Review of Limbo

limbo

Thanks to PSN Plus’ monthly bundle of “free” games I finally got around to playing Limbo – the indie darling that took the world by storm back in 2010. Limbo has been on my gaming radar for quite some time, thanks to all the critical acclaim its garnered, but until now I hadn’t gotten round to downloading it. I guess I was distracted by more “bouncy” releases such as Senran Kagura and Akiba’s Trip. With Limbo now crossed off my gaming bucket list I find myself penning a review that I suspect will fly against popular opinion. Sorry for being that dissenting voice, which questions the mainstream, but what exactly is so special about Limbo?

OVERVIEW

I usually like to begin my reviews with a synopsis outlining the plot of the game I am covering. This isn’t possible with Limbo however, as the title is devoid of story. Playdead (who developed the game) claim that this is intentional, as they wanted to leave things “open to interpretation.” Frankly, I am not convinced. It seems to me that the creators coded a platformer, which is narrative free, but thanks to its eerie visuals players are convinced there is some deeper meaning behind it all. Of course I could be mistaken and am just too thick to appreciate Limbo’s subtle approach to storytelling. If so please forgive me. After watching too many Michael Bay films my brain has eroded to the point were scripts have to spoon-feed me exactly what is going on.

Extensive research (I browsed Wikipedia) has led me to believe that Limbo follows an anonymous boy who is searching for his sister. His journey begins at some woods located on the edge of hell and concludes at a factory situated in a ruined city. From the game’s title we can speculate that the young tyke’s quest is occurring after his death. My, the afterlife is not how I pictured it. I had always envisioned that I would end up living atop fluffy clouds or toasting down below with that horned chap who likes pitchforks. Evidently I was mistaken. When we expire we are destined to spend our days in a derelict urban settlement infested with giant bugs. Aside from the insects, our protagonist will also encounter other humans. Some will flee and commit suicide upon spotting the youngster. Others will try to brutally kill him. Why? Um… that’s open to interpretation.

VERDICT

Limbo is a no thrills puzzle platformer that has you overcoming obstacles by leaping over dangers and interacting with objects. The brainteasers are designed in such a way that you won’t get stuck on them for too long, but you’ll still feel suitably brainy once you suss them out. The game is at its most enjoyable early on, even though I didn’t care for its trial and error style of gameplay. On your initial play through you’ll often perish at the hands of hidden traps, so progress is more dependent on memorizing where ambushes are placed rather than on skill. My passion for Limbo began to wane towards the end when the puzzles were gradually phased out in favour of sections that demand precise jumping to survive. Thankfully checkpoints are plentiful so there isn’t much backtracking whenever you inevitably die.

My rating for Limbo is three stars. It wasn’t my cup of tea, but I can appreciate that it is competently designed. The film grain noire graphics steal the show and I give props to Playdead for having the guts to make a game were children are not spared from gruesome deaths (immediately making the title more ballsy than Fallout 3.) It is hard to recommend playing the game today, as it has since been surpassed by other indie titles. In terms of similar games, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons elicited a more emotional response from me. The under rated Nihilumbra is also worth checking out, as it boasts similar aesthetics to Limbo in addition to having more creative puzzles.

Overall I don’t know what to think about Limbo. It’s not terrible, but the abrupt finale that comes out of nowhere left me feeling unsatisfied. That said, had the game lasted longer than four hours I might not have had the stamina to complete it. Perhaps my expectations were too lofty? Had I played it back when the indie market was less rich I may have been more impressed. On the flip side, had I paid full price for the download I may have felt more aggrieved and given the game a lower score. Much like its title, my feelings on the game are in a state of limbo.

15 thoughts on “Review of Limbo

  1. Nice review. I played on Vita (I think that they also gave it free that version some time ago) but never finished. I liked the presentation, but wasn’t too hooked. I agree with “Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons”, really liked start to finish, it’s short, but I feel it worked really well. I still have to share some really nice moments of that game.

  2. RE: “the young tyke’s quest is occurring after his death.”
    So enemies are trying to “kill” him again, although he is already dead?
    He is in a state of “limbo” between this world and the next. What is the worst case scenario for him, or the best if he “wins”?

    • It’s an interesting theory, although it makes numerous leaps of faith. Nothing in the game indicates that the child’s attackers are bullies. The video maker also makes a big deal about the child dying at the hotel, which wasn’t a major thing in the game. You just walk over a building that has a Hotel sign.

  3. I understand that the game ending abruptly can leave you feeling a bit unsatisfied, but for me at least I loved that it gave more ambiguity to a game already lathered in hidden meanings. I enjoyed it, even if I had to resort to a few walkthroughs for some puzzles.

  4. I definitely agree with your judgement of Limbo. My experience with it was I started it on a plane ride… and ended up finishing it 2 years later. The aesthetic of the game was incredibly on point but the puzzles never felt like I explored the space of what was possible very extensively. In addition, some of the more precise time limited segments didn’t feel very rewarding as the character (rightly so) doesn’t move with the precision of a platformer like Super Meat Boy. It’s a beautiful game, but there’s so many beautiful games now that also have top notch gameplay to back up the visuals.

    • I felt the exact same way. The visual design was nice and the atmosphere was intriguing, which led to a really positive experience over the first few areas. Eventually, that wore off, which pretty much left the puzzles, which were… not that great. I got really excited about the game after trying out the demo, and that carried through the first hour or so I had with it. Yet, towards the end, I just got bored and never bothered finishing it up.

  5. Really good review, I’ve got Limbo but I’ve never played it. Going to give it a go this week! Thanks for posting 🙂

  6. I felt exactly the same way (played on PC): Trial and error problem solving was not enticing, but the graphical style was neat. If it was any longer I probably would not have finished it. All in all I had a good time playing it, but I did not view it as some great work of gaming prowess.

  7. Great review as always Judge!

    I felt the games visuals carried it, but the lack of story didnt bother me. Heck, I still play Minecraft to this day and no, I wont get ‘Adventure Mode’. Urgh!

    The style and tone however makes this a worthwhile look at. Though if I want a dark indie game with a simple story, The Binding Of Isaac: Rebirth calls for me! 🙂

  8. “It’s not terrible” sums up this game rather well, because it isn’t. While it’s very pretty and very different, I also got very frustrated with the puzzles and no-frills approach early on. I simply wanted to do…more. More than just walk and jump and push and pull. But I think it’s a game worth one’s time just for the experience. Very nice review.

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