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?
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.
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
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
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
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.
Title: Limbo Console: 360, PS3 & PC Rating: T Developer: Playdead Publishers: Playdead & Microsoft Game Studios Release Date: July 21, 2010