Limbo is so simple, it's brilliant. There are no tutorials, levels in the traditional sense, or cutscenes, and, in fact, the entire game is devoid of color - and yet somehow the world of Limbo hooks you in and captures your imagination. Controls consist only of jump and action buttons and the left stick which is used to move, but its few simple controls allow you to interact with its world in so many ways, and you can learn how to do so purely through intuition. The puzzles can be tough to decipher, but when you do the solutions suddenly seem to be so simple. If you have a soft spot for innovative and well-designed games, or for games that can be viewed as art, then there is no need to read any further – you simply have to experience Limbo.
Limbo eschews the industry maxim that when it comes to graphics, more is more. In Limbo’s black and white world of silhouettes and shadows, less is instead used to create so much more. Limbo manages to exude far more mood and atmosphere than you’ll find in many high profile games. It follows the same philosophy when it comes to sound as well. Minimal musical cues and sound effects are used effectively to convey what they need to the player; and the quiet in between allows you to contribute your own mood and imagination to the game’s atmosphere.
Some may label Limbo as a platformer, but at its heart it is a puzzle game. You’ll have to do your share of jumping, but it’s never done purely for jumping’s sake. When you do, it’s merely a piece of the solution to a greater puzzle. Your journey through Limbo is constantly interrupted by obstacles, and only by determining how to overcome the puzzle each one presents can you continue on your way.
Now the downside of the game’s cleverly designed puzzles is that they inevitably take some experimentation to solve, and while you’re feeling out the interactions available to you you will inevitably die. And you will die a lot. And you will die in oh so many unique and gruesome ways. Wrong moves are rarely forgiven and often the only way to determine that a move is wrong is to make it. If you have a low tolerance for frustration, you are not going to have a good time with Limbo. The game automatically saves a checkpoint at the start of each puzzle, and multipart puzzles will have multiple checkpoints, but even so it can be frustrating to die a dozen or so times while trying to solve a puzzle and then being forced to hit it again from the beginning.
The deaths (and the time it takes to think through a puzzle, of course) help extend your time with what is ultimately a relatively short game. If you’re good with puzzles you can finish it in a couple of evenings, and if you’re not you’ll still probably be done with it in about a week if you stick to it. And once you’re done there’s no replay value to the game unless you’re a bit on the masochistic side and want to try and go for the achievement that requires you to complete the game with five or fewer total deaths.
In spite of its frustrating aspects and short length, Limbo is worth experiencing by anyone who has a love for games and appreciates the effort it takes to craft something unique and succeed in doing so. While that uniqueness may ultimately relegate the game to cult status rather than widespread appeal, one thing that is certain is that Limbo will ultimately dominate any awards given to this year’s most unique and innovative game designs.
In The End, This Game Hath Been Rated: 95%. Limbo shows that there is salvation for an industry stuck in sequel hell.