LIMBO Review

When a player is presented with a gap in the ground, the natural inclination is to vault over it. But if, say, the ground on the other side were actually quicksand, then the player would be surprised to find that the gap should not be vaulted. In this way, a game can surprise a gamer, dismantling preconceived notions about the game world. Here, the game is, in some sense, playing the gamer. Such is LIMBO.

Straight out of Copenhagen, LIMBO is Playdead Studio’s first foray into paid downloadable titles, though I wouldn’t call this beginner’s luck. Every aspect of the game was made with an artistic attention to detail, so much so that all of the content is crammed into a short 4-6 hour game. It definitely feels short, but like Portal, doesn’t overstay its welcome. LIMBO keeps you sucked into its bleak, grim universe with unique puzzles, simple controls, and an approach to game design Playdead calls “trial and death” gaming.


If you’ve seen even just the screenshots, you know LIMBO is a beautifully dark game. And it does so with a grayscale color palette. The effect is an often lifeless, shadowy environment, partially blurred or obscured by trees, grassy hills, or industrial pipes in the foregound via a wonderful, layered, depth effect. If you’re thinking silent films of the 20’s, though, think again. The character designs are cartoony, though mere shadows, and are highlighted by distinct contrasts that define this game’s striking art style. Like the visuals, the audio is approached from a minimalist perspective as well. I suggest playing this game with the volume on high in order to hear some of the ambient rustling of grass or pinging of metal, and then be blown away at the ominous bass crescendos during moments of climax. It’s an impactful and economically designed experience that’s worth playing simply for the presentation if nothing else.

LIMBO is more subtle in its approach to story, given that there is no explanation aside from the description on PSN stating that you are a boy trying to save his sister (who is supposedly in the place “LIMBO”). But in game, you simply wake up in the darkened woods and begin going right. The 2D platforming is governed by the physics of jumping, catching ledges, and pushing/pulling some objects. The manipulation of these actions in conjunction with the environment (push this box here to reach this ledge there) and with enemies (giant spiders can be useful) fills the majority of play time, and can become incredibly challenging towards the end of the game.


Here you will find the kind of sick playfulness imbued in LIMBO that truly makes it a must-play game. You see a box floating in a small pond to your right and the bank a short ways away. You attempt to jump from the box to the shore, but it’s a bit too far, so you drown, then respawn right before the pond and try again. For the next five or so minutes (depending on your stubborn belief in side-scrolling tradition), you will try to flip and twist the box across the pond, only to frustratingly admit that you just can’t do it. Dejectedly, you walk back towards your left, the only option remaining, and notice a vine hanging from a tree above where you respawned. You push the box back, jump on it to reach the vine, and make your way up the trees to where a log is waiting to be pushed into the pond below securing your passage across.

It’s a small example, but representative of the majority of puzzles you’ll find in LIMBO. Each has its own way of lulling you into a comfortable pocket of platforming that you’re familiar with, only to then throw a giant boulder, poison dart, or bear trap at you from the shadows. It’s extremely entertaining, and a strangely humorous way of making grotesque, interesting deaths a workable part of gameplay. It’s the game that plays the gamer, and for that, it’s also utterly and sadistically worth every cent.


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Author: Dan Crabtree View all posts by
Dan is Managing Editor for GamerNode and a freelance gaming writer. His dog is pretty great. Check him out on Twitter @DanRCrabtree.

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