Dark, gripping, and surprisingly violent, Limbo is without a doubt the most unique 2D side-scrolling platformer I have ever played. But beyond that, it is an artistic expression point in this medium that stands the test of time just as well as Super Mario World’s colorful world or Shadow of the Colossus’ barren wasteland.
The player isn’t given any exposition or context as to what he or she is experiencing over the course of Limbo’s short span of 2-3 hours; you are simply dropped into the game’s unforgiving world with only one direction to go. And while the initial obstacles are easily avoidable, the player quickly encounters some unforgiving enemies not the least of which is the game’s now iconic giant spider in addition to other faceless individuals all of whom are relentless in their attempts to trap and maim your diminutive avatar.
While the player character is merely a young boy, the death animations that so often occur to him and the enemies that pursue him are shockingly violent. This, combined with the monochrome color palate and eerie atmosphere, create an overall tone that is both haunting and foreboding. In Limbo, death isn’t a mere punishment for missteps; it is a terrifying prospect that you will find yourself avoiding at all costs.
Interestingly, the player is only accosted by hostile NPCs for the first half of the game. After a startling scene that writes them off, the player is then tasked with completing a set of increasingly mind-bending puzzles which push the limited frame of the player’s avatar, and the game’s fascinating approach to physics, to the limit. Most of the tasks are Portal-esque brain teasers that didn’t take me more than a few minutes each to solve, but toward the game’s conclusion I was met with some of the most entertaining and difficult physics-based puzzles I’ve ever come across in a video game complete with the moments of satisfaction (and at times awe) that came with their completion. I won’t spoil how deep the mechanics get, but suffice it to say I was felt like I was constantly learning and overcoming new challenges until I saw the credits.
Limbo may not seem as unique and interesting as it did upon its release eight years ago, but even the most hardened Indie veteran will find it to be a dark, difficult, and ultimately satisfying experience. And for people like me who rarely play downloadable titles, it is a breath of fresh air and a stark reminder that great games come in all sizes.