The moment you set eyes on the opening screen of the game, you know you're onto something special. A forest devoid of colour and music. You are not told where you are, why you are here, and for that matter, who you are.
Such is Limbo, and the reason that this is one of the best games you'll ever play.
Limbo is a side scrolling platformer, set in a monochrome world, full of puzzles and pitfalls. This game should be on the wish list of any self respecting gamer, so to finally get some real hands on time with the game, start to finish, was an extremely exciting thought. Is Limbo worth the hype, or will it fade out of the collective subconscious by the time Summer of Arcade is over? To say the latter would be sacrilege.
As said before, the game lacks colour and music for the most part. An extremely risky move by the developers, but one that compliments the game in such a way. The howling of the wind, the splashing of the water, the tapping of the boy's feet; the only sounds you will hear for much of the game. It provides such a dark atmosphere, so much more than any typical 'scary' music could. The gamer will feel as lost as the character, unsettled by the absence of things which gamers take for granted and completely expect to find.
Puzzles are obviously a huge aspect of Limbo, and a lateral brain is needed to overcome this game. One puzzle sees you daring a huge creature to attack you, causing a bear trap to fall. Oh, it should also be mentioned that this bear trap is off screen. The trap is so easy to pass and it will almost certainly take you a few tries to figure out what to do. Many puzzles throughout the game pull similar tricks, and on the whole you really have to pull the thinking cap on tight to advance through the beautifully eerie land. Some of the puzzles in the second half of the game involve shifting gravity and, a particularly mind bending example, fitting cogs in place to turn the entire game world ninety degrees. The feeling of satisfaction and pride achieved by completing some of the particularly hard puzzles is immense, and it is impossible not to create a bond with the speechless, nameless, faceless boy, and the need to finish his quest gets more and more overwhelming with each minute.
In fact, you might not even be aware of what the quest is, which sums up a lot of aspects of the game. It doesn't spoonfeed you every little detail. The developers want you to work it out for yourself. You aren't told what to do, what the controls are, how to solve puzzles. The game offers no hints because it wants to draw you into its world completely. Breaking the illusion with a token character or sign with instructions on how to jump would stand completely against what Limbo is. A mature journey for a seasoned gamer, looking for a welcome distraction from most of the crap that fills the shelves.
But is that all Limbo is? A distraction? The game takes 2-4 hours, and this is based on the first playthrough with 100% of the collectibles found. For 1200MSP, many gamers would expect the game to last at least a few more hours. This is the main flaw for Limbo. Despite it's incredible production quality and near perfect execution, a lot of people will miss out on the game because of the hefty price tag.
Still, when all is said and done, it's impossible to say a bad word about Limbo. It's odd to think that the game with very little music, no colour and an incredibly vague story is one of the best games out there at this moment in time. And to be honest, I don't see it changing any time soon.
Limbo is available from the 21st July 2010, and will cost 1200 MSP.