XBLA Review: Limbo

Should you enter the world of Limbo?

“Uncertain of his Sister’s Fate, a Boy enters LIMBO.” That is the only mention of a plot and it’s found on Xbox.com’s page for the game. The actual game contains no dialogue and explanation as to what is going on or who you are. It’s perhaps the oddest game that I’ve come across in a while with its film-noir look and simple controls. The game may look like a simple black and white 2D platformer, but there’s a difference between simple and perceptively simple, which Limbo does incredibly well.

Limbo has many obstacles for the player to overcome in terms of puzzles to keep going forward. You’ll come across bear traps, boulders, giant spiders and people trying to shoot you. You will die a lot as you try and work out how to get past these parts without kicking the bucket. The solutions are pretty clever and unique, making them stand out from other games like it. Limbo is a one of a kind even though it’s a 2D platformer; it does things differently and stands out as a result.

I would however like to meet the sadistic swine who came up with the achievement of going through the game in one sitting and dying no more than 5 times. For you to get this, you’ll need a lot of practise and a good memory for the puzzles you come across as each one can claim many lives if you don’t know what you are doing. On my first playthrough, I didn’t even see the first bear traps because they are so small (even on a 47” HDTV) and I actually jumped because I didn’t expect it. But once I knew what to look out for, I was more careful and took it incredibly slowly.

The setting of the game is incredibly creepy and those with arachnophobia won’t like being pursued by a giant spider reminiscent of Shelob from Return of the King. Simple locations like walking through the woods can be unsettling, especially the film-noir style of the game. You just never know what’s coming next and it’s always memorable when you come across each new section. The one downside is the game is quite short and at 1200 Microsoft Points, it’s asking quite a lot.

Having said that, it’s the most memorable XBLA game for a long time and is right up there with the likes of Braid in terms of originality and innovation. The visual style really stands out and while it looks pretty standard, you wait till you are playing it and try and deny the effect it has on you. It’s overpowering to say the least.

The Verdict

So, Limbo may be short and expensive. But it’s the most unique and incredible XBLA game of the year and I seriously doubt anything will come close to the creepy atmosphere that it has. This is definitely one for the collection.