A young boy awakens in a dark and strange forest. Alone and with no other options, you must explore and venture forward.
Developer: Playdead ApS
Publisher: Playdead ApS
Release Date: December 12, 2011 (Mac), July 19, 2011 (US - PS3 via PSN), July 20, 2011 (Europe - PS3 via PSN), August 2, 2011 (Steam - PC), July 21, 2010 (Xbox 360)
Genre: 2D Puzzle/Platformer
Platforms: Mac, PlayStation 3 (via PSN), PC, Xbox 360
Independent game studios will be the lifeblood of creativity and innovation for years to come. Sometimes you will find real gems among these inspiring creators. If you haven't heard of Limbo yet -- the first game from developer Playdead -- you're in for a real treat. We are looking at a puzzle/platformer that is incredibly polished and impossible to put down. I couldn't get enough of this fantastic adventure through the world that is Limbo.
The game begins with a young boy awakening in a dark strange forest. Nameless and alone, your only choice is to explore and venture forward. We know this character is in search of his sister, but the reasons why both children are lost, wandering in the Limbo between life and death, are never revealed. You will confront this world alone while you navigate its challenges.
Graphically, the game is stylized, using monochromatic visuals which blend the landscapes and world features together to create powerful images. An added film grain effect forecasts a world that is just past perception, like the edge of a dream. The sound track is more of an ambient experience, exposing you to the environment the character is venturing through, with emphasis to warn the player that something dangerous is lurking around the corner. There is no dialogue or any social interaction with characters in the world, but you will come across your fair share of bodies.
You directly control the characters movement, direction and jumps. There is an Action button which allows you to interact with the world, and objects to solve puzzles or move over different terrain. These animations are fluid and polished if not lacking in variety.
Failing in Limbo and watching this boy die, most times gruesomely, is a learning tool within the game. You are only penalized to restart at one of the many automatic checkpoints throughout the game and besides, death is not escape from this purgatory.
There are several game play mechanics going on within the game, which feels ambitious when it comes to balancing. But they are, thankfully, well-implemented. You will see physics interactions, uses of light and dark, and the occasional native creature ruining your day.
One of the clever game play mechanics involves the death of the boy. As a player you sometimes just do not know what is safe or what is interactive until you stumble into a situation that mauls your body on spikes, chops you in half in a bear trap, or mind-controls your character to his doom. This integrates into the re-playability of the game where the challenge lies in making it to the end without dying a single time.
The art design of the game really helps immerse the player into this Limbo world. All the details are thought-out and meaningful, adding value to the experience as a whole. At times I would get a lost in the moment and be genuinely afraid or startled without the need of cheap scare tactics. Limbo's theme is dark and acts as a very powerful catalyst to get you really experiencing the game.
We are not really given a lot of background within the game explaining character relationships and motivations. Why is the boy here? Why do I assume this girl is his sister? Here, I believe it is a matter of scope from a small developer's perspective: balancing the creation of a quality game with what should be added or tabled. In this case, I think tidbits throughout the game revealing glimpses into the character would have added enormous value.
Limbo was originally developed for the console so it feels more at home with the gamepad control scheme. Also, it doesn't offer too many options to maximize the quality of play on the PC, relying on a simple console menu system and option screen.
Limbo was first introduced on the Xbox 360 Marketplace Arcade, where it became a genuine hit. Since then, Limbo has found its way onto other digital distribution platforms and the PC. That said, you are going to want to play this with a 360 controller if you're playing on your PC. It has been ported very well without any noticeable bugs and offers a smooth experience on any platform.
This game deserves your attention. You can usually find it for a reasonable price within an indie pack, or you can grab it on its own on Steam.
System Requirements (PC):
- OS: Windows XP, Vista, 7
- Processor: 2 GHz
- Memory: 512MB
- Hard Disk Space: 150MB
- Video Card: 5 years or younger. Integrated graphics and very low budget cards may not work. Shader Model 3.0 required
- DirectX®: 9.0c