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Videogame: Limbo

"Insects are a recurring theme in the game, because that's exactly what you are: a tiny, scared, insignificant insect, gazing up incomprehensibly at the towering food chain at the bottom of which you lie."

Limbo is a 2-D puzzle platforming horror game by Playdead, an independent game studio based in Copenhagen, Denmark. This is their first game. It was originally released on Xbox LIVE Arcade, and was later ported with additional content to the PlayStation Network and Steam.

The game's story is simple. You control a nameless young boy in Limbo, searching for his sister. There is no dialog or text of any kind to guide you. Just the boy and an incredibly dark, oppressive, crapsack environment. There are many deadly puzzles, challenges and traps that can get you killed, in many shockingly violent ways. A Gore Filter can make the deaths less grisly, but no less terrifying. When combined with the protagonist's limited moveset — he's entirely unarmed and can only jump, push/pull objects (like boxes and levers), climb ledges, and swing on ropes — Limbo's sense of helplessness and trepidation is intense. Something of a huge contrast and surprise between regional ratings, the ESRB somehow let the game pass with only a T for Teen rating, while PEGI gave it an 18, the strictest rating they have. If you see the more graphic deaths, you'll understand why you'd think the ESRB would have, or even should have given it an M for mature rating instead.

Players draw many comparisons to Braid, another Xbox Live puzzle platformer that cost 1200 points at release, lasts about four to five hours on a first playthrough, has a unique art style, and says some interesting things about videogame storytelling.

Do not confuse with Limbo of the Lost, although that's pretty terrifying in its own special way. For the opposite of Limbo, there is Lucidity.

This game provides examples of:

