Every once in awhile, there’s a game that changes our perspective & perception on how a game can be played. Limbo is one of the few indie games that mark an impression at first sight.
The visual design is all black & white, hand-drawn settings that spring life throughout the game. It’s gloomy but capturing imagery with incredible level designs is accompanied by puzzles. Limbo is really a one of a kind game but is it worth purgatory?
You’re a young boy who awakens in a meadow surrounded by darkness. You’re on the search for your sister & you’re the only option is to walk forward. As you explore the setting you’re in; the background changes from a treacherous forest to a dangerous industrial complex.
You must complete a variety of puzzles to advance to the next scene. The tone & setting are very dark. The sense of being defenseless surrounds you since the protagonist is a mysterious young boy with no name. If you’re not able to successfully evade traps or complete puzzles you may end up dying.
Even though it hurts the heart to see a child die in such vicious ways, it makes it all the more satisfying when you’re able to successfully complete an obstacle.
You start off in a secluded forest filled with hazards around every corner. As the player progresses, they are able to notice that the environment is inhabited by people but have no idea who they are. Limbo plays very well with the imagination.
As the whole setting is black & white, the player is only able to notice silhouettes. Everything in the first layer of the screen is black. To extend its depth, the backgrounds show opacity to add further detail to the surrounding location.
The physics engine is unique but it feels like the young boy is a rag doll, as the physics are interesting, they aren’t as exact and sometimes it feels that the movement of the boy seems to float, especially when he jumps however; when trying to evade traps or solve puzzles.
Its all about timing, less than a second can kill you. The boys only “super power’s” are the gift of push, pull & move levers, switches or buttons besides jumping.
There is no narration, no words; there is literally no explanation on how to play the game. The only thing you’re given is the buttons to move & the action button to complete tasks.
The game is simple but its simplicity creates complexity as with any profound design. The ways the puzzles are set are invigorating and attractive. It’s sometimes a simple problem that takes a while to resolve.
The player must understand how the basic mechanics apply physics to the surrounding environment. As the player progresses through obstacles, they become more difficult.
For each chapter, there are different types of level designs. Some involve a leech that attaches to the boys head and causes the player to move in a certain direction.
The player is unable to control the direction of movement, only speed. You must find rays of light that burn the leech to move in the opposite direction.
Other puzzles involve gravity, magnets, electricity, illumination, water, heights & dangerous machinery. The player must understand that to resolve any puzzle, the player must comprehend how the silhouettes, the overall artistic design of the game, has a large influence on how to complete puzzles because the illumination coexists with the resolution of the obstacle.
Take a moment to look at how the grass blows in the wind. Even though its graphically not as technically impressive, it’s the way Limbo ebbs & flows throughout its animation to produce simple yet sensual backgrounds that never seem to look unattractive.
It’s the sounds that accompany the player as they explore deeper that add more vibe to the game. Small details like flies that surround the boy or how the sounds match perfectly as you walk across water, grass, & metal apart from all the eerie & natural sounds of the area.
The game is short & could take at most up to 5 hours to complete. There isn’t any replay value besides collecting a couple of white fireflies scattered in different areas to unlock other options.
But besides a majestic background with intriguing puzzles and an atmosphere that’s not as advanced as the majority of modern games, its overall visual design surpasses because of its simplicity, it’s a game you’d have to experience at least once.
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