|Stylistic, spooky, brainteasing, FUN!|
Loneliness is perhaps one of the worst feelings that we as human beings can experience. Imagine being alone in a world of darkness and your life constantly in danger from the inhabitants and environment of the world. Enter LIMBO; a downloadable independent title for the Xbox Live Arcade and perhaps one of the best of its kind. The game is pure artistic genius combined with minimalist platforming and puzzle solving ingeniously designed to be difficult yet doable.
The story is very hard to figure out due to the fact that there are no cut scenes or dialogue in the game. From what I've read the story is that a boy desperate to rescue his sister has entered Limbo (which is basically the edge of Hell) in an attempt to find her and must survive the horrors of this hellish realm. While this is not a very strong aspect of the game it certainly adds a bit to the mystique of this game and allows the player his/her own interpretation of the story. The game definitely has a Stephen King and Lovecraftian feel to it in its sense of mystery and terror.
LIMBO is presented in a style known as Film Noir which is a form of German Expressionism in film where the picture is presented in a low key black-and-white visual style. This art style works PERFECTLY in this game as it adds a feeling of bleakness to this boy's journey through Limbo. Everything is in black and white which means the designers are able to cleverly hide shadowy traps in the dark landscape which will put a rather violent end to our hero's journey.
While the game is not overtly bloody it is very graphic as the hero can be killed in numerous gruesome ways such as being decapitated by over-sized bear traps or impaled by a massive spider. The background is also very gruesome as you kind find bodies hanging by nooses and sometimes are even forced to desecrate dead human bodies by using them as platforms to cross a pond and to break a tripwire causing the body to be crushed. The Film Noir art style combined with the game's subliminal brutality help to enhance feeling of loneliness, foreboding, and fear for the boy’s life as no one wants to see a child killed especially at the hands of a giant spider.
If anything can enhance a mood it is definitely sound and music or the lack of such aspects. Music is almost non-existent in LIMBO except for brief moments and when it plays it will definitely send chills down your spine and maybe even cause you to jump in fright as the timing of these brief moments of music is spot on and will almost always provoke a reaction from the player even on later playthroughs.
Sound effects on the other hand are plentiful and are one of the biggest contributors to the game's mood. Ranging from the lonely footsteps of the boy, the heavy click of a pulled lever, to the chirping of insects in the woods these SFX will draw you into the game and keep you listening for the sounds of freedom or an approaching grisly fate.
LIMBO is a minimalist platformer, meaning that the actions the player can make the boy do are limited to running, jumping, pushing, and pulling. However the puzzles in this game are so ingeniously designed that it adds a degree of complexity despite the simple nature of the controls. I can't tell you much about them for fear of ruining them but the puzzles are all very different and are all very satisfying to solve.
The game is realistic in terms of health meaning that one misstep such as stepping on a bear-trap or falling from a high distance will result in death and you will be dying very frequently on the first playthrough as the game is very much trial and error, however there is little consequence for death; at worst you will respawn a couple of steps from the area of death. If you're a fan of platformer/adventure games such as Out of This World, Oddworld, or Heart of Darkness, this game should be right up your alley.
There is not much in terms of replayability but there some achievements that can be unlocked through hidden eggs you can find plus the achievement for finishing the game without dying more than five times (Which I cannot do).
This game is proof that video games can be considered art. The Film Noir art style, the creepy atmosphere and sounds, and fiendishly clever puzzles all make for a very unique gaming experience. Although it is a tad bit difficult this game is a perfect addition to any Xbox 360 hard drive.
I totally recommend this game for anyone. The difficulty and spooky nature of the game may turn some away but it is definitely a game worth having (especially for only 12$)