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This review was submitted by Troy Cleary. If you’ve played Limbo, or just want to ask Troy more about it, leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Limbo, the stunningly depressing puzzler/platformer from aptly named Playdead Studios, is being hailed by many as a short, sharp breath of fresh air. But is it all just that black and white or is there a sinister shade of grey marring a seemingly perfect package of independent gaming genius?
Loved Couch Co-op: This is the first game I have ever been able to sit down and play start to finish with my non-gaming partner. Sure it’s not the way the game is meant to be played, but the ever-present puzzles and bleak atmosphere can easily encourage multiple people to sit, captivated, trying to figure out what to do next, and with plenty of time to pass the controller around between sections.
Black is the new...black: The dark, gloomy and downright depressing colour palette (consisting of black, white and various shades of grey) is an absolute masterpiece to behold. Anyone could be forgiven for assuming that a complete lack of colour would make a game look muddy and cluttered, but it all lays in the execution. You always know where you are and, thanks to a clever use of lighting, you always know where you need to go.
Happily Depressing: You are alone in a very hostile environment. Every step you take may very well be your last and death comes in many forms, some more graphic than you would imagine from a game devoid of colour. Almost everyone and everything is out to get you and the sheer degrees of cruelty and horror you will face will actually leave every hair standing on end while simultaneously leaving you feeling cold inside. More than once I turned to see my partner's jaw wide open followed by her telling me “This game is seriously f**ked up...”
Puzzled Look: I’m not usually a fan of puzzle-heavy games. Not that I don’t have what it takes to solve them, it’s just that I lose interest very quickly. But this game actually made me want to push on, to guide our (presumably) innocent little avatar further to whatever end awaited him. But not only that, some of the puzzles were genuinely interesting and highly enjoyable. That feeling of elation when the penny finally drops and we worked out what it was we needed to do begat some of the most enjoyable portions of playing Limbo - more so that we overcame it together.
Small Mercies: We died... we died a lot. We died via electrocution, compaction, decapitation, high falls, impaling and drowning. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg. The small saving grace is that checkpoints are very frequent, so that when you do die – and you will – you won’t be too far away from where you left off. This only makes sense as some puzzles can be time-consuming and frustrating. Having to go back and redo your progress would not only be tedious, but would certainly be a game-killer. In Limbo, you will always be moving forward. Granted it will usually be forward into death, but it’s forward nonetheless.
Hated Chuloopa smash! You will get frustrated. You will get angry. And if, like me, you played with a partner, you will get death stares and give them in return. On top of that, there's the disgrace you feel when you finally work out how simple that last puzzle was, even though you spent the past half-hour obsessing and bickering over it.
Anti-climax: The ending quite didn’t do it for either of us. We went through so much only to come to then end and say “Was that it?” And it was. It just ended. I don’t think it was so much the fault of the game, but rather my expectations. It seems kind of foolish to expect an explanatory, substance-filled ending from a game that just spent hours reaming both my partner and I... Hey, I guess you could say it was our first threesome!
All in all, Limbo is masterful and wonderful game, especially considering how bleak, depressing and frustrating it can be. The outstanding presentation and fluid gameplay make this game a must-own for anyone with an Xbox 360. I highly recommend this to anyone, and recommend even more so that you share the experience with someone else, whether it be your partner, friend or even a member of your family. Never before has a game been as beautiful as it is deeply disturbing.
Reviewed by: Troy Cleary
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