  • 100% Completion: If you finish the main game path without exploring too much you'll only receive a 75% or so complete rating. Finding the bonuses fills in the rest of the percentage.
  • Advancing Boss of Doom: Early on, you're forced to run from a Giant Spider.
  • Advancing Wall of Doom: Sawblades appear in this capacity later in the game.
  • All Just a Dream: During the final puzzle, the boy crashes into a magical wall and lies down unconscious in a forest. When you get up and can move again, you can move left, only to find more forest where the hazardous industrial world once was. To your right, his sister awaits, playing in the grass, as if your whole adventure was just a dream... Or Was It a Dream?
  • All Webbed Up: Happens to the protagonist in the early parts of the game. However, he can struggle free and move around with enough effort.
  • Ambiguous Ending: You find your sister sitting peacefully in a clearing, apparently picking flowers. She sees you and stands up. Cut to black.
  • Badass Adorable: You, being a young child that can climb ladders, jump from rope to rope, and deal with gigantic bugs even when you can't fight them directly.
  • Bear Trap: A couple of them early on. The first one you see are actually two next to each other; unless you spot the signs, you'll die horribly. After that, there's two more which are both used to your own advantage.
  • Big Brother Instinct/Determinator: Not even the MANY horrors of Limbo will stop the boy from finding his sister.
  • Blackout Basement: Some areas indeed have inconsistent lighting. In fact, some of the secrets are in complete darkness.
  • Blow Gun: Some of the creepy children are shown shooting poison darts at you.
  • Book Ends: The scene you see in the main menu is in the same location as the last scene in the ending. And there are flies buzzing around two spots on the ground...
    • The beginning of the game has the boy waking up in the middle of a forest. After finishing the final puzzle, the boy is inexplicably launched into a forest where he wakes up in the same manner.
  • Body Horror: There are glowing worms (popularly referred to as 'brain slugs') that burrow into your head and force you to walk in one direction. Before that happens to you, you encounter other kids who are in the same situation; some are dead.
  • Bonus Stage: The PSN and PC versions have one if you collect all the insect eggs. Its entrance is past where the "Alone in the Dark" egg is found, and when you beat it you come out at the elevator underneath which you find the "Under Ground" egg. It's extremely long, dark, and difficult, and there are several places where you'll have to navigate by sound alone.
  • By the Lights of Their Eyes: The protagonist's eyes are like this.
    • An easter egg found later in the game requires you to navigate a dark cavern with your eyes as the only light source.
  • Bullet Time: Just as you solve the last puzzle. You get an excellent view of the protagonist flying slowly through an energy barrier and tumbling pitifully up a grassy hill. Then you get up and finally find your sister.
  • Children Are Innocent: Averted to horrifying effect.
  • Controllable Helplessness: Early on, you run across some goop on the floor that slows you to a crawl, then finally immobilizes you. You twig that it's spider webbing just as the giant spider approaches and webs you up. In the demo, the spider just kills you at this point instead.
    • When you're "infected" by the brain slugs, you're forced to walk in a certain direction against your will. You only have the option to slow yourself down. This becomes a problem when you run into various perils such as deep pools, sawblades, spikes...
  • Crate Expectations: Puzzle elements, to the point where you'll know a puzzle is coming up whenever you see a crate or box.
  • Creepy Child: The other kids you meet early on, some of whom try to kill you.
  • Creepy Crows: At one point you find a lone crow cawing while perched on top of a hanging cage. The hanging cage next to the one with the crow has a human corpse inside of it.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: There are some very sinister-looking black worm/bird things that hang from the ceiling and have vicious mandibles. They're no threat to you, but they do a good job eating those brain slugs. There's also some sort of dog/gerbil/frog thing at one point, but all it does is run away when you go near it. You can even earn it as a pet for your Xbox avatar after beating the game.
  • Dark World: Dark, dank, colorless, and very very scary.
  • Dead All Along: Never outright said, but certainly possible.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The only time you see some color is when Friend Notifications or Achievement/Trophy alerts pop up, and that's only on the console versions. On Steam, even the Achievement pop-up is black and white except if you're using a custom Steam skin that has color.
  • Determinator: The boy. Also, the giant spider. It really wants to eat you, even when it has only one leg left. The spider even disregards other potential meals when it chases you.
  • Downer Ending: The boy finds his sister. Roll credits. The title screen fades in to the same area, but the player might just see resemblances between the final image and the title screen. See Noodle Incident.
  • Down the Drain: At least one of the sections of the game where you have to outrun water.
  • Eldritch Location: The entirety of Limbo with all its darkness, peril, cruelty of the residents, and the strange gravity levels near the end. You end up inside of it by mysteriously waking up in its forest. You leave it by somehow passing through a magical wall at the last gravity level.
