Playdead are well known for creating dark, haunting and eerie 2D platformers. Before INSIDE turned out to be a BAFTA Award-winning success there was LIMBO. Limbo was released in 2010 and features a lost boy, alone in a dangerous world as he searches for his missing sister.
Utilising a monochrome palate, film grain and lighting effects, LIMBO sets its dark tone from the off. Curious noises fill the early gloomy forest environment making you feel uneasy. With no dialogue or clear narrative and no real idea of where you are and what you must do next, the only option is to carefully proceed forwards.
As the unnamed boy picks his way through the undergrowth of the forest it becomes clear that there are dangers all around. One particularly fearsome adversary is the spider who towers over our young protagonist. Perhaps the most disturbing thing about this foe is its slow, menacing pace as it gradually advances on the boy. It’s the small touches and attention to visual detail which makes sequences with the Spider feel so spine-tingling and haunting.
LIMBO’s gameplay runs on the element of fear and overcoming seemingly impossible situations. Using only wit and the environment around you, the boy can protect himself against those who wish to harm him, and in this world, there are dangers everywhere. The world of LIMBO is remarkably curious, the boy’s journey will immerse him in environments ranging from large forests to colossal cityscapes which appear out of proportion to our protagonist, leaving the player questioning where in fact this unfortunate journey is taking place. Traps clutter the path between the boy and his missing sister and many of them will catch you by surprise. But in this game, deaths serve as a learning curve, it’s important to die to understand the correct way to progress. Each new chapter displays a new set of challenges and the adapting to the innovative puzzles for each stage means that LIMBO is constantly teaching you new ways to adapt and survive.
Just as with for Limbo’s successor INSIDE, the boy’s journey becomes more twisted and corrupted the deeper into the game you get. With both technology and other inhabitants of this cruel land desperate to stop the boy in his tracks, it becomes clear that the boy’s presence in this world is maligned, and perhaps for an unknown reason. Perhaps my favourite part of the game is where the anti-gravity sections begin. I was astounded at how clever this part of the game was and how much it motivated me to overcome the tricky timings and angles which came with this type of puzzle. These heightened puzzles signaled the end of the game and when the conclusion eventually came I was shocked at how moving and good it was. Ultimately, the finale subtly mirrors the heartache and loneliness which is conveyed through the main game. Because of this the climax of the game was even more effective and memorable once the credits had rolled.
Limbo boasts an impressive trophy cabinet; brilliant white eggs stand out against the background and are the key to pinging trophies. Once all of these deviously-hidden eggs have been found, a secret tunnel emerges, one which is full of puzzles which are as fiendishly difficult as they are clever. Added extra’s like this mean that Limbo’s dark world is full of secrets and exploration opportunities, all great reasons to play multiple times.
With Playdead creating two incredible games (you can read my INSIDE review here) the assumption is that these dark thrilling indie releases are only going to get more and more enjoyable as the years roll on. LIMBO itself may not be overly long, but its hard to think of any other games which are as atmospheric, eerie and consistently chilling in such a short time span. LIMBO is easily one of my favourite games and deserves a place on every gamer’s shelf.