Review: Limbo (PSN)
A work of art. That’s exactly what Playdead has crafted with the release of Limbo. The game is a little over a year old, being originally released on XBLA, and now available for PSN users. It takes everything you know about a classic side-scrolling platformer and turns it into something simple and quite deep. How can a game such as this provide a deep experience? Well, let’s just say that even after a full year players are still discussing the ending, sharing their own interpretations of it. That’s how you know you’ve made something worthy of much praise. But why is Limbo so special? Find out in our official review of the PSN port below.
Upon a first glance you may stop and think to yourself: How is this game one with such critical acclaim? And I don’t blame you. The game’s visuals are very minimalistic with only the presence of black and white, giving the world around you a very dreary atmosphere. Even the fuzzy frame around the screen works wonders to get that haunted dream-like atmosphere across. It’s like you’re playing a bad dream, one that may or may not be one you won’t wake up from.
Yeah, it may not be full of vivid colors and other special effects that the current mainstream audience may be used to, but Limbo’s presentation is actually what makes it unique and therefore enhances the overall experience. You can’t help but be affected by this world’s invoked sense of depression as you take on the role of a young boy looking for his missing sister (the reason for this is still a hot topic amongst the game’s fanbase) after waking up in a dark forest. That’s all there really is in the way of direct story-telling, besides the ending, of course, the rest is up to the player to piece together (which has led to many engaging discussions).
Another thing that is noticeably lacking is any form of music in the traditional sense, which, again, enhances the overall experience. There are some moments that bring forth short bursts of the game’s moody score, but for the most part the audio here is composed of environmental sounds which at times will even make you afraid of going any further. One such moment was pretty early in the game when The Boy was faced with a huge spider (which in and of itself has a deeper meaning than one would think). Just the plain sight of it proved to be quite creepy but then, after “defeating” it for the first time it comes back to chase you, with the thuds of its legs fiercely hitting the ground sending chills down my spine.
Like the visuals, the game’s controls are quite simple. Like any classic platformer, you’ll be doing lots of jumping and running. You’ll also be tasked to solve many environmental puzzles that, trust me, you’ll most likely fail at upon your initial attempts, especially the later puzzles found when you get to the game’s more industrial levels which can get pretty hectic. But that’s the name of the game: trial-and-error. Sure you may die a few times but you’ll learn from it and end up overcoming whatever obstacle is tempting you to fling your controller across the room. Oh, and after being witness to this many times (due to the game’s increasing difficulty) it’s still disturbing to see The Boy get brutally killed throughout the game (especially the first time you witness the bear-trap death sequence).
There are also some moments interspersed that provide a spin on what you become grown accustomed to in terms of traversal. In certain levels you have leeches that fall and plant themselves on The Boy’s head. What this does is change the way you move. You find that pressing on one direction doesn’t actually translate into the expected movement anymore; it pretty much strips you of complete control over The Boy and with environmental hazards thrown into the mix, these segments could become quite tedious and personally, putting its deeper meaning aside, I found them to be more annoying than anything else.
Another downside was the actual length of the game. Limbo is a beautiful, atmospheric monochrome game, sure, but the experience itself is over far too quickly. The game isn’t separated into levels in the traditional sense, though you could pick your favorite ones through the game’s chapter select, instead, it’s one seamless experience from beginning to end; albeit a short one, sadly. Yeah, I shouldn’t really bog the game down just because of its length, especially when the experience itself is such an amazing one, but I just really hoped it would be longer (with a few more puzzles added towards the end perhaps).
So, what is there to do once you beat the game? Well, as aforementioned, there’s a chapter select which lets you jump right into your favorite levels, though I wouldn’t really recommend starting the game off at any point other than the very beginning since I feel this is how it’s best experienced. But still, the option is there. You also have “eggs” to hunt down scattered about the game. These can prove to be quite hard to get a lock on, especially some of the later ones. Each one scores you a trophy so there’s an incentive for finding them all. Speaking of secrets; this PSN version of the game actually houses one exclusive secret, but I won’t be saying anything at all about that!
Despite a couple of shortcomings, I still had a very good time, as crazy as that sounds considering the game’s dark overtones. Even though the game was short, too short perhaps, I thoroughly enjoyed every second of it. Yeah, you’ll die loads of times, but this is how gaming used to be: you would die time and time again only to learn from your mistakes and ultimately overcome your immediate challenge. Nowadays, us gamers are, quite frankly, held by our hand in regards to games and their difficulty. Limbo ,thankfully, separates itself from that norm to deliver one very trying experience that manages to still be fun every step of the way.
Limbo isn’t going to win any of the crowds only enthralled by constant bullet hell filling their screens. Nor will it appeal to those used to more “mainstream” experiences (cough, cough, first person shooters). But, those people will, sadly, be missing out on one of 2010’s greatest games that is now finally available to PS3 owners. Yeah, looking at screenshots for this game may make it seem like a “walk in the park,” with not much going on on-screen. It’s only when those curious by this game actually try it out for themselves, and allow themselves to be completely indulged in the game’s dreary atmosphere, that one realizes: this is one “walk in the park” you won’t soon forget.