This small title from Playdead Studios first arrived on the market back in 2010. My first experience with the game came on the Xbox 360 in 2012 where, back then, games had to be purchased using Microsoft Points. At the time, it came at a hefty price, too: around US$15/£10.
At face value, it appeared my money had been wasted. Limbo had a bland colour palette, simplistic graphics, no dialogue and little to nothing in the way of sound effects. There also seemed to be an extremely subtle storyline; so subtle, in fact, that even after the game concluded I had to look up what had just happened.
But Limbo grew on me. Over time, I started to enjoy the puzzle-based platformer for its various spikes in difficulty and appreciated the concentration required to finish the game. Your surroundings were dark and sinister, but at the same time eerily beautiful as well. Even retrieving those small glowing eggs proved a challenge and, in doing so, often ended in death. Safety was never guaranteed, that’s for sure.
Limbo became an unexpected favourite of mine, much like another small-scale game called I Am Alive.
So two years later and armed with an Xbox One, when Limbo’s price was drastically reduced, I snapped it up. If my subsequent playthrough of this game taught me anything, it’s that complacency is your enemy.
Playing through those opening moments of Limbo – waking up in a distant blackened field amongst spooky trees and eerie ambience – was quite tense. I had completely forgotten whether or not some creepy-crawly would jump from the tall grass and swallow me whole. Progress started slowly, mostly due to huge leaps over deadly chasms and paranoia over crossing rivers blanketed by the hum of flies.
Limbo gets a bit more serious – and much more stressful – when numerous deadly elements are incorporated into a single puzzle. These can involve placing a box to pass through an overhead gap, the catch being that rising water then forces you to climb a series of ladders to jump onto that box. Or perhaps outrunning a mining cart before it triggers a deadly electrical path you’re currently running on sounds better?
Admittedly, I do suck at these types of games. There is a somewhat defeatist nature I have about unsuccessfully completing a level after 30 attempts. But there are plenty of short chapters here, so every bit of minute progression will soon reward the player with a new checkpoint, which is a great way of maintaining their confidence and interest in the game.
After successfully evading several heart-pounding gauntlets of saws, turrets and massive clamps, Limbo had been beaten. I felt the same amount of satisfaction compared to my first time with the game, and that’s really a testament to how great it is. If somebody can play such a small game, years between playthroughs, and still get the same level of enjoyment out if it, then that’s commendable.
It felt good, and for the four hours I’d spent with the game, I felt as though I’d made it through without any particular hassle. That is, until I looked at my death counter: 137. Oh well, room for improvement.
Limbo is one of those games that says so much by not saying that much at all. It’s a simple tale about a boy trying to find his way back to his sister which, later on, has an underlying meaning that I won’t spoil here.
If you haven’t played this great little game by Playdead Studios, it’s more than earned my stamp of approval. Playing it again has undoubtedly set the tone for Playdead’s next title, Inside, set for release later this year.