At the start of the game the player wakes in the body of a young boy lying alone in a grassy field. Similar to Remedy’s Alan Wake (released back in May), Limbo sets the tone of the game through the environment. Without any indication of his thoughts or explanation for the path he must take, he sets off through this dark world that alludes strongly to the old German Expressionism films (think the horror film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari). What little light is given fluctuates as the world moves in and out of focus within a screen that fades to black around the edges, filled only with the silhouettes of set pieces, moveable objects, obstacles, dead bodies, and the boy himself. Similarly to the aesthetics, the soundtrack gives little comfort to the player. Instead there is almost no sound, with only the faint calls of indistinguishable animals, dripping water, and noises of the dangers lurking ahead providing muddy audio cues.
In order to move through this world the player is given a simplistic collection of controls, limited to jumping, grabbing objects, and running to take on this 2D platformer. Though it may seem simple enough, the gameplay still provides a decent level of challenge. The puzzles are not too strenuous and do not give much to the replayability of the game, but they are fun to undertake. Not only that, but the confidence built by solving these puzzles is easily extinguished by the plethora of ways for this young boy to die.
And die he will, in ways that will sometimes shock and startle for the gruesome nature of these unexpected outcomes. Just a short listing includes electrocution from building signs, being impaled by spider leg or spikes protruding from the terrain, being divided into smaller pieces by unavoidable saw blades, and mind controlling slugs with the goal of walking him straight into deathtraps. The black and white nature of the game keeps the gore from relying on blood splatters, but this does not keep the constant reminder of the young boys fragility any less effective and saddening.
As mentioned above, the nature of the game leads to a weaker replay value in addition to the already short runtime (coming in at about 4 hours tops on the first playthrough), making the price tag of 1200 Microsoft points slightly steep. However, what is provided is still an original experience in a world full of puzzles that are not frustratingly challenging, controls easy enough for all players to pick up, and a look that is intriguing and beautiful in it’s simplicity. In the end Limbo may not be a place to spend eternity, but it sure is fun to visit for a little while.
Final Grade: 8.5/10