Originally Published: 19 July 2010
Your sister is lost. In a desperate bid to find out what has happened to her you enter a strange and scary universe devoid of colour, where danger lurks around every corner. To save your sister you have to enter Limbo.
Limbo has presented me with the hardest review of the year. Not because I don’t know what to say but more because I’m scared of saying too much. I don’t want to describe any of the gameplay you’ll encounter in this glorious title because I’ll spoil it for you. Sure, there’s a chance you’ll have already seen articles or footage on the likes of YouTube showing this game off and giving you a glimpse of what’s in store. That’s all well and good, but I don’t want to ruin the experience for you, because you will be playing this game.
The first thing that will strike you about Limbo is the simplicity. Everything about the game is simple. The controls are simple. You move about, you can jump and you have an action button for pulling levers etc. That’s it. The graphics are simple – everything’s in black and white and all the shades in-between. Your character is a silhouette of a boy with two bright white pinpricks for eyes. The world you explore is presented in silhouette while a misty haze hides further details in the background. The sounds are simple – there’s no musical score as you proceed through the game – the only sounds you’ll hear in the game are sounds from things you’ll encounter in the world – your own footsteps, running water and the like.
So, on the face of it, everything is simple. But look a little closer and you’ll find a game that appears to be simple is in fact exquisite in every single detail. The graphics carry so much detail in their subtle tones and shades that you’ll be immediately drawn into the world from the very first moment you see those white pinprick eyes. The game world is beautiful, with the hazy background elements adding more depth and atmosphere to the play area than you’d find in many a full price title. You’ll marvel at the horrors of each and every death you encounter (make no mistake – you will die an awful lot in this game, and in a bewildering variety of ways).
You’ll encounter puzzles on your journey. Again, on face value these are simple puzzles requiring the manipulation of switches and moveable objects, but they’re not. They’re deeper and more devious than that. Things that worked for one particular solution may not work for a second seemingly identical situation – observation, learning and the ability to change your ideas at the drop of a hat are all required here. The puzzles are ingenious – you’ll encounter a marvellous puzzle very early on which is simply solved but it an absolute joy to behold – and that’s something you’ll find throughout the whole game. It’s a masterpiece of platform-puzzling action.
The lack of a musical score drives the atmosphere sky-high. When you actually play the game you’ll appreciate how much an accompanying tune would destroy the feel of the experience and, more importantly, the silence helps you to spot the sound clues that are often as important as the visual ones for puzzle solving. The incidental sounds add the final flourish to a beautifully presented package – again, on the surface they’re simple but they carry so much depth and atmosphere with them that your ears will wonder why all games aren’t made this way.
I can honestly say that I haven’t found a single thing I don’t like about this title. It’s beautiful to look at, it’s wonderful to play and it’s an experience that stays with you long after you’ve put the controller down for the night. Limbo is right up there as a contender for the best Arcade title since forever and should be, without a shadow of doubt, an essential purchase for everyone.