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Cian Hassett
22 Jul, 2010

Limbo Review

360 Review | Innocence is a beautiful thing.
Before we start let's get one thing straight, Limbo shouldn't be judged against 2008's Braid. Sure, they're both 2D platform titles with a similar goal, but that's where the comparisons end. While Braid was awash with colour and revolved around time bending puzzles, Limbo is a much darker experience entirely. Critics often pray for an independent developer to create something special, and that's exactly what Playdead has managed to do. It's difficult to compare Limbo with any other game on current consoles. Ico for PlayStation 2 is just about the only example that springs to mind. Here's proof that you don't need the latest piece of technology to make a great game, you just need some creative spark and a vision. The Xbox Live Arcade is home to many gorgeous exclusive titles, most of which retail for less than a fifth of high profile releases. Now it has one more.

Limbo begins without any form of introduction. There's no establishment of characters, plot or control scheme; leaving you with the task of learning how the game works. The opening scene places you in a woodland area, where the shape of a child can be seen lying on the ground. From this point, you'll need to initiate proceedings with the tap of a button. Two white lights will flicker and eventually stay constant; once this happens, your journey through a frightening world begins. The boy's quest to reach his sister won't be easy. Pits housing treacherous spikes and a giant spider are two early obstacles that players will need to overcome. Gameplay involves numerous puzzles, all of which are intricately designed. Everyone who plays through Limbo will, without question, meet a puzzle that baffles them. Trying to figure out a solution, and realising that each object has a place and purpose, will ultimately conclude with an enormous sigh of relief and satisfaction; the likes of which few puzzle games can conjure up so brilliantly. Granted, these scenarios play a crucial role in keeping Limbo so engaging; but there's also something else, something that we haven't seen in a long time. A true emotional connection between player and character. The boy personifies innocence; his delicate movement, those eyes that can somehow convey a sense of dread, the heartwarming story. It's difficult to describe with words, but you're going to feel attached to this little black outline.

Tread softly, you could find anything around here...

Tread softly, you could find anything around here...
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That leads onto the next point, as you'll notice that Limbo isn't a colourful game. From forests to factories, the world is portrayed using a mixture of black, white and grey. Screenshots alone won't be able to convey how natural and haunting this world is, nor will they be able to show you the fluid movements of characters and creatures. Every minute of Limbo is shown through a retro filter, similar to an old fashioned projector. All of this helps to create one of the most unsettling and eerily beautiful environments that you're ever likely to witness. The atmosphere is key, because without it, Limbo would lack the sense of fear that it evokes so incredibly well. Walking through a dark cave will see your character disappear apart from his white gaze, sending shivers down your spine, and this furthermore increases your urge to help this little boy in a desperate attempt to find his sister. Even though Limbo centers around an innocent child, that doesn't mean he won't be the subject of a gruesome death or two. In a brave move by the developers, you're going to see this adorable fellow being plucked apart from each joint, falling through spikes amid gallons of blood, struggling for breath while the light fades from his eyes, and frequently electrocuted. There's a continuing impression that it's your duty to help him, and the prevailing sense of urgency only heightens this. Anyone with a heart will feel disappointed in themselves for letting such a fragile soul meet death in this manner, creating a close bond, the likes of which Fumito Ueda would be proud of.

As a way of keeping the player connected and fully enveloped within this fantasy, the HUD has been completely removed. You won't find any regenerating shield meters or giant red hearts, because almost every mistake leads to instant death. Playing Limbo with the lights turned off makes it all the more stunning to look at. From pencil to pixel, the vision has been digitalised in impeccable fashion. On the other hand, audio has been tackled in a different manner. In most cases, music will enhance the atmosphere of a video game. However, with Limbo, the developer has wisely chosen to follow an alternate path. Parents will often ask their children in an empty room; what's that sound? Silence. Limbo is devoid of a soundtrack, instead placing the emphasis on sound effects as a way of increasing the fearful atmosphere that's present from start to finish. Aside from the brief moment of sound that kicks in once players have solved a puzzle; the only noises that can be heard are of cogs turning, valves hissing, water dripping and the visceral dismemberment of limbs. Very few games can achieve this level of atmosphere without using an orchestra or some form of music. It's this lack of sound that makes progression increasingly tense, a trait which can clearly be seen in Ico's spiritual successor, Shadow of the Colossus. It mightn't last for the same length of time, but Limbo is equally engrossing and brilliant, just like its influential brothers.

