Game quick review: Limbo (xbox 360)

From looking at a simple screen-shot of Limbo it’s obvious that it’s a very unique game. It’s currently available for purchase on the xbox360 via Xbox Live at a very reasonable at 800 points – less than 10 UKP in real money. A screen shot is good for getting across the dark and claustrophobic visuals of the game, but a video demonstrates the fluid animation and level design better:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kD5F54SZkMA]

The graphics are deceptively advanced. At first glance it looks like a simple 2D platformer but there are multiple levels of parallax scrolling combined with blurring and fuzziness effects topped off with a lighting system that has you walking into dark areas where the whole screen nearly turns black. Although I’ve never had a nightmare like this, it seems fitting to describe it as a game that successfully captures one, or at least some other altered state of conciousness. The first time I played Limbo (on a large projector screen in a dark room) it was absolutely captivating in a way that I can’t remember experiencing with gaming for a long time – if ever. It’s hard to avoid the sense of dread and fear that the game can instil into you: trying to coax the deadly leg of a huge spider to stab something is a genuinely uncomfortable experience. The game is monochrome throughout and the overall visual quality is slightly reminiscent of an old black & white TV with a poor signal – that’s not to say it looks bad though – in fact it looks amazing throughout. It’s a first-class example of how to create a piece of art using modern technology.

Although the game is incredibly atmospheric, isn’t just a case of style over substance. It’s an addictive and enjoyable platform/puzzle game, and to a retro gamer like myself this really appeals. There are sections involving electrified signs where timed jumps are required to avoid being fried, as well as huge machines that have you jumping from one huge cog to another. It’s a game that takes it’s time – unlike a manic platform game like Sonic, patience is rewarded as you sit on a cog or moving cart waiting for it to move to the right spot for you to make your more. Towards the end of the game there’s an anti-gravity section which is fun but maybe goes a little bit too far and oversteps the otherwise minimalist level design.

Limbo gets my highest recommendation and is one of the most memorable gaming experiences of the last few years. It’s quite a short game but not in the context of the asking price, and for the most part the level design is fun. Expect to die an awful lot – it’s all part of learning how to deal with the puzzles, and fits in with the desperately gloomy atmosphere. The only thing I found slightly disappointing was the ending – I won’t give away what happens I thought if the game had switched from monochrome to glorious colour for the final scene it would have had more of an emotional impact and left a lasting impression.

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