7.0 Overall Score

Written by on July 19, 2010 in

Oh LIMBO… what an emotional mess you’ve made of me.

I should preface this review with a story, and a few words of information. This past week, I was informed that I was going to be assigned my first review. I was told that it’s a new game, coming out this Wednesday July 21st, kicking off Xbox 360’s Summer of Arcade.  The game is by the Danish Playdead Studios, entirely in black and white. I put two and two together and knew I would be reviewing LIMBO. I had seen the trailer and found it intriguing, so I accepted the assignment with much excitement. This is the first side scrolling game that I have actually played for myself, and being a vicarious gamer, my experience of this game is notably different than someone who, like my husband, has been gaming most of his life.

The description of the game is quite vague: “Uncertain of his sister’s fate, a boy enters LIMBO.” That’s all you know about him the entire time. There is no mention of this sister when you start the game, and you wouldn’t know about her at all if you hadn’t read the description. Sounds simple enough right? Sure, if you are confident in your puzzle gaming skills, and aren’t bothered by watching a young boy die numerous gruesome deaths. LIMBO is side scrolling, and past each obstacle is a puzzle more complicated than the one preceding it. I found out quite quickly that the puzzles also intensify in the manner of which you can graphically die.

I have to be honest, when I saw on the start screen that this game had a gore filter, I laughed to myself. How bad can it be? It’s entirely in black and white. It really can’t be that bad.

I was so wrong. I got about halfway through the game and had to turn the filter on. I couldn’t stand to watch this little boy be mown over by another saw, speared by a spider leg, electrocuted, or flattened by a rock, just to name a few of the obstacles that bested me. For most gamers, it’s probably not that big of a deal, but for me, a vicarious gamer, this kind of violent death for a child was traumatizing. I felt protective of his every move, and felt guilty when he died because I made a careless mistake.

LIMBO is being described as “eerie,” and I can attest to that. The musical score is practically nonexistent, which I think makes this game all the more engrossing. With no music to distract you or cue you how to feel emotionally, you are sucked into LIMBO all the more. The only hint you get is the occasional zooming in of a camera to direct your focus on the next obstacle. I found myself playing for long stretches of time without intending to due to this carefully crafted environment.

I hit a wall around the third day of play. I couldn’t stand to watch this boy die because of my mindless mistakes any more. I took a day and a half break to visit family in Los Angeles. LIMBO haunted me the entire drive down; the ominous outlines of the hills and the languid glow of sparse streetlights mirrored the feel of this game. I did complete the game upon our return with the help of my patient husband, who gave me quite the pep talk.

LIMBO taught me that watching someone play a game and playing it yourself are two entirely different experiences. I appreciated the look and feel of the game and the creativity of the puzzles although they frustrated me. I so want to say that I would recommend this game to everyone, and that I loved it and will play it over and over again, but I wouldn’t. It’s too draining. That said, it’s obvious then that people who are not desensitized to intense violence should also not play this game. It is very disturbing. Don’t be fooled just because it’s in black and white. It’s like Hitchcock films; what is left to the imagination is more upsetting than what you actually do see.

I would definitely recommend this game to people who enjoyed Braid. It has a similar feel to it, though the controls are different. People who are bored with your typical arcade game should most definitely enter LIMBO. It is revolutionary in its minimalism; its refusal to sacrifice real quality of game play for brash color, cheesy story, or annoying music. The achievements will keep you locked in its peculiar grasp;  making it through in one sitting with only 5 deaths is certainly something to brag about to your friends. If any of this sounds like you, I invite you to LIMBO. It is a journey you won’t be able to put out of your mind.

A download code was provided to TMG for the purpose of evaluation and review.


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Author: Lauren Mae View all posts by

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