Reviews: Limbo

A Pretty Perfect Puzzle Platformer

Limbo is an indie game done right. It has a powerful creepy(it's not horror) atmosphere and distinctive black and white artstyle that runs throughout the game, working well as the small child is driven through the forest slowly into an industrial hellhole, and the atmosphere is layered and complimented and understands how everything it does makes the player feel. The game will open up into a small outdoor area with grass and butterflies to make you feel hope and then dash it as it quickly gives way to the industrial parts. There's no text, no dialogue, no instructions, yet it's not completely meaningless and it's possible to be able to make some sense of the events and put bits of information together, to have some grip of what's going on.

And the gameplay perfectly reflects the tone and atmosphere that is the chief purpose of the game, both through the mechanics (one of which involves a small parasite borrowing into your brain and taking limited control of your body) and through the player experience. You will die a lot, in unpleasant ways, which reinforces the tone and the themes of creepy things effectively. But after death play resumes seamlessly and death feels more like a learning experience than a punishment.

And it feels like an experience too. It breaks down at some points towards the end but generally the puzzles don't feel like arbitary creations to test yourself against and it doesn't feel like there are levels or any other construct. From the start of the game to the end, you never aren't in control of you character moving through the world and travel is used so well to both make the puzzles natural and instinctively establish what is part of the puzzles or not.

And the puzzles themselves are unobtrusive. They're mainly physics based, but not of the giant-floating-seesaw Valve kind, but in that the solutions rely on that fact that ropes swing and things slide, so you can think of them in real terms, which helps sustain immersion. Everyone one is a beautiful example of game design.

My only two criticisms are this, I found the jumping a little clunky sometimes and at the beginning it seems to suggest the story may become more concrete, but it doesn't. Still it's infinitely better than Braid or Dear Esther and here the minimalism is more meaningful and appropriate, and the ending is interesting.