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In a games market that seems to be consumed in a never-ending arms race of graphics and realism is very refreshing to find a puzzling platform game which truly offers something unique.
Limbo by the Danish developers 'Playdead' is one such example. You start the game with not a word of dialogue and immediately have two understand your goals and how to interact with the world around you. The premise is that you are on the hunt for your sister who has been kidnapped and in order to rescue her you must enter limbo. However the anyway I found this out was by reading the cover notes because throughout the entirety of the game there is not a single word of dialogue or any exposition whatsoever.
The game itself is presented in what ostensibly looks like a very simple black-and-white left-to-right platforming game. However this does a disservice to what is quite clever under the hood. The deeper you look the more you can see that the rock quite some complicated physics and graphical flourishes. Further example boulders rolled realistically down inclines and when you slide down a building's roof tiles will be dislodged.
The sound and atmosphere created by the discordant music invokes the emotion of some nightmare. This is in keeping with the type of enemies that you will find on your way. There are humanoid enemies, insects and gruesome traps. There is also a particularly scary spider which, when it reveals itself, set the tone of a genuinely frightening and disturbing gaming experience to follow.
The controls are beautifully simple; left, right, jump and interact.
This game is truly remarkable and it manages to achieve a high level of complexity by giving the illusion that it's quite simple. It's not a particularly long game but it does have replay value as you try and hunt for achievements. Hopefully this type of brave gameplay and design choice will be rewarded and I look forward to seeing more games of this calibre. This quirky, disturbing and satisfyingly challenging game comes highly recommended.
This game is also available on the 'Steam Store' for the PC.
When it comes to scary games, I am an absolute baby. You will never ever find me playing the likes of the infamously scary Silent Hill 2, Dead Space, Fatal Frame etc. as I would literally would scare myself to death. However, when it comes to Limbo I make an exception. I can hear you veterans of video games laughing at me from behind your computer screens for even comparing Limbo to the aforementioned games. But, once you've seen through the cartoon-like animation, Limbo is genuinely one of the most tense, jumpy, on the edge of your seat games I have played.
Limbo is a puzzle-based 2D side scroller, in which the aim is not clear. You take on the role of a young boy, who has awoken in a forest, but you are given no instructions on what to do, where to go, or what it is you're aiming for. If any other game gave as little information to the player as Limbo does, I'm sure I'd be slating it by now, and assuming it to be badly developed. However, the lack of information given only amounts to your curiosity and tension whilst playing Limbo.
As you begin to move about, you discover that in this forest, giant spiders, animal traps and other unfriendly beings are waiting to try and stop you from progressing in the game. Most of the time, the traps are not obvious, and in that one minute where you'll be casually trying to figure out where to go next, you'll find that a trap has sprung and you're dead. The speed of traps often catch you off guard so be prepared for lots of jumping.
In my opinion, there are two primary things that make this game so addictive and jumpy; the colour scheme and the choice of music (or lack thereof). The decision to use a black and white colour scheme throughout the game was certainly an interesting one by the developers, and far from detracting from the game, it works incredibly well. Items at the forefront of the screen tend to be black, while the background is a mixture of hazy greys and whites, making the world you explore feel almost grainy and dream-like. The boy you play as is completely black, save for two white circles as eyes. As such, when the terrain gets darker, you often lose sight of your character, making the tension amount even further. The black and white colour scheme also makes it much easier to disguise traps, making it harder to prepare for an otherwise avoidable death.
However, I mentioned that the music was the other aspect of the game that made it so successful. Sit yourself in a dark room, and turn the volume of this game right up, and you'll see what I mean. When wandering about the world, the only sounds that can be heard are that of crickets in the background. There are soft sound effects for jumping and splashing in water, but when you encounter a trap - beware! I have never jumped so much playing a game as I have with this purely for the fact that the sound of a trap going off is so unexpected, terrifying and loud in comparison to the softer sounds that otherwise accompany the game, that I'm completely caught off guard! This game is nerve-racking to say the least...
This is certainly, by no means, a hardcore scare fest, but it is extremely tense and creepy to play. Certainly, as a game from XBox Arcade, it far exceeded my own expectations, and I quickly became addicted to it. I would completely recommend this game for others to play, but feel it necessary to mention that it has received a PEGI 18+ rating, probably due to the graphic death sequences, as well as the fear factor that comes naturally with this game.
Released originally by game developers, Playdead, in 2010 for Xbox Arcade, you can now buy Limbo as part of a multidisc of Arcade games which also include Trials HD and Splosion Man for £13.78 from Amazon. It is also available for download from Steam for £6.99. Go buy it!