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Limbo

Limbo

Video Game Cat Review

Date of Review: December 28, 2012
Format Reviewed: PC
Language / Country of Origin: English / Denmark
Online Capability: None.
Awards: GameSpot’s “Best Downloadable Game”, 2010 IndieCade “Sound” award, “Game of the Year”, “Best Indie Game”, and “Best Visual Art” at the 2010 European Milthon Awards
Nominations: “Best Platformer” by IGN, “Most Original Game” by G4 TV, “Best Puzzle Game” by GameSpot
Equipment Needed: None needed.
Maintenance Required: None required. 


Review:

Plot:
In Limbo you play as an unnamed boy who wakes up alone on the edge of a forest. Travelling through it he avoids various dangers, meeting very few silent human antagonists, eventually coming across a nameless girl who runs away before he can reach her. The forest soon gives way to a crumbling city environment which he finally breaks through, back into the forest where he finds the nameless girl again. As he walks towards her she stands up, startled, and the game ends.

Gameplay:
The basic gameplay is the same as most 2D platformers, allowing the player to move left, right, jump, climb and push or pull various objects. The environment is hauntingly atmospheric, using dramatic dark greyscale tones with parallax scrolling and ambient sound, which plays a huge part in the tone of the game.

The game mechanics and puzzle solutions are taught to you by what the creators dub ‘trial and death’. Instead of the modern common practice of helping the player avoid death as much as possible Limbo whole-heartedly and gleefully kills you in a variety of gruesome ways making you learn by your mistakes instead of being nudged towards the correct solution. Checkpoints are plentiful so you lose very little progress, but instead of this numbing you to the concept of failure it actually encourages you to take more care and attention knowing that your character exists on a razors edge between life and death.

The puzzles are presented in such a way that it forms more of a story than a series of obstacles to overcome. Some of the momentum is lost towards the end but the attention to detail beyond the immediate puzzle and focus on the narrative instead is clear, creating a holistic experience.

Cultural / Historical Value:
Unusually the initial concept for the game was the art style, a mood image sketched by game director Arnt Jenson, with the gameplay as a second element. Jenson originally tried to create the game on his own but eventually released an artistic trailer to recruit help, meeting Dino Patti with whom he founded Playdead. Both men left their previous jobs out of dissatisfaction and are a great example of creative individuals pursuing something greater than corporate mainstreaming and safe, middle-of-the-road products. The game also has no distinctive soundtrack, instead using ‘non-musical’ abstract and subtle sound effects made more vivid by the contrast with the near silent ambient background noises; a demonstration of how the many simple but powerful layers of the game coalesce into an even greater piece.

Teaching / Learning Characteristics:
Limbo is an excellent example of blending art and game till the two become almost indistinguishable. It’s not just a game with an interesting art style; both elements are dependent on each other to create the full experience. The story as well is described through the art, not through typical direct narration, which becomes incredibly immersive and provocative. You are not spoon-fed or molly coddled in this game; you learn everything by your own mistakes, how the environment works, how you navigate it and must come to your own conclusions and understandings about the world when it ends.

Replay Value:
Not much. No additional content is unlocked and the game is unfortunately fairly short. You only really replay to immerse yourself in the world again and complete Achievements if you’re that sort of person.

Likely Audiences:
The game can be frighteningly disturbing with the atmosphere it creates so younger audiences may want to avoid it, but in terms of how easy it is to pick up and play and the depth of the open ended story it would appeal to a wide audience.

Overall Score:
90/100.

Other Reviews:
1up.com
Gamerankings
Gamespot
Metacritic
MobyGames

 

About the Author:
Tim Williams, BArchHons, DipArch is a Part 2 Architectural Assistant living and working in London, England and is both a casual gamer and lover. He enjoys long walks on the beach and the smell of the forest after a summer storm. His turn-offs include bad manners and not following the rules.

Awards

Award Giver Category Verdict
Spike Video Game Awards 2010Best Independent Game Winner
Independent Games Festival Awards 2010Excellence In Visual Art Winner
Independent Games Festival Awards 2010Seumas McNally Grand Prize Nominee
Independent Games Festival Awards 2010Technical Excellence Winner
Interactive Achievement Awards 2011Adventure Game of the Year Winner
GAME British Academy Video Game Awards 2011Artistic Achievement Nominee
Game Developers Choice Awards 2011Best Debut Game Nominee
Game Developers Choice Awards 2011Best Downloadable Game Nominee
GAME British Academy Video Game Awards 2011Best Game Nominee
Game Developers Choice Awards 2011Best Game Design Nominee
Game Developers Choice Awards 2011Best Visual Arts Winner
Golden Joystick Awards 2011Downloadable Game of the Year Runner Up
GAME British Academy Video Game Awards 2011GAME Award of 2010 Nominee
Game Developers Choice Awards 2011Game of the Year Nominee
GAME British Academy Video Game Awards 2011Gameplay Nominee
Game Developers Choice Awards 2011Innovation Award Nominee
Interactive Achievement Awards 2011Outstanding Achievement in Game Direction Nominee
Interactive Achievement Awards 2011Outstanding Achievement in Sound Design Winner
Interactive Achievement Awards 2011Outstanding Innovation in Gaming Nominee
GAME British Academy Video Game Awards 2011Use of Audio Nominee
Game Developers Choice Awards 2011Best Audio Nominee

Additional Info

ESRB Description:
Animated Blood, Mild Violence

Players

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