Please don't let him fall. Please.

Please don't let him fall. Please.
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Microsoft has received an expected backlash to the pricing of new release titles on Xbox Live. It's understandable to see people refusing to pay twenty dollars for a game that only lasts between three and fours hours. Ironically, a lot of these people crave originality so there needs to be a compromise somewhere. Take into account that many full retail games nowadays last for a mere six hours, and you'll see that Limbo really is great value, especially when one playthrough isn't enough. Using a walkthrough is the wrong way to go about playing Limbo, total enjoyment can only be found by maxing out the work rate of your brain cells. After reaching the emotional and poignant ending, you'll notice that Limbo is full of little secrets. Ten achievements relate to finding hidden eggs, and all of them are a joy to find. If you're a completionist, then you're going to revel in the challenge of unlocking the final achievement; finishing Limbo in one session with five deaths or less. Even the most hardened fans will struggle, but rest assured, there's plenty of quality to warrant the price tag.

Genuinely, Limbo is probably as close as you can get to perfection on Xbox Live. Outstanding design, glorious visuals, an unquestionable sense of maturity and emotion; it's rare to see all of these attributes culminate into a single piece of gaming genius. If you choose not to play Limbo, you'll be missing one of the most inspiring games this generation has seen. If you believe that video games are an art-form, then this is your Mona Lisa.
The Score
In a realm where creativity can so often be found lacking, Limbo stands out as one of the greatest independent games you're likely to find.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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30 Comments
3 years ago
It really is a great game, I couldn't help compare most of it Braid though and I still think Braid is the better game. But this is just short of it. If Limbo had a stronger narrative it would be something truly amazing.
3 years ago
I don't get the Braid comparisons. The only things the games seem to share is that they are artistic indie platformers. Everything else couldn't be more different.

Picked the game up as soon as I saw it up on the store. From what I played, it's pretty great but not as impressive as the hype had led me to believe. The cheap deaths are also pretty annoying but not enough to turn me off. The atmosphere though... my god, this game get full marks for that. I played last night with the lights off and sound up and and I swear I was right there. It's quite the experience.
3 years ago
Sounds amazing. I'm glad this game is getting such rave reviews.
3 years ago
PALGN wrote
It's understandable to see people refusing to pay twenty dollars for a game that only lasts between three and fours hours.
I think it's about time we blew this argument clear out of the water, as those same people will pay full price for a game that lasts only a few hours longer. $20 for a game that lasts twice as long as most movies and is also more memorable - what's the problem?

EDIT: Spot the concept art in the media gallery.
3 years ago
Yeah, I don't really understand this expectation that simply because a game doesn't get put into a case and onto a shelf it somehow shouldn't cost more than $10...

Stoked to read that it delivers what it promised, will be getting this ASAP.
3 years ago
Nah, I don't like this game...reviewer rated the game way too high!
3 years ago
I agree GooberMan. Let's put this into perspective.
You can go and spend $17 to see a movie which lasts around 2 hours.
1200 MSP is comparable and you're getting an experience arguably more fulfilling that passively watching a film at the cinema. And you can continue to use it as much as you like.
I can't wait to download this one.
3 years ago
Compared to Braid? Braid was a very heavy puzzle focused platformer and this one feels more like a Survival Horror game to me.

