Shortly after the fifth anniversary of Limbo’s release, Playdead’s crown jewel still has that effect on us – one not often replicated in a two hour game.
TRIAL AND DEATH
Originally debuting during Xbox’s Summer of Arcade in July of 2010 (pleeaaase bring that back, Microsoft and Phil Spencer!), Limbo quickly lit the gaming world on fire. Having recently made its way to Playstation 4, the platformer is now on just about every console, handheld, and phone that you can imagine.
The premise is simple – you play as a young boy who is at the edge of hell (the game’s title is “limbus,” which is Latin meaning “edge”). With no prompts, no text, and no sound to guide you, it is up to you to figure things out on your own. With a meager 3 buttons (including the left thumb stick), the simplistic nature mixed with the haunting atmosphere of Limbo are really what make this such a standout title.
The screen is black and white, showing faint hints of gray. Your silhouette boy can run, jump, and push objects to help get past the game’s loads of death traps. From buzzing saws to large, venomous Spiders that look like they were ripped from a Tolkien novel, your goal is to use the environment to pass through them. There is very little human contact throughout the game’s two halves, but that just adds to the ambiance. Good luck solving the majority of these puzzles on your first attempt.
To try to describe Limbo to someone that hasn’t played it is a difficult task. This is a game that is meant to be played in a dark room with a quiet atmosphere. Thanks to the lack of cutscenes, your focus and immersion are not only required – they come relatively easy. I encourage you to play this away from the noise and clutter of your day. Heck, it makes a fitting Halloween game in the month of October.
Part horror, part discovery, your heart’s beating will no doubt up its pace. Though the game can be completed in 2-3 hours, the challenge is high. There’s even an Achievement/Trophy for completing the game in one sitting with 5 or less deaths. Now that is an accomplishment.
The game’s ambiguous ending has caused many debates over the years from critics and gamers alike. I have doubts myself whether Playdead purposely left the final scene open to interpretation or couldn’t decide on an ending that made sense. Do yourself a favor and after you beat the game, take the time to search out a few of these theories online. Discuss it with your friends (that have played it, of course! No spoilers!). Regardless, it didn’t dampen my mood or change my opinion of the game.
Few games have had a lasting impact on me like Limbo. The atmosphere is one that is instantly triggered in my brain each time I hear about the game. The simplistic, back-to-basics controls stick it to the majority of video games released these days.
+ Atmosphere is second-to-none.
+ Challenging puzzles are perfectly balanced; you know it’s your fault if you time a jump incorrectly.
+ Visuals plus haunting silence go together hand-in-hand.
+ Ambiguous ending.
– Ambiguous ending.
Limbo was reviewed on the Xbox One. It is also available for Xbox 360, PS4, PS3, PC, iOS, and Playstation Vita.
Josiah LeRoy is The Geekiverse’s Senior Editor. He procrastinated and put off Limbo for way too long. Don’t make the same mistake!