Since its original release in 2010, Limbo has travelled its way across many platforms and now arrives on PS4 for free (as long as you are a PS Plus member) giving me no good reason to miss out on this critically acclaimed game from developer Playdead.
The premise is simple: A young boy wakes up in a stark black and white forest with one goal; find his elder sister. The medium in which you carry out your task is through the 2D sidescroller format and with the aid of two simple actions – jump and action. You are not armed with any weapons or fancy magic powers, you cannot punch, kick or pull out any fancy finishing moves. What you will do is come across many traps and dangers, time jumps and rope swings, traverse ladders and mechanical workings, and, solve some head scratching and chin stroking puzzles both devious and genius in nature.
The game is pretty much displayed in black and white and uses some excellent distance shadow use and grain effects. The lighting, sound and minimalistic score give it a constant foreboding and heavy atmosphere and the simple, yet very effective, control system means the focus of the player is the story. Across its three to four hour play time, you only learn what you are willing to absorb and experience. It could just be seen as a very basic “A to B” old school platformer or it could be interpreted as a social comment on love, loss and the constant struggle between life and death (as in Limbo). You may feel that you, the player, is as much the hero as you are the villain or you may equally feel like the puppet on strings or the puppeteer pulling those strings. The many theories this game has generated is both impressive and interesting and should definitely be explored.
Split over 24 “chapters”, through one long continuous stretch, you will come across disturbing and unexpected scenes, backgrounds and landscapes determined to stop you reaching your goal, dark figures and weird worm slugs attempting to destroy you, long treacherous death defying drops and the likes of water and electricity just waiting to kill you off. You will learn through trial and error and have many ‘eureka’ moments when you suddenly understand how to get through a certain section whilst also having to make quick snap judgments coupled with some manic timing button tappings. The final puzzle especially will have you using every skill you have learnt to literally break through.
So it looks and sounds amazing, plays solid, is simple and has a story that delivers the more you dig. It is full of memorable moments and encounters and is open to your own interpretation and commitment. The split from forest to mechanical half way through keeps it fresh and exciting and the gruesome death scenes are both unexpected and shocking. Some may find it lacks closure or bemoan the simple premise of it compared to the sandbox games currently on the market but I absolutely adored this game. I found myself glued to the screen, jaw agape, chest pounding throughout and upon reaching that abrupt ending, completely heartbroken.
Limbo easily joins the many games of its type (Journey, Flower and Valiant Hearts to name a few) with grace and ease with developer Playdead a name to look out for in the future.