LIMBO is a dark, Tim Burton-like gameplay driven platformer created by the Danish independent developer Playdead. At $9.99 on Steam, and usually half that price during sales, it's difficult to resist impulse-buying it. At first glance it seems like the average indie game, but playing through, you will realize it is well worth the buy.
A few things you should know before you play the game. It may seem like an art-driven game, and to a point it is, but it's actually very gameplay driven, relying on intense timing based puzzles and mechanics to convey a feeling of profound insignificance. The gameplay, combined with the soundtrack that ranges from creepy, to powerful to mellow, and the gloomy, to calming to outright scary art style, creates a powerful sense of intense purpose that does a great job of immersing you in the game. Also, if you own a controller, use that, as the keyboard controls are a bit laggy, and the controller matches the platformer style of the game much better.
Warning: Spoilers Here
You play as a small boy in a vast, surreal black and white world filled with dangers up the wazoo. The environment has a strong, ethereal and dreamlike feel, and seems to imply some sort of psychological analogy, also hinted at in the description on steam; "Uncertain of his sister's fate, a boy enters LIMBO..." Perhaps I'm just drawing parallels with the free flash game Coma, but the entire game feels like an analogy for an internal battle. The boy, the character you play is completely nonchalant and aloof, showing only an inkling of emotion with his body language at the very end. Throughout the entire game, bizarre, nightmarish beasts and vast, terrifying environments dictate the game, all seem to conspire against the boy. I interpreted this as an analogy for a mental battle of the boy coping with his sister's presumably grim fate. It also played off several seemingly innocent things kids do, such as pulling the legs off a daddy longlegs.
It's difficult to take each aspect of the game and explain how it affects the game as a whole, so I'm going to take certain parts of the game and pick them apart, explaining why each part worked.
First, we'll talk about something closer to the end of the game. Deep in the bowels of a dark, industrial section of the game, you flip a switch and the entire map starts turning clockwise, you have to time your jumps to climb onto the wall and avoid getting crushed. These scene is one of the most intense and immersive parts of the game. The game accomplishes this by limiting the light you have with a single swinging light bulb, and accenting the colossal feeling of the environment with a soundtrack of a deep, throbbing tone, intensifying the fear of the time-based puzzle.
There are countless scenes like this in the game, the developers did an incredible job of immersion by gameplay. Another excellent feature that added to the intensity is the autosave feature. The autosave points are just far apart enough so that you need to learn and know the terrain between them enough to feel like you are skillfully navigating the level, and it requires you to "practice", much like older games with no save feature. However, the autosave feature saves often enough that you don't lose a frustrating amount of progress if you die. In fact, the game did an excellent job of avoiding frustration, as the immersive nature made you feel more determined rather than frustrated when you die.
The physics system is also a work of art, the animations and physics of this two dimensional environment are so smooth, they become a major factor of the immersion, combined with the dark art style, it creates an interesting juxtaposition that adds to the pure surrealism, not to mention the added and more obvious juxtaposition of the young, innocent boy in a deadly, nightmarish world.
The setting itself seems to take place on the outskirts of a post-apocalyptic industrial city, and the game transitions from wild forests and fields with rural natives to the bowels of a sprawling, intimidating machine
There is so much I wish I could put into words about this game. I wasn't too impressed at first, but thinking back, I realized what an effect it had, and I was overtaken with the urge to play through again. It is worth the ten dollars, but my advice is to wait for it to go on sale.
Final Verdict: 8.3/10