As for the price. I guess if you think longer playtime equals value then this will be bank breaking. But for its sheer quality in overall production, the price is warranted. But that's just me.

Well done to the developers though. This is what I love about these digitally distributed games. One great idea in small doses will eventually lead to a wider acceptance of new ideas and originality and hopefully permeate thru the mainstream "packaged" gaming. I doubt it, but I can hope.

Great review Cian.
3 years ago
3 years ago
hahaha that was awesome. Funny thing is that limbo is 1/6th of the retail price of full retail games, which usually retail around 120-110. Even if they are 99 dollars thats still 5 times the price.

You could buy 5 1200 point games. Even if they are only 4-5 hours each that means your getting a 20-25 game that changes to something new and exciting every 5 hours.

Funny thing is alot of arcade games these days are just as good if not better than full retail games. Best of all they are not just shooters with an online multiplayer that lasts a week before everyone goes back to halo and cod

Will be getting this game as soon as I get to the shop and buy some points. I wish deathspank and shank were part of the summer/winter of arcade so that I could have got back the 1200 points, but oh well
3 years ago
Got this game last night, played for three hours. PHENOMENAL. Love it, and I didnt like Braid. Makes you think laterally, ingenious. Gorgeous. Wonderful.
3 years ago
Whether it's 5, 10, 15 or 20.. if it's a good game, I'm still gonna buy it. It's that simple really. However, I do sometimes feel a bit ripped off if the game doesn't last very long.. or feels short. If it doesn't feel short, even if it is short, then it's all good. All good things come to an end.. but if it felt like a good experience, then that's ok if it was a little shorter than other experiences. Should they charge less for a rollercoaster because it's over in 20 seconds? As compared to the merry-go-round which lasts for 10 minutes?
3 years ago
ask capcom, the dead rising thing goes for 25 minutes
3 years ago
That's weird...

'liken'

Haha.
3 years ago
ok - played the demo - incredibly fantastic atmosphere - however the deaths have put me off. being a father of a 1 year old, it actually hurts when the deaths happen! Hats off to the developer to evoke such emotion - (I didnt find harvesting in Bioshock that offensive!)
3 years ago
I think I'm going to give out and buy it. Just looks too good to miss out on lol. As far as the cost goes I don't think measuring it by value for money(as far as length goes) is right but certainly at the higher price point it makes it harder to be an instant buy. But just based on the reception and bits of video I've seen on it, it has sold me. I did buy Deathspank for that price and this looks a lot cooler.
3 years ago
palgn upselling 360 content? It happens.

For godsake, you rated it as high as SMG2.
3 years ago
I must have missed the memo about SMG2 being the new glass ceiling for game review scores.

I've only played the demo of Limbo, and I'm more excited about buying and playing the full version than I am about buying and playing SMG2 (and I loved the first).

This game is clever, left of center, and it just oozes the care and thought that were put into making it. Limbo reviews well because it is a brilliant game, it really is that simple.


Edit: Also, shiraj - completely agree. When facing the quasi boss-encounter at the end of the demo, the part of me that wanted to see what happened when I got too close... was actually outweighed by my not wanting to see that little glowing-eyed boy get mauled. I can't put my finger on it, but there is something genuinely endearing about him.
3 years ago
Hallowed be thy super mario, for no others shall be worshipped as false idols....begone lucipher, begone limbo
3 years ago
Reminds me of A Boy and his Blob... except much darker.
3 years ago
waz79 wrote
palgn upselling 360 content? It happens.

For godsake, you rated it as high as SMG2.
Stupid comparison is stupid.
3 years ago
I'd pay $25 for this on PSN, looks amazing!
3 years ago
Went into the demo completely blind.

My room was completely silent bar the slight whine of my 360's fans.

Bear trap goes off.

So does the wee down my leg.

>_>
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  21/07/2010 (Confirmed)
Publisher:
  Xbox Live Arcade
Year Made:
  2010
Players:
  1

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