Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Let's Review: Limbo

 Limbo first caught my eye with its simple and eerie yet inviting aesthetic. I'd seen some screenshots and was captivated by the depth of field and layered look of strong bold foreground elements and faded but intricate background elements. The composition of nearly every scene is striking. I wanted to know the game and indulge in its look. But then there was this massive spider and suddenly I didn't care how pretty it was... I just wanted to survive.

Spiders are icky.
 The character you play is a little boy presumed to be in Limbo, looking for a little girl. Their relationship is never explained and even at the end, it's ambiguous at best. The contents of the game were at times disturbing, but even though these violent and often cruel areas exist, the whole thing was overall quite placid and calm. However, many awful fates can happen to your character, and those he meets along the way. The overall silence in the game added to the bleak hope of making it through alive.

 I began the game having no real idea what it was about, but quickly needed to get my brain into gear as I discovered its puzzles. They start off simple, as with any game, involving elements like: push this box here to jump up there... use that floating corpse to hop across the lake... push a bear trap towards the giganto spider's leg in the hopes that it will crush its soul enough that it would leave you alone (not the case, spiders have no souls). And then things started getting more complicated, puzzles were becoming time dependent. If you didn't solve them in time or act fast enough, you were subject to drowning, crushing, falling into the abyss, skewering (by a spider's legs... ew) or my favourite, being mind controlled by a glowing worm thing that doesn't like light but will gladly set you in the way of certain death while ending its own life. For me, time based puzzles are stressful enough, but in failing to complete them and seeing all the oh so many ways you can end your little boy characters life, added an extra edge of urgency. On the upside, the game is so smooth  and simple that there is very little respawn time, so you can get right back to the puzzle and try again. And again.

Oh yeah, you can get electrocuted and sawn in two as well!
 Thankfully though the puzzles are mostly based on simple physics. Midway and late game puzzles dealt with water, weight and gravity. Some of the water ones involved buoyancy and for some reason, they had me stumped most of the time. I don't know why I failed to grasp them so.

 I felt the difficulty of the game followed a smooth curve as I went, I did come up against some mental brick walls a few times, but I feel that was down to me not being observant enough. There were no real times that I wanted to give up though. I had to show this game who was boss (still not me) and carry on.

Gravity logic.
 Being a side scrolling puzzle game, its very linear and except for a few diversions to collect eggs (the games answer to secret bonuses) there is only one route to take. This didn't bother me, the game was taking a journey and I was a passenger.

 As with most things that end in ambiguity, it left me wanting more. I had questions. But after reading a little more into the developers thoughts on the game, I was saddened to hear there was nothing more to offer than the game itself. But I got over it. I enjoyed the game for what it was and when ever I'm asked about it, I do recommend it. Even if you are a renowned arachnophobe such as myself. For me, the fact that it left me questioning, tells me it had done its job. There are some games or films I have encountered that were done badly, instead of me asking questions about the content and possible back story I was left asking "what was the point of all that?"... rhetorically of course. So, to me, this game ends in a good way.

 The game took me a little under a week, playing 2 hours a day to finish, however I was coming to the game brand new and it'd been a while since I'd done any puzzle games. I'd say it's a reasonable length for an indie game and its price (£6.99 on Steam) reflects that value. I know its possible to do speed runs of the game, providing you know the ins and outs of every puzzle, and there are achievements for dying as little as possible. I feel this adds a little to its replay value, however if you are not an achievement hunter then this can feel like a grind.

This puzzle will foil all attempts at achieving "five or less deaths"
 I do like this game, half of my mind wants to call it a dear, sweet game when thinking about the art style and the looks, but the other half reminds me of the unforgiving nature of the puzzles and the occasional dangling of something hopeful just at the edge of your vision, only to have it torn away from you when you get closer. It's still lovely though.

 News from the developers of Limbo, Playdead, promises a second game in the future. It may or may not link to this first game, but many ideas that didn't make it into Limbo have been considered in the new project. Excited? Yeah me too!

 I hope you enjoyed this review, feel free to comment and let me know your opinion of the game, I would love to hear it, and also if you haven't yet played the game, I hope you will give it a go and again, I would like to know what you thought .

 You can watch my full play through of Limbo here on my channel. It's all set up in a neat playlist!

 My next review will be of Tomb Raider: Underworld which I played early last year.

 Thank you for reading, have a lovely day, happy gaming and I will speak to you all next time! Buh-bye!

1 comment:

  1. I like how the whole "innocent little boy and the nice back story you can imagine" stand against the whole horrible stuff and world he has to survive. It's all good and evil, black and white that leaves you not knowing what this really is. His limbo and the gameplay leaves you hanging too. That's what I felt all the way through watching your LP.