then starting back from the last save to attempt the feat all over again. This concept of trial and error has been around for ages, so don’t expect anything groundbreaking when it comes to the gameplay of Limbo. Puzzle game or not, death should not be the most emotional aspect of a platformer.
Limbo may not deviate away from the standard conventions of a platformer. It may not have players begging to play through multiple times due to the brevity of the storyline and, often, limited options to solve puzzles. It may cause anger due to cheap deaths and lack of real control of the protagonist. Heck, it might even have players quitting before the end, since, to be honest, it’s a fairly pointless platformer with no narrative or dialogue to string them along. But in the end, there’s something peculiar and odd about Limbo that keeps the attention of the player far longer than it should have. As I said, credit goes to PlayDead Studios – they’ve created a game that is fantastically weird and pleasant all in its own right.