Currently, there are an incredible number of Indie studios releasing games and more hard at work on their own projects. This breakthrough of independent games did not come as a coincidence, but they all followed the steps of a selection of games which made it big a couple of years ago. Limbo is one such title, making its way onto Xbox One as a further testament of its beauty as a platformer, one which sparked the indie revolution we are beholding.
Virtually unchanged on the Xbox One except for a larger resolution and frame rate, Limbo stars a little boy, who is in a dark forest looking for his elder sister. No plot, no backstory, no names. Just the small boy, desperately found inside this massive, evil forest. Limbo is a 2D platformer, and thus the boy can only be moved left or right, or jump. On his way in search for his sister, the little boy has to overcome several obstacles standing in his way, ranging from tough environments to humans, to creatures. One such creature is a giant spider, the acquaintance of which you will be making pretty early in the game, and who will come back to haunt the boy on more than one occasion. Limbo also features small puzzles, in the sense that progression does not limit itself to a simple jump or traversal but needs that something specific happens, or is triggered, to continue your travels.
As mentioned before, Limbo is a 2D sidescroller, where the only command is jump. The boy has the ability to push things such as logs, boats or boxes as well, which comes in very handy when face to face with the puzzles described above. The game will also require a lot of backtracking, since the solution to a puzzle may not reside in the screen where the road continues but may be just before. The player must also pay attention to sounds in the game. Having a minimal soundtrack one immediately realizes that any noise heard can be a hint of what one has to do to progress, and sound surely does play a part in going forward in the game.
Unlike most games out there, death is almost actually helpful in Limbo. During his travels, the boy will encounter a lot of traps or dangerous situations, and since he cannot swim even water will be a danger for him, thus resulting in death. After dying, the player will respawn at the closest checkpoint prior to the death, which is generally not very far away. The deaths in Limbo are often cumbersome, from a death trap decapitating the boy to a spider crushing his chest and more still. This is the reason for a gore filter being present in the game, which blacks out the screen instead of showing the different death animations of the boy. From dying, the player will learn to avoid a similar situation or work in a different way to solve puzzles, and thus moving ahead. The developers themselves have called the game a trial and death game, to further emphasize how dying is a key to learning more about the game.
What makes the game such a standout, apart from the excellent platforming and puzzles, is the mood which Playdead, Limbo’s developers, manage to instil in the game. Limbo features only black and white textures, which further add to the ominous presence portrayed by the forest itself. It is difficult to tell why this adoption of an unpopular colour scheme amplifies the mood of a game like this, but most guesses point at the colour black being synonymous with sadness and the unknown, as well as the grey which features prominently in the game, mainly as the colour of the sky which is not pure white but tends more towards a light grey tone. The helplessness of the boy is also a fact which may be taken into consideration as a big factor in setting the mood, since he can do virtually nothing except jump and move things. Limbo has been more than once been used as an example of why video games should be considered art. Behind the claim, various instances of how the game sets a certain mood are taken, as well as some environments which even though limited in colour, are not limited in any way in beauty and meaning.
Audio wise, as stated before, in certain instances sound will be the most important clue in knowing what must be done in the current situation. In other instances, the sound is mostly of a creepy nature, making the player delve further into the experience almost as if they were in the forest themselves, in the shoes of the boy. In the words of one of those behind the soundtrack for Limbo, Martin Andersen, explains that the game features an acousmatic soundtrack, meaning that one does not see what is causing the noise and is thus an invisible source. Andersen argues that this amplifies further the experience, since in most games the music does actually help the player. For instance when fright scenes begin the music intensifies to signal danger to the player. Thus Andersen took the decision to implement this type of sound to the game, and one cannot argue with his claim after the success the game has made, partly due to the sound.
Limbo is one of the greatest indie titles developed in the games industry, one which was so critically acclaimed that it inspired other independent studios to start their foray into digital game publishing. First releasing on Xbox360, Limbo is being released again on the platform’s successor for good reason, and anyone who has yet to play it is highly encouraged to do so. The game was given for free to the majority of early adopters of the Xbox One which is a great birthday gift for both Xbox and the family of adopters of the console. Small details apart, Limbo is a beautiful tale of mystery which will captivate players into its world from start to finish,
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.