When Limbo first appeared on the Xbox Live Summer Arcade all those years ago, little was known about it. Soon though, a fanfare built up on its eerie aesthetic and brutal, nightmare inducing deaths. What was so captivating about this game was the unexpected, as Limbo abandoned a lot of what you might expect from a game starring a young boy. The first time a player accidentally steps on a previously unseen bear trap, and they witness the young boy lose his head to the spikes, they jump, scream and shake. Its uncontrollable, unnerving and exhilarating. Limbo features some of the best trial and error platforming seen in recent times, but since its release way back when, can Limbo truly capture an audience that’s seen all its tricks?
There have been so many games that attempted to imitate the claustrophobic atmosphere that creeps out of Limbo, but few have a achieved it. When I first booted up Limbo on the PS4, I expected to breeze through it, as it was one of my favourite games of the last generation, and remembered most of its surprises.
But from the very beginning, seeing the boy lying on the grass, a shiver drew up my spine. There’s something special about Limbo, something in its presence that draws the player into the darkness. Despite my arrogance that this games acclaim came merely from its surprise, I was jolted by its tone. The beautiful black and white scenery that inspires in equal measure a sense of wonder and dread. The puzzles that have the player operate in the grey areas of morality and survival in order to progress. There is no escape from death in Limbo. No matter how well you know the game, there is something you’ve forgotten, a puzzle that might take more than one try, or a just a plain mistake. I knew where the first bear trap was hidden, because I still remember the shock when it first snapped shut. I forgot about the second.
Although the puzzles are never to obscure, Limbo will constantly shift, creating new devious traps and puzzles so you can never become complacent. As you progress through Limbo you’ll find yourself exploring gorgeous and varied locations with seamless transition between them. From Forests to cities, sewers and factories. Each new location feels further and further away from reality, with puzzles growing more and more surreal. At the beginning you’ll be knocking over trees to use as a makeshift boat but by the end you’ll be defying gravity to overcome impossibly large saw blades.
What ties the land of Limbo together is left a mystery, with the plot left equally surreal and vague. Nearly all the hints of narratives are eked out through the gameplay. You are a young boy, in Limbo searching for a girl. Why you’re hunting for her is a matter for the player to decide, but you probably wouldn’t be doing this for someone you hate. It might reek of the classic gaming tropes, but its simplicity lets the player wonder at the larger story: what is Limbo, and what happened to it?
Everyone you meet is either murderous, or psychotic, but the cities suggest harmony was possessed by the residents of Limbo. The game even makes it very evident that you enter a hotel. Why would you need a Hotel in Limbo, unless this is a transient realm that people once travelled through.
Its fun to debate these untold stories as you cautiously edge your way through each level. But don’t get to distracted, as a misstep is often fatal in Limbo.
The platforming is in Limbo is perfect. Although the jumps might feel a little bit floaty, there is a weight to your actions. From scrambling up ledges to running from burning tyres, the movement of this game is blended perfectly to mix the confidence of players and the tension of the game. Everything you need to do is simple and possible within the game, but it might not be easy. Memorising a set of traps of that the you can lead some hunters to their doom is necessary, and offers the perfect mix of challenge and satisfaction.
From its impressive and unwavering artistic direction that helps build a dreadful world, to the tight controls that make it fun to explore, Limbo is a must own for any platform aficionado. If you haven’t already played Limbo, now the time to do it. Although the new generation version offers little to nothing you haven’t already experienced from the old, its superb gameplay is well worth the price of admission. If you’ve already have a copy, you probably won’t need to pick this up, but if its been a while, maybe boot it up again, and experience the dread you thought you had overcome.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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