Less is More - A review of Limbo.

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Limbo is a game that uses mood and atmosphere with as much grace, precision and dexterous skill as a magician midway through a spectacular card trick - and Limbo is indeed magical. At its core Limbo is a straight-forward puzzle platformer, yet the games atmosphere is one of dark, harrowing isolation. Limbo isn't a long game, but its artistic embellishment and the mood it creates is one that will haunt you far beyond the point of completion.

Limbo is all about its art style - its mood, its setting, and its sense of pervasive futility. Everything in the game is rendered in spectacular monochrome, from the towering trees of the early game to the very character you play. The game isn't about story. The only hints or clues you get are with the one sentence tagline you'll see upon selecting the game in the Xbox Live Arcade. You are a boy venturing into Limbo to search for his lost sister and that's about all you have to go on. There's no dialogue and no text anywhere in the game. While you’ve got little to go on narrative-wise, there really doesn't need to be a story to stop Limbo from working its dark magic on you, and the ending, though vague, matches the inexplicable isolation of the entire experience brilliantly.

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Crossing the threshold into Limbo - few moments in the game are as tranquil as this.

As you travel the arduous journey from left to right you'll find yourself dying a lot. Limbo is harsh. Limbo is unforgiving and completely unrelenting. You'll be taking in the shadowy beauty of the games scenery and your character will get brutally and bloody chopped up in a bear trap. It's jarring and shocking, but it all adds to the oppressive feeling of the game environment. Every little puzzle has the capacity to kill you, and it'll often have done it before you've really had a fair chance. This may seem frustrating to some people, and it’s generally held that a game that instantly kills you without appropriate warning is practicing bad design, but in Limbo the checkpoints are handed out so liberally that this isn't really a problem.

The puzzles revolve around nothing but movement, jumping and using the games only action button. This simply involves dragging items or flipping switches, but the puzzles quickly get as fiendish as the games ambience. Each of them are a joy to finally figure out, and to its credit, the game supplies a good mix of puzzle and platforming, meaning it'll be your reflexes, as well as your thinking which will be put to the test. Later on the game there are one or two instances of puzzles which perhaps could have been signposted better, and although these parts are frustrating at the time, they won't likely detract from your overall experience with the game.

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An unfortunate victim to the games many hazards - only a seconds lapse in concentration and you'll join him.

At 1200 Microsoft points, Limbo can seem a little insubstantial for your money - a play through clocks in at 4 to 5 hours and the only real incentive for a second play is to collect a sparse few hidden eggs hidden off the beaten path. The game certainly doesn't give you good value for money, but if you can justify the somewhat gouging price, then Limbo is a good experience regardless.

Bottom Line: Limbo is as simple as its art style - the music weaves mostly unnoticed with the gameplay: sad, oppressive and minimalistic. The satisfaction you get from completing each puzzle or scoring the next checkpoint is constantly circumvented by the macabre mood of the whole thing and then exacerbated by the graphic violence of your constant deaths. This game is beautiful and haunting; challenging and rewarding; marvellously deep in atmosphere, but seductively simple in play.

Criticism of my writing style welcomed and encouraged. I'm here to learn!

second's requires the apostrophe.

There's a few run-on sentences, but, that's about it.

That was a really good review. It seems like one of those games that strikes something primal in you. Something that can only be conveyed by experiencing it.

Edit: It kinda comes off as something along the lines of Shadow Of The Colossus.

Very well written review.

I agree with your point about the signposting, there was one particular puzzle near the end that I mistook an important part of the scenery for a simple signpost... this wasn't made clear enough in my view.

 

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