  • Eternal Engine: A large portion of the game is spent amidst electrified rails, buzzsaws, and gear spokes.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: The local ecology is doing its hardest to murder you, and boy will it succeed. There are parasitic brain slugs that will more often than not cause a player to panic and then subsequently perish. There's a giant spider out to turn you into a shish kebab, spikes growing out of the ground. The only time the local plant-life isn't out to get you is when the other humans are. Particularly notable in that instead of having sentient inanimate objects in the usual style of the trope, you quite often end up killed by reactions to the way you change the environment. Break a load-bearing branch? The tree's coming down on you. Don't move out of the way of a platform when gravity is shifting it in your direction? Squish. Press a switch to release a box while you're standing under it? Hope you like that broken neck. Nearly all of the deaths in the last third of the game are impersonal in this sense, projecting a unique aura of helplessness to the proceedings.
  • Featureless Protagonist: He's a silhouette with eyes, and that's it.
  • Fission Mailed: At one point, you get caught by a Giant Spider and get All Webbed Up. However, you are able to struggle free and continue onwards.
  • Follow the Leader: The game is very similar in many ways to Lucidity, except the latter is Lighter and Fluffier, and colorful. Deadlight takes the same aesthetic and play mechanics and puts it in the middle of a Zombie Apocalypse.
  • Giant Spider: The boss in the forest level.
  • Gorn: Touch a bear trap? You get snapped in half. Get hit with a buzzsaw? You get chopped to pieces. Get hit lightly? You get sawed in half with visible entrails. Get squashed? Sticky chunks stretch apart afterward. You can turn on a gore filter in the options that makes the screen cut to black the moment you die, but it doesn't remove the sounds.
  • Gravity Screw: Final section of the game. First only items, then you too. A few sections earlier there is a rotational variation of it though.
  • Hailfire Peaks: The very last part of the game is a mash-up of many previous areas; forest, industrial, part of the hotel sign, and so on.
  • Heartbeat Soundtrack: Not a human heartbeat, but the Giant Spider has a distinctive, low-pitched buzzing noise that plays in the background whenever it's around. It finally stops when you shove the thing into a spike pit.
  • Hell Hotel: More accurately, limbo hotel. A section of the game takes place there.
  • Hope Spot: A few. Most notably the fake ending and the one in the secret level, where after a long and difficult trek dodging sawblades and other industrial dangers in complete darkness you come into a serene, quiet, and well-lit area. Then you're plunged back into the darkness and the machine guns open fire.
  • Infant Immortality: Averted. Big time.
  • Interface Screw: When a brain slug drops on you, you are forced to run in the opposite direction from where you were heading and you can't stop. If you run into a patch of sunlight, you switch direction.
  • Kids Are Cruel: The first third or so of the game is populated by what appears to be a Lord of the Flies-style tribe of evil children, who've set up traps (among other things) for the boy. Also, they seem to set traps for each other as well
  • Kill the Cutie: You will die. A lot.
  • Leap of Faith: A couple of pits are designed to trick you.
  • Light 'em Up: The parasitic brain slugs hate direct light. They can be heard screaming as they force their victim to move away.
  • Lost Woods: The first area in the game is a dark, misty forest. Complete with a giant monster spider wanting to kill you.
  • The Many Deaths of You: So many.
  • Meaningful Name: The game was developed by Playdead.
  • Mind Screw: This trope eventually shows up when the fake ending occurs. The sister is up ahead, but a brain slug turns you around. A light mysteriously appears in the previous area, spinning you forward again; but by the time you get back to where she should be, you're in more of the factory instead.
  • Minecart Madness: A short section of the game.
  • Minimalism: Less is definitely more in this case. No dialogue, no exposition, no fancy controls, no color... and yet, this game wouldn't have nearly the atmospheric impact if it did have any of these.
  • Nightmarish Factory: The Boy traverses an extensive one near the end of the game. Whatever it produced, it involved a lot of flattening and sawing.
  • No Name Given: The child protagonist.
  • Noodle Incident: The kid and his sister are dead. We find that out in the ending and title screen. But how did they both die and why is the rope ladder on their treehouse broken? Maybe it's best we don't know.
  • No OSHA Compliance: Justified. This is limbo after all.
  • No Side Paths No Exploration No Freedom: The game and puzzles are much more rigid than Braid. But secrets are still out there.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: A lot of things in the game are scary specifically because you can't see them clearly � strange bundles lying in the grass or hanging from ropes that might be dead bodies, unearthly creatures that run away or attack you before you can get a good look at them, deserted industrial landscapes and creaking machinery whose function remains a mystery, and so on.
  • Not the Fall That Kills You: Sometimes it's the sawblades.
  • Offscreen Start Bonus: At the very start of the game, going in the wrong direction leads to an egg that provides an achievement.
  • Off with His Head!: Many things can cause this. Simple ordinary bear traps for example.
  • Le Parkour: While the boy doesn't do any of the fancy wall-runs or fence-hops, he does a fair amount of leaping over pits and ledge-climbing.
  • Personal Space Invader: The brain slugs.
  • Post-Processing Video Effects: Film grain.
