If Braid was the artistic stone dropped into a stagnant pond then Limbo is surely is one of the resulting ripples, it has some obvious similarities; both titles won awards from the Independant Games Festival, both are 2D platformers with bold art styles and they have both come out exclusively on XBLA as part of Microsoft's Summer Of Arcade which has quickly become the prime real estate for the best titles to aspire to.
Aside from the the title informing that you are making your way through the edge of Hell, there is little in the way of exposition, with devleopers PlayDead simply stating "Unsure of his sister’s fate, a boy enters Limbo"
Where Braid has bright vivid colours Limbo uses only black and white to create a forboding world; cranking up that brightness setting may give you an edge online in those dark maps of your favourite FPS but Limbo builds its worlds completely in greyscale which greatly benefits from blacks and whites being recreated properly on your display.
The dark shades create a simple world thick with atmosphere; the beginning section of the game stands out with some interestingly mapped levels full of personality, later on the locations lose some of this excellent design but still maintain the overall atmosphere. Your imagination tends to do most of the work especially with the macabre death animations which make good use of the physics engine to depict some grisly endings for your fragile character.
Continuing the theme of simplicity is the audio design which is intentionally sparse, the solitary sound of your footsteps is only interrupted by the occasional clank of a puzzle or wind blowing through the forest. Audio cues tie directly into the gameplay which can depend on listening for actions off-screen to help you complete your current objective. When the game does significantly use audio it is often to close out a puzzle with a triumphant musical cherry on top or to enhance the creepy events unfolding on the screen.
Limbo uses a physics model and some crafty environments to construct puzzles which require some lateral thinking and are often easier than they present themselves. The controls are (again) incredibly simple, Move (left stick), Jump (A) and interact (B); with the measured pace of character movement it delivers a more delibrate type of gameplay which relies more on timing than on reactions.
You will be introduced to different objects, mechanics and strategies throughout the campaign and by the end you will be using them all together to tackle the more challenging puzzles. Many rely on you executing actions in a specific sequence which is only really discovered through trial and error and usually results in multiple gruesome deaths. Thankfully the checkpoints are never far away and you arent asked to repeat the mundane build up to get to the part you keep failing. Death becomes almost a mechanic with you hurling the character with reckless abandon to discover ledges, ropes or the sneakily hidden achievement eggs.
The difficultly slowly increases towards the end although never rises to the level of cognitive implosion brought on by some of Braids harder puzzles, still they provide a challenge and are satisfying to work through. There is a noticeable change in environment and gameplay in the latter half of the game, it becomes far more mechanical, with puzzles turning into clear-cut encounters rather than woven into the context of the world as done so well in the introduction. Although the game is technically singleplayer, it's easily one of the best games to watch and one of the hardest to spectate; I often had onlookers happy to jump in and try to complete a task i was struggling on.
With the lack of any context for the adventure the main drive is the mystery of the world and its charcter together with the excellent atmosphere present throughout, leading to a conclusion which explains about as much as the intro did and leaves more questions than answers.
When a game has an achievement for completing it in one sitting, less then 5 hours and with no more than 5 deaths, then it's safe to say that it's not a very long game. The first run through will vary depending on how long you spend staring at each puzzle before the obvious dawns, but at an estimate the average first playthrough can take anywhere from 3-5 hours. Hidden acheievement eggs encourage players to replay for completion but whichever way you slice it there isn't a huge amount of replayablilty here once the wrapping is taken off that first playthrough.
- Fantastic art style
- Subtle sound design
- Simple controls & gameplay
- Short completion time
Limbo Review Xbox 360 Review
1200 pts is a lot to ask for an experience which can last you 3 hours before you never return, yet the excellent art style and strength of the overall experience makes the game greater than the sum total of its parts. The artistic direction almost plays a larger part in the experience than the gameplay itself; ultimately it comes down to how much you enjoy the art and atmosphere created - Limbo is a well crafted experience presented in a wonderfully simplistic design. How much it's worth will be different from person to person, but it's clear everyone should play this game.
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