Type: Indie Adventure game
Release Date: August 2, 2011
Official Website: http://www.limbogame.org
I remember not too long ago — for whatever reason — whenever I heard the term “Indie game” I shuddered just a little bit. Maybe it’s because I associated the word “Indie” with cheap, underdeveloped freeware or relegated it to the same territory as a design student’s exit project. Boy, was I ignorant. Over the years, I garnered a real appreciation for the simplistic nature of several Indie titles. Games like Minecraft, Terraria, and Jamestown have opened my eyes and my very narrow mind to a world I didn’t even know existed. A world of gaming that pushes the use of the mind to create something beautiful. Let’s just say that if there ever were an argument for calling video games “art”, the debate would begin and end with Indie games.
Which leads me to a little platformer called LIMBO.
LIMBO is a platforming game — in the sense that there are platforms — and you do have control of your avatar in a limited manner. Controls include: moving left and right, and jumping up and down. You also have the ability to use several objects in the world — be they crates to push and pull, or levers and buttons to play with. Everything is extremely minimalistic — and in a way, that’s its best quality. The real meat of the game isn’t what your character is doing — but what you see, hear, and feel with each passing screen; and in my eyes, the puzzles are just a side show.
LIMBO’s art design is fairly unique — everything is in black and white. The terrain in the world you traverse is a deep black, and your character as well is pitch in color — only his bright white eyes show any detail. Although some may gripe about the lack of color, the darkness that surrounds the game makes everything much more ominous and mysterious. You find yourself wanting to be able to see what’s ahead of you so you can finally put to rest the questions that have been brewing in your head since the start of the game: Who am I? Where am I? Why am I here?
As you trudge onwards looking for the answers, you’ll come across a wide variety of puzzles that will slow you down in your search. That’s where the standard platforming conventions come into play. Anything from timing jumps to avoid being crushed, timing jumps to avoid hazardous pitfalls, and stacking crates in order to get a better vantage point in order to… well, jump.
Yes, the jumps are easy at first, but they do get more difficult. In one particular challenge, a lever pull will start a race against the clock that will send you forward and then back again — all in order to push a crate into a room before its creaking door slams shut, requiring you to start over again.
Sometimes the puzzles themselves are so difficult it takes you dozens of attempts to just get them right. One puzzle in particular involving an elevator, a crate, and a see-saw was so maniacal I was forced to find a walkthrough just to move on with the game. The solution was so obscure, that after I found out what exactly I had to do, I wanted to shoot myself in the head for not getting it earlier. A good 30 minutes of my life completely wasted.
As I continued into the interior of LIMBO, I started to notice something. This game is dark. And I don’t mean color wise, although it is. I mean content wise. Your character is a little kid, or what appears to be, and all around him are body parts and skeletons that are all lying about in pretty morbid fashions. The ways you die too… pretty crazy. Bear traps will sever your head and limbs if you’re foolish enough to get too close. Fall from too great a height and your legs will shatter under the weight of your own body. There are dozens of ways you can die in LIMBO, and although sometimes it can be hilarious (I’m a sick individual) it can often feel kind of strange, considering your avatar’s age. Did I mention there are times when other, seemingly older children are trying to kill you with blowguns? Yeah, it’s pretty dark.
Audio is, as expected, extremely minimalistic. The whole game is blotted with an eerie ambiance that perfectly symbolizes the “what’s beyond the right side of the screen?” play style. Along with really fluid animation and tight controls, the game not only runs well, but plays well. LIMBO is an enigma. There’s almost nothing in this tiny, 117 mb package, yet there’s so much.
By the time you reach the end of the game, you’ll be feeling somewhat uneasy. Not that LIMBO is a bad game by any means; in fact I think it’s quite the opposite. But the ending is up for interpretation, meaning it’s one of those games that’s going to force you to think. Boo! Combined with the relatively short time it takes to complete the title, and the somewhat steep price range for a game of its length, you might come out of LIMBO with a sweet, or sour taste left in your mouth. No spoilers here, but I will tell you that overall, LIMBO is a great experience from start to end.
At this point, we’ve entered a new era of gaming. With Indie developers springing up from the woodwork and pumping out good and bad titles alike, it’s safe to say that the future of the gaming industry looks fantastic. Then again, we will always have big name publishers and developers cranking out big name titles with big name graphic engines coded by big name video game celebrities. But games like LIMBO, a title with minimal design, and a team consisting of only a handful of people, really shows just what kind of talent exists between the corporate lines. We’ve entered a new age of gaming, one that focuses on imagination over big budget tech, and I couldn’t be happier with the result.
The Bottom Line
LIMBO is a prime example of Indie games gone right. Fluid gameplay, dark undertones, and a varied mix of difficult puzzles will keep players at their peak interest long after the game is over. However it’s also the game’s major downfall. The game is too damn short, especially for it’s 10 dollar price range. Collectables hidden in dark paths aren’t enough to keep players playing. However, this shouldn’t sway you from picking it up, as LIMBO will be stuck in your head for years.
Game Play: 9/10
Replay Value: 6/10
- Steam Store page: http://store.steampowered.com/app/48000
- Reviewer playthrough: blip.tv
- Metascore: 88