The will likely be spoilers, but should I talk about something super new I'll warn ya. But consider this a pre-emptive warning! You're WARNED!

Friday, December 17, 2010

you should play: LIMBO

The story of Limbo is slight- so slight, in fact, that calling it a "story" may be overstating things. The premise, then, is this:
Uncertain of his sister's fate, a boy enters Limbo.
The player controls the boy as he tries to find his sister in this haunting, puzzle-filled side-scroller.

The gameplay is as simple as the story: you can jump, and you can push or pull levers and certain items. Make no mistake, however: easy control schemes do not mean an easy difficulty level. You will die in Limbo, and you will die a lot...and you will not care, because even the deaths are enthralling. The black/white/grey palette is beautiful and unlike anything I've ever seen in a game, but beyond aesthetics, the color scheme serves a purpose: dangers are often well-hidden. I can't count how many times I stumbled into my own death in this game, whether falling on spikes, getting smushed by some machinery, getting shot or torn apart; it's horrendously violent, though artistically so- completely gruesome, beautiful, and hilarious. By the end, I was very thankful that the game auto-saves frequently and death doesn't mean backtracking.

Much has been made of Limbo's abstract plot: when all is said and done, is there a deeper meaning to it? Or are players simply trying to ascribe meaning where there is none? I've got my own theories, and if you poke around The Internet, you're bound to find more. I don't want to spoil anything for anyone, because it's worth getting there yourself without knowing what's going to happen. Still, Limbo answers no questions for you and the narrative is never spelled out. If neat & tidy packages all tied up are your thing, you're likely to be disappointed.

If there's one word I'd use to describe this game, it's sinister. It is as creepy as it is compelling, and the atmosphere is heavy with doom, particularly in the games earliest levels. The boy wakes in a forest and simply begins to move forward- what else can he do?- and it quickly becomes clear that this is no simple stroll through a friendly wood. Besides the requisite traps and monsters, there are also these...well, they might be children- and they're stalking you. And they're trying to kill you. And you don't know why or who they are. Corpses litter the ground and swing from trees, and all you can do is keep moving as you try to find a way out. It's oppressively gloomy and terrifying. How cool!

is available on Xbox Live for 1200 points- perhaps a bit steep, you might think, as the game is roughly 6-7 hours long, even on your first playthrough. Personally, I don't find it too high a price to pay for such an immersive, fascinating piece of art. It's a great way to spend a cold, rainy winter's afternoon.


Dave M said...

Good lawd - I have a love/hate relationship with this game for most of the reasons you mentioned above. I had to step away from it on more than one occasion after being smooshed or shiskabobbed by some hidden menace. One of these days, mind you, I WILL finish it, too :)

Stacie Ponder said...

I got stuck at one of the later puzzles (when it gets to be pretty pain-in-the-assy) and I put it down for a while. I'm glad I kept at it, though, because the end is worth it. Well, it is if you like thinking, I guess. It's all so vague and open to interpretation... :D