Review: LIMBO

During the dark months where quality gaming releases are few and far between, it’s important to have something to pass the time with.

Multiplayer is usually more populated during the slow-release times, old games that you promised yourself you’ll finish one day are reinserted into console trays and the downloadable arcade games find themselves getting a whole lot more attention.

Microsoft, being the rather clever cats that they are, have clued onto this and introduced the Winter/Summer of Arcade (depending on what part of the globe you’re hailing from). The first addition to this five-part themed release is none other than LIMBO. So what’s the story?

Interestingly, you’ll have to either hit up the Google machine or actually pay attention to the descriptive text when you download this bad boy to have any real semblance of what the hell is going on. In actuality, the story is rather simple: a nameless boy who comes to in a rather sinister forest right on the edge of hell in search of his sister. While you never quite reach the place where Spartans like to dine, you get put through the motions of platforming and puzzling from start to finish.

The first thing that smacks you in the eyes with its awesomeness is the artistic style of the game. It’s drab, black & white and monochromatic… and utterly engaging in its simplicity. Fans of Spawn (not the movie) will enjoy the Twitch-like appearance of the nameless boy (who I’m officially calling Timmy Tumble from here on in) with his white eyes the only thing stopping him from being a complete shadow character.

LIMBO is a 2D sidescroller game, which limits the puzzle/pathfinding possibilities to needing to move up, down, left or right: simple, right? Not so much. LIMBO manages to cram a variety of puzzles in between points A and A (more on this later): some are laughably easy, others sufficiently challenging to make you feel special and clever when you figure out the correct algorithm, with others still that will have you screaming at the screen, Googling solutions in vain because you got an advanced copy of the game or calling up Josh and deferring to his game guru status.

Fudging the various traps that populate the game isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it’s often hilarious to fuck up Timmy Tumble in new and exciting ways; particularly if you can’t immediately get your head around a particular puzzle. Throw him off a ledge, lead him into water or, my personal favourite, jump him into a giant saw blade that always seems to cut him up into different pieces every time you do it: classic. All of these actions will cause the light in Timmy Tumble’s eyes to disappear, which means you’ll be visiting the respawn screen.

Thankfully, LIMBO isn’t the type of prickish game that artificially inflates its difficulty by dragging you back three or four puzzles prior to where you may have accidentally/purposely killed Timmy Tumble. That being said, there are a couple of multifaceted puzzles that will test your patience as, even though the solution may be obvious, it can still be frustrating if you screw up the fourth step only to be taken back to the start of it all. Couple this with a jumping mechanic that isn’t quite as pinned down as it should be and you’re bound to share at least a few frustrated moments.

And then there are the bugs that I encountered. I’m not talking the small variety that doesn’t detract from the overall experience. I’m talking about the kind that hard locks your Xbox 360 and requires you to power cycle to get back in the game. On one instance Timmy Tumble respawned only to perpetually fall through the game world leaving him in a whole new unplayable level of LIMBO… I stopped laughing when I had to restart my 360. Although, I am willing to concede that mine might have been an isolated case, because I have asked a few other people if they’ve had similar issues and all responses were negative.

The biggest issue with LIMBO is the cost-to-game-length ratio. At around three hours in length, it’s difficult to justify forking out 1200 Microsoft Points for LIMBO, even though it’s a solid puzzler/platformer. The puzzles aren’t dynamic, so once you know the solution to them you’ll have no problems overcoming them a second or third time; but beyond the blatant we-want-you-to-play-through-a-second-time Achievement that requires you to complete the game with less than five deaths in a single sitting, there’s not much incentive to come back once you’ve bested the puzzles; with one notable exception.

And this is where I return to my earlier parenthesised comment. I would throw up a spoiler tag, but it’s difficult to spoil much in a game that doesn’t have a plot (PS – that’s technically a spoiler tag). You end up back at the same point that you begin the game, throwing the whole ‘reality’ of the game into question, thus creating a semi-legitimate stimulus for people to play the game again to determine whether it’s a perpetual cycle or whether there was some imagined bit of information that reveals it will somehow end. Right now there are people firing up in various forums, debating what happened at the end, so it’s up to you to determine whether it’s genius or just a sneaky way to try and lure you into multiple play-throughs.

I certainly didn’t hate LIMBO, but it didn’t find a place in my heart as it has with a lot of other reviewers out there. If you love puzzlers/platformers then you should definitely take a look at LIMBO, but there’s plenty of reasons to wait for when this title drops in price.

7/10

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  • NachosJustice

    I really enjoyed my time with LIMBO too, PSI… just really glad I didn’t have to pay for it.

  • Bagmup

    The idea and execution are brilliant and it's one of the best xbla games to date… if only it was longer, lasts a lot longer exploring for the achievements.

  • PSIress

    I loved limbo for what it was but I did wish it was longer.

  • NachosJustice

    The Achievements also seemed a bit cheap in my opinion… didn't really tell you what you had to do.

  • Shush_rules

    I enjoyed it for those 12 minutes I played it. It was quite entertaining until that one puzzle that didn't make sense

  • NachosJustice

    As it turns out, the last puzzle that I got stuck on was the last puzzle of the game… gotta love that.

  • adin75

    Wait, did I read that right? You enjoyed your time with PSI? But your glad you didnt have to pay for it? Ouch!

  • NachosJustice

    Ackwad!

  • PSIress

    lol it's cool

  • NachosJustice

    With online editing functionality, you never make mistakes :P.

  • PSIress

    shame I saw it before you edited it then :P

  • NachosJustice

    Prove it! :P

  • adin75

    I knew I should have grabbed a screenshot for the forums, damn!

  • NachosJustice

    Rookie mistake, dude :P.