  • Pressure Plate: Some of the buttons. A rather nasty trap early on has one apparent pressure plate actually being the safe zone for a huge smasher; hopping onto the depressions to its sides is what kills you. This would be less annoying if it wasn't right next to another identical trap where the thing sticking up is the kill-button... and you have to pass through both of them twice.
  • Puppeteer Parasite: Glowing slugs may plop onto your head. They force you to walk or run forward—you can only control your speed, and whether or not you jump. They are sensitive to bright lights, however, and if you run into one, it will sizzle and force you to run in the opposite direction. There are some ceiling-dwelling critters that can reach out and pluck the brain slug from your head, but getting to them is the real challenge. When we first see the slugs in action, it's on another human who's being forced into a pool of water, to drown....
  • Puzzle Boss: A big spider.
  • Rasputinian Death: The aforementioned spider. First you chop three of its legs off with a bear trap, then you lure it into the path of an oncoming boulder, which in turn knocks it over a cliff, then you pull out its last leg, and finally you roll its body into a spike pit.
  • Recurring Boss: The first third or so of the game features repeat appearances by a Giant Spider. The first time you see him he's a Puzzle Boss, the next two times he's an Advancing Wall of Doom, and you finally defeat him in a Curb-Stomp Battle.
  • Rise to the Challenge: One part of the game focuses the player to navigate through sections with rising water.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: The Protagonist removes three of the Spider's limbs to get past it in their first encounter. It pursues him with absurd persistence, ultimately costing the Spider every single one of its other limbs. Special note goes to when it tears through one of the children's camps, tossing children out of its way in its singleminded pursuit of you.
  • Scarecrow Solution: Not long into the forest level, you see some more of those dreaded spider legs poking out from a nearby tree—but they're a fake. The hostile humans in the area set them up to scare you away.
  • Scenery Porn: Breathtaking black and white worlds, combine with effective use of grainy filters, make for a beautiful experience. However, the scenario paints a very grim, hostile world, where no inhabitant is truly safe. Even your enemies.
  • Schmuck Bait: Everywhere, but in particular, the first third of the game.
  • Shadow Discretion Shot: You are always shown as a silhouette with eyes . However, this does nothing to ease away the squickiness and horror of your many, many deaths.
  • Shown Their Work: In the wild, spiders can amputate two or three legs and still survive, as this spider must have done after you injure them. This often causes them to be slower, however, which explains how you were able to outrun it.
  • Smash to Black: An optional example available, which censors the gory deaths of the boy, but leaves the sound in.
  • Spikes Of Doom: In some sections. And you're not the only one vulnerable to them.
  • Stupidity Is the Only Option: The parasitic worms are easy to see. Doesn't matter; you still have to pass under them and get infected. There's no avoiding them.
  • Super Drowning Skills: In any body of water that comes up above your head, you drown almost immediately and sink like a stone. There's an audible cue for near-drowning; the soundtrack will begin to fade and it's only after that point that you'll die. You can still press the movement keys which causes the boy to twitch as he dies...
  • Super-Persistent Predator / Determinator: The spider. It never gives up hunting the kid for as long as it lives, despite having only one leg in its final appearance.
  • Treehouse of Fun: Many of them can be seen. Though "fun" takes a whole different meaning.
  • Trial-and-Error Gameplay: In fact, the developer described it as "trial-and-death" gameplay. Chances are, on your first playthrough, that you'll die quite often while trying to figure out a couple puzzles. The best example of this is the pair of mechanical crushers early on. To avoid causing the first one to fall on you, you must step on the elevated square underneath it. For the second one, you have to avoid an identical square. There's no indication of the solution, other than dying and trying again. It is so easy to die in this game that one of the Xbox achievements for the game is a "no-death run" in which you're allowed to die up to five times and still get the achievement.
  • Videogame Caring Potential: The protagonist is a child. A cute kid who is getting slaughtered by everything. Give it a few deaths and you'll be dodging the puzzles for his sake, not your own.
  • Videogame Cruelty Potential: After beating the game the player has the option of replaying any of the chapters. Kind gamers can enjoy their favorite puzzles over and over while helping the boy reach his goal. Sadistic players can see just how many different ways its possible to kill the poor kid...
  • Weather Control Machine: A somewhat nondescript machine early on makes it rain when activated.
  • Who Forgot the Lights?: Some parts of the game are not recommended to be played during daytime. It's that dark.
  • When It Rains, It Pours: When you turn on a weather machine, it starts raining so hard that the next portion of gameplay is devoted to avoiding drowning in the ever-rising water.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle: A fair bit of the way into the industrial portion of the game, you will emerge in a small forested area, with the treehouse and the girl you were looking for—then a Brain Slug plops onto your head and forces you to run the other way. When you get back, there is no forest or treehouse...

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alternative title(s): Limbo
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