A Balance of Thought-Provoking, Enjoyment and Frustration
As the game begins, what looks like a young boy arises from his slumber to a world of forbidding-looking trees and a mist that obscures the sight to anything not nearby. It is an introduction which produces a lot of questions from the start, with none of the answers to follow. A strong atmosphere has featured for a number of highly successful indie titles in recent times, and the same can be said for LIMBO. In a world full of dangers, intriguing and sometimes rather challenging puzzles, as well as fantastical environments that are inexplicable yet fascinating to explore, it's safe to say that LIMBO is a must-experience title for those who enjoy tackling the unknown and the difficulty alike.
Due to its portrayal only serving to produce an increasing number of curiosities, it is a title that can be described as having a minimal plot at best. Taking control of the young boy, it is up to the player to have the determination and the motivation to continue making progress through the world of LIMBO as one is assaulted from everywhere by hazards and lurking dangers alike. It is through the journey taken across this strange world that any sort of plot can be established, albeit through the thoughts of the player alone. Even after successfully making it through everything to safety, the conclusion is left wide open to interpretation - satisfaction or embitterment will again depend on the individual. It is quite fortunate that the game centres little around its plot - with the atmosphere produced truly making the world of LIMBO - as the other elements combine strongly to create the engrossing title that it is.
There can be no doubt that the primal of these elements are the puzzles that fill this game from beginning to end, starting off at an encouraging level but quickly developing into what are often head-scratchingly difficult obstacles to overcome. The trial-and-error method becomes the tempting course of action at times, as some puzzles deserve consideration while others are time-based and so precisely that it may take many attempts to overcome them even if you are going about it the right way. Despite a decent amount of object-pushing that tends to form the core of puzzles, there are a lot of interesting challenges on offer. At times, a puzzle may be an entire sequence of events happening at a fast pace that will likely take a few goes before it clicks with the player. Then again, it may be based around the elements or be spread across the area, requiring backtracking. What the puzzles have in common, is that they never get stale and that there is a great level of satisfaction to be found in solving them - which, really, is what good puzzles are all about.
Despite the fact there is no combat system in place, there are instances where the young boy is attacked by what can be accurately described as enemies. In saying this, defeating them is still very much immersed in the realm of puzzles rather than pure and simple action. One instance in particular, involving a rather large and frightening spider, proved one of the greatest highlights in the game. It almost felt like a boss character due to its recurring nature and was a pleasure to try and defeat; due to this, it feels like a real shame that no such other instances occurred throughout the rest of the title - a greater inclusion of such creatures would have also proved a great way to expand the longevity of the title. As a whole, the few enemies witnessed seem to bear no relation to one another, again adding to the oddity of the game while also proving a useful way to break up the more typical puzzles.
One could be forgiven for sometimes feeling like they're interacting with a very, very old cartoon; the entire game is played out in black-and-white, with the usual vibrant colours expected from an indie title replaced with various shades. Although it leaves you wondering just what it would've looked like with a splash of colour, it performs a fantastic role in contributing to the oppressive, almost hopeless feeling that pervades the atmosphere of LIMBO. It also feels like no effort has been spared in devising many gruesome and violent potential deaths for the young boy, which at times prove quite shocking to witness. In saying that, the environments feel equally lavished with attention, and in particular the use of lighting in the game is done so with great effect, right down to the glowing eyes of the protagonist.
The sound of LIMBO also proves a means to trying to shock the player, with sudden loud noises cutting through the silence at often pivotal points in the game. With no dialogue to be heard the lack of audio is often disconcerting, with the often brief respite between dangers instilling a tense feeling. Meanwhile, the minimalist approach to the game can also be said to be true of the music, with the element barely appearing in the title. Yet the instance at the end of the game is notable, replacing the sounds of approaching death and constant threats with a sudden, overwhelming sense of achievement and peace. Overall, the audio combines well with the visuals and gameplay of the title, and although the little of it combines well with the finished piece that is LIMBO, at times you can't help but wish a little bit more had been done with this part.
When considering the main titles to have made a big splash in the indie scene, it feels only fitting that LIMBO should be one of those. Although a short title - about a couple of hours - it is one full of quality, providing intrigue and enjoyable challenges in equal measure. It is simplicty at its best, and will keep you hooked from beginning to end. Despite the discerning of the plot being left largely to the imagination of the individual, there is no doubt that this title is worth recommendation to anyone who enjoys decent puzzles, a strong atmosphere, and a title that leaves you wanting to know more. Having finished LIMBO, I feel that I can at least perceive a potential connection between the title and nature of the game, but what feels certain is that this title is a journey worth taking for the persistent player who enjoys a good challenge.
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