Ryan's Always Right: Limbo
Limbo is a puzzle-platformer where you play as a boy who has entered limbo in an effort to uncover his sister’s fate. As the spiritual predecessor to Inside (a fantastic game that earned the number 7 spot in my Best Games of the Decade list), I had high hopes for Limbo. Did it live up to my expectations?
Everything about Limbo is shrouded in mystery. From the vague story to the obscure puzzles, nothing is spelled out for you in Limbo. There are no instructions and there is no dialogue. You exist in a dark, bleak world with nothing to rely on but yourself. The tone for the game is immediately set by the scenery. Everything is black and grey in grainy textures; it is clear you are not safe. While the artstyle is definitely deliberate and serves its intended purpose well, there are times when it is frankly a bit too much for the purposes of platforming or solving puzzles.
Speaking of puzzle platforming, this game is surprisingly difficult on both fronts. For a game that feels so slow and lethargic, both due to your character’s slow movement speed and as a result of the artstyle, Limbo requires some very precise inputs in order to get through some of the platforming sections. This can make some of the puzzles extra difficult at times, because even though you’ve figured out how to solve the puzzle, you still have to be able to execute the precise timing and platforming in order to succeed. While the increased difficulty may be a turnoff for some, it also makes it feel much more rewarding when you successfully solve the puzzle and move on to the next chapter.
If you’re unsuccessful (which you will be, a lot) you usually die and have to restart the puzzle. This can definitely get annoying at times because Limbo is, in many ways, a learn-by-dying type of game. Many of the puzzles are “unfair” in this way, as they teach you a mechanic only to trick you with it later. For some of the longer puzzles, this can get pretty frustrating as you constantly have to restart the puzzle just to die to the new trick at the end. This isn’t helped by the slow pacing and unforgiving platforming of the game, as it makes those sections that you’ve had to redo over and over again feel even more tiresome.
The story of the game is as obscure as anything else. We’re clearly in a brutal place. Along with the obvious lack of color, it seems that the entire world is conspiring against us. From humans, to spiders, to saws and gears, everything we encounter is trying to kill us in some way. While an overall goal of escape is clearly a motive, much of the story is left up to the player to determine. So, while it’s obvious that a giant spider is trying to kill you, don’t expect the game to explain “why” it wants you dead.
Limbo is easily one of the strangest games you’ll encounter and certainly won’t appeal to everyone. Unlike Inside, Limbo constantly requires you to learn by dying and places an increased emphasis on precise platforming. While the tone and setting for Limbo are near perfect, the graininess of the visuals became tiring over time and may be a turnoff for some. The gameplay itself in Limbo is stellar and provides one of the most rewarding puzzle-platformer experiences in any game, but certain sequences may be too difficult for those who are new to the genre. While I thoroughly enjoyed Limbo and consider it a fantastic game, I think Inside improves on Limbo in nearly every single aspect and would recommend Inside over Limbo if you only want to play one of them instead of both. Ryan’s Rating: 4.5/5 Limbo retails for $10 and is available on every major platform including mobile.