Monday, July 11, 2011

Limbo: Further Proof that Games are Art

The video game landscape has changed drastically since its inception not over 30 years ago, and as technology increases in strength and main stream becomes more and more broad, it's amazing to see the amount of independent video game design companies sprouting up left and right today on current consoles, a platform originally intended to strike gold for triple-A console releases. Limbo is a very big example of how powerful these tiny companies can be with limited resources (compared to the larger game companies).

Limbo is a well crafted 2-D puzzle/platformer from Playdead that will astound with it's ambiguous but chilling story and incredibly moody atmosphere. You play as a little boy who must travel through limbo in order to rescue his little sister. The progression of the story is then left open to interpretation of the player. There is no dialogue and very little music for that matter. The events that unfold are miniscule when looked at along side the events of other games, but it is because of the atmosphere that Limbo creates that every thing that happens just makes you jump and makes every little thing that happens feel heavy and meaningful to what you do next.

The Children. Do Not Trust Them.

The visuals are black and white, which really shoots up the creepiness factor. With an almost water color style to the art work, the developers really played to the strengths of this spectrum, hiding dangers and solutions inside the black for the player to spot. Using black and white also allowed Playdead to build suspense subtly. Once second you're walking along trying to figure out what is coming next when out of the corner of your eye you see the ceiling produce a long, hairy black spider leg move in and out of the blackness. It is fantastic

The sounds, or a lack of sound, help build a much tenser game play. This feeling of anticipation really builds when all you hear is the sound of your own foot steps, and all that is amplified when you realize the dark, creepy background music is getting louder. Sometimes less is more, and this is definitely one of those situations where it pays off.

However, the sound and the look are only accents to what is truly creepy about the game: the death sequences. For a game with only a monochromatic color scheme and no blood, the deaths can be very unsettling. It might be the extremely realistic physics engine that shows the movement of limp bodies perfectly, or the lack of any break in the fourth wall with a "Game Over" screen as you stare at the boy falling limply to his death. Or maybe the fact that the boy moves like a real boy. His jump is meager and he has no real way of defending himself from foes and all of this adds with the visuals and the sound to create a very immerse atmosphere that only shows how much talent the team at Playdead has.

The Art Style is Amazing.

The puzzles in the game are great brain benders that will leave some frustrated. I admit that I succumbed and looked up two of the solutions online ( is amazing, for those of you whom don't know), but the sense of achievement for successfully finishing a puzzle on your own is incredibly fulfilling, especially for the later puzzles (I personally love the last puzzle).

Overall, Limbo is a fantastic little game that packs a punch powerful enough to stand it's own against many major title releases. The game play is solid (and fair) and the presentation is spot on. I played this game with a group of friends watching pretty much from start to finish and every single one of us were equally entertained and disturbed by this little title.

9.5 out of 10

Here are a few other quick links for more information on Limbo:
IGN.Com's Review:
The game's official site:
Gamefaqs (You will probably need them!):

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