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Game Review: Limbo

Why do brand new video games always cost more?  I’ve never understood that.  I guess publishers figure if you’re willing to buy the game the day it comes out, you won’t mind paying the extra money.  But really, it’s better to be patient & wait.  Not only does the price of the game go down, but sometimes they’ll add bonuses to the game to entice the stragglers.  For example, Dragon Age: Origins The Ultimate Edition was released in October of 2010 & included not only Origins & Awakening but all nine DLC’s, all for the same price as the regular game.  Given that the DLC’s alone cost about $84, that’s a major bargain.

The same can be said for Limbo.  This Indie game was originally an XBLA exclusive, but now is available retail as a combo.  The Limbo 3 Pack (as Gamefly calls it) includes three popular Indie games: Limbo, ‘Splosion Man & Trials HD.  So now everyone, even people without XBL can enjoy these unique games.  But how good a game is Limbo?

My personal opinion: the boy’s already dead & literally in Limbo

Limbo is an artsy 2D platformer/puzzle game.  There’s a lot of discussion about what the story actually means, as it’s a bit esoteric.  However, without getting into a philosophical debate, I can say that the story involves a small boy trying to find his way through a dark & dangerous world.  Along the way you’ll face giant spiders, strange people & machinery that would like nothing more than to relieve you of your limbs.

The city setting was my favorite part of the game

Gameplay is a combination of platforming & puzzles.  Both require a combination of brain power & coordination.  Usually to reach the next platform you’ll need to solve a puzzle in some round-about way.  Puzzles range from outrunning a giant spider to escaping a flooding room.  The controls are limited but straightforward.  You can run, jump, climb, push & pull items.

Narrative: Ignoring the debate, there isn’t much of a story to go on.  The boy wakes up in the middle of a dark forest & must survive.  That’s it.  There’s no explanation as to why the boy is or how he got there, or even where he’s going to.  All I could logically gather about your goal, aside from “Don’t die,” is that you’re trying to reach some girl.  Who is she & why are you trying to reach her?  No one knows.  And while I’m sure some people like the ambiguity of the plot & drawing (or rather jumping to) conclusions, for the most part I just couldn’t figure it out.  I’m all about the player interpreting events, but I need clues to go on.  I suppose the game is mostly about symbolism, but left me feeling more confused than anything.  Score: 2

Did I mention this game is dark?

Mechanics: This game is hard.  Expect to die a lot.  First you’ll die because you didn’t know you’d reached a puzzle.  Then you’ll die because you tried to solve it incorrectly.  Then you’ll die a few more times because you figured out how to solve it but you just can’t do it.  That’s really where Limbo gets hard at: not so much working out how to solve a puzzle but actually being able to do it.  A lot of puzzles require split-second timing.  You will definitely scream at your tv.  To give you a better idea of how hard it is, instead of having an achievement for making it through the game without dying once, Limbo has an achievement for dying less than five times.  Thankfully, the game autosaves quite often, so when you do die, you’ll typically start at the beginning of the puzzle again.  That being said, the puzzles are quite well done, & you’ll never have the same solution twice.  For example, there are a couple of times when you have to find away across a patch of water that you can’t swim across.  One time you use a log, the next you use a crate, & the next you use the dead body of someone who apparently drowned himself (did I mention this game is dark & bleak).  The controls usually work well, with one exception.  To climb up on something you’ll sometimes have to push up on the analogue stick.  This can be frustrating when you’re trying to run through a timed section & instinct tells you to keep pressing right.  So overall, the design of the game is good but it can get a bit too frustrating.  Score: 3

Proves a game doesn't need bright colors to be pretty.

Proves a game doesn’t need bright colors to be pretty.

Aesthetics: The graphics are probably the best part of the game.  Although the colors are various shades of black & gray, the difference between light & dark is visually striking.  Not only is the color choice interesting, but the level design is impressive in a few places.  Some of the more impressive parts are the giant spider & the city skyscape with the Hotel sign.  There isn’t much in the way of sound.  There’s no music, only ambient sounds as you travel, such as footsteps, gears cranking or rain.  That being said, the sound does add to the lonely, desolate feel of the game.  Score: 5

Replay Value: For me at least, very low.  By the end of the game I was so happy to be done.  And I consider myself a patient person.  People with less patience will probably quite before they finish.  Regardless, there isn’t much reason to play through more than once unless you just really loved the game or are trying for some kind of time limit.  Score: 2

Breakdown

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Overall Score: 3

Final Word: Although not a bad game by any means, Limbo can be a bit too hard at times.  I personally think the challenge of a puzzle game should come from solving the puzzle, not executing the solution.  But for all my complaints, I do think people should check out this game for the artistic style.  If you haven’t already played it, rent it.

– GamerDame

Title: Limbo
Console: 360, PS3 & PC
Rating: T
Developer: Playdead
Publishers: Playdead & Microsoft Game Studios
Release Date: July 21, 2010
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Filed under 3, PC, Platformer, PS3, Puzzle, Reviews, XBox 360, XBox Live

First Impressions: Limbo

You know an Indie game is popular when it gets released on a disk for the general public.  But can you really call it an indie game after that?  Sell outs!  But I kid.  I think it’s more than a little hypocritical to only support something because it isn’t “mainstream,” parading around shouting about how it’s great & deserves more attention, only to turn around & criticise when it does become popular.  It’s like being goth (or is it emo now?) to be different, when really you’re only falling into another stereotype.  No offense if you’re goth or emo & reading this, but you know it’s true.

But I digress…

Limbo is one such game that has gained mainstream fame.  In April of this year, it was released on a combo pack along with Splosion Man & Trials HD.  After hearing people go on & on about how great a game it was, how thought-provoking & artistic it is, I rented the combo disc from Gamefly.

For the most part, the game has been what I expected.  The art style is unique & impressive.  You’d think a game that’s mostly just light & shadow would be bland, but there’s a surprising amount of detail in the environment.  It is a bit strange how the boy’s eyes shine even when going through a cave or something.

One thing I wasn’t expecting was how hard it would be.  Perhaps “hard” isn’t the right word.  The game relies a lot on trial & error for its “puzzles” (I say it that way because they’re not always the traditional idea of a puzzle).  However, the game will usually restart you just before you latest death, so it’s not like having to replay a whole level again.

My favorite part so far was when I finally got to kill the stupid spider git that’d been chasing me for the first part of the game.  To understand my joy, you must first understand how badly arachnophobia I am.  I hate spiders!  Unless they’re tiny, I have to get someone else to kill them for me.  If I try to kill one, miss, & it gets away, I get paranoid that it’s plotting against me.  I can’t even watch spiders on tv.  So imagine my dismay when I got chased several times by a creepy arachnid.  After snipping its legs off with a trap & throwing it off a ledge with a boulder, I finally got the pull its single remaining leg off with my bare hands.  I jumped up & down in joy for about a minute (in the game) before further desecrating the body by rolling it around & jumping off it.

Overall, the game has a macabre, depressing theme to it.  And not just in the visuals.  There are other aspects that seem a depressing.  Like when you die & the camera stays there for a moment as if to let the goriness sink in, or how your head flies off like it’s attached with masking tape.  Eventually you start to get paranoid.  Everything that doesn’t look right while make you shout out, “Trap!”

Hopefully, I’ll finish Limbo sometime this week & have my full review of it.

– GamerDame

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