Alienating Your Ordinary Best-Sellers
Today, we're not dealing with your average Xbox arcade game. Nor are we dealing with a typical downloadable game that often leaves little to be admired, and an awful lot of buyer's remorse - in fact, we're dealing with a game that captured the hearts of hundreds of gamers willing to attempt something a little abnormal to what they're normally used to in 21st century gaming. LIMBO isn't exactly your typical gaming experience - quite the opposite in fact. Can you remember the last time you played a game where your only option on the control pad was to move left, right, jump and press one action button every once in a while? Better yet, have you ever played a game with such simple controls that still crept comfortably next to your gaming heart? My immediate reflection goes back to the days when I played the original Playstation console - a time when games focused on thought, effort and enjoyability, rather than how much it can sell with an insignificant story mode coated with endless, repetitive online game modes. LIMBO will touch your child-like senses, by offering you a large amount of nostalgia for your simple, old-school games.
LIMBO is a puzzle-platform video game, and is indeed the most simplistic game I have ever played - certainly on a 21st century console. But by no means does that make it a poor outcome. For such a simple game, surrounded by grayscale landscape, LIMBO becomes one of the most memorable gaming experiences to date. The game opens up with your character, laying down in the depths of an isolated forest just waiting to be pondered. After exploring your landscape some more, you'll find that you are not alone - though by no means are the others captured in your environment willing to help you. The first half of this game is spent roaming this forest, trying to uncover why you're there and why the spiders and other forest-dwellers of the low-lit landscape are not willing to co-operate with your cause. This section of the game is certainly one that draws you in, and adds comfort to your gameplay as most of the forest area can be done with relative ease and very little brain activity. This in turn allows you to familiarise yourself with how things work, as the second half is certainly much more of a thought-provoking challenge.
Playdead recovering the ability to terrify you with your childhood beast
Diving into the second half of the game with little time to reminisce, LIMBO becomes somewhat more difficult as time passes. The easy puzzles of the first half of the game are now non-existent. However, don't be daunted by this idea: never has there been a more rewarding feeling for completing a puzzle than solving the ones Playdead have offered us in the eerie LIMBO. You may find at this stage that it becomes impossible to complete each segment without having at least a small level of struggle. Whilst on my first playthrough, there were only few times when I didn't have to boggle my mind to complete a puzzle - a lot of the time, I used the old-fashioned trial and error technique that never failed me in the past. Don't be surprised if you end up calling yourself a genius as you complete some of the more difficult puzzles of the game; I'm hoping that's a normal idiosyncrasy when playing this game!
Audio plays a key role to your gaming experience. While sound is limited in some areas (the sound of the nature-ridden forest, or the sound of mechanical industry work), often will you find that distant sounds play a huge significance in what's about to happen. You hear a sound from behind you? Oh, don't worry - that's probably just a boulder ready to crush you. You'll be okay, as long as you run like hell! Audio is also a key element, as it allows you to guess when to jump, move or turn in the latter stages of the game, giving it an even greater importance. The eerie sounds of this game are really what make it so memorable/special for me.
The lonely boy and his not-so-friendly companions
While LIMBO is a fantastic game, it does have one major flaw (the shock, the horror!) - that major flaw is lasting value. If you know what you're doing, this game can be pretty short. Even with a lot of difficulty, you should wrap this game up in 3 or 4 hours of gameplay. And then what next? The unfortunate reality is, very little. You can hunt for achievements you may have missed, but that's about as much as you'll get in terms of replayability. Once you've solved that son-of-a-gun puzzle that had you pulling your hair out, you'll never have any difficulty with it again. This, my friends, is the only thing that lets this almost-perfect adventure down.
LIMBO doesn't offer you an action-packed adventure with explosive graphics like your typical FPS games. It also doesn't offer you a stimulating, fast-paced experience, or a replayable commodity. But what it does offer you is what many other games have failed to - distinctiveness. LIMBO is like no other game I've ever had the privilege of playing. My experience of this game was most definitely a novelty, and it's an experience I recommend to all gamers seeking something unique from the endless pit of mediocre games the industry has continued to offer over the last 5 years. You can pick this up for 1200 Microsoft Points on the Xbox Live Marketplace, but I assure you, it's worth every penny and it'll play a gaming lullaby to your heart-aching soul.
OVERALL RATING: 9/10
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