Ads are gone. We're using Patreon to raise funds so we can grow. Please pledge support today!
Google+   Facebook button  Twitter button 
3DS | DS | PS3 | PS4 | PSP | VITA | WII | WIIU | X360 | XB1 | All
Limbo (Xbox 360) artwork

Limbo (Xbox 360) review


"The first thing that you're sure to notice is the monochrome visual design. There's not a drop of color to be seen. You might suppose that Limbo would be an ugly game as a result, or that things would quickly blur together into a thoroughly forgettable mess. Nothing could be further from the truth, however. The lush forests and the imposing industrial areas that you'll explore over the course of your adventure are presented with exemplary attention to detail. Insects fill the air, mist rolls through the trees and clods of dirt fly into the air as the hero scrambles along ledges or wades through knee-high grass. Yet even with the signs of life all around, there's a striking sense of isolation. Something is wrong with the world and, for the right sort of gamer, that will feel very right."



I have precisely one problem with Limbo: it costs too much. As the first Xbox Live title to appear in the 2010 lineup of Microsoft's annual "Summer of Arcade" promotion, Limbo will set you back a whopping 1200 Microsoft Points. It's a good game, with an artistic visual approach, intelligent puzzles and terrific pacing all working in its favor, but there's no getting around the fact that from beginning to end, the adventure will only provide most players with three or four hours of entertainment.

Limbo tells the story, in a general sense, of a boy who wakes up in a forest clearing. No explanation is given for his presence in that clearing and his identity remains a mystery even if you reach the game's closing credits. There's no spoken or written dialog and there are no cutscenes to break up the action, either. What you see is what you get. Some gamers might have a problem with the lack of a well-defined plot, but I appreciated the absence of unnecessary bells and whistles. Without them, I was more easily able to focus on the core experience.

As it turns out, that core experience is rather unique. Start playing the game and the first thing that you're sure to notice is the monochrome visual design. There's not a drop of color to be seen. You might suppose that Limbo would be an ugly game as a result, or that things would quickly blur together into a thoroughly forgettable mess, but nothing could be further from the truth. The lush forests and the imposing industrial areas that you'll explore over the course of your adventure are presented with exemplary attention to detail. Insects fill the air, mist rolls through the trees and clods of dirt fly into the air as the hero scrambles along ledges or wades through knee-high grass. Yet even with the signs of life all around, there's a striking sense of isolation. Something is wrong with the world and, for the right sort of gamer, that will feel very right.

Besides lending the game an artistic feel, the monochrome design forces the player to remain aware of the surrounding environment at all times. This is a world where fatal traps line the forest floor while massive spiders lurk in the shadows. The more verdant landscape is joined by sparking ledges and trash compactors in some of the more industrial areas. Even when there's no immediate danger, you have to remain alert or else you run the risk of overlooking something important. There are no mind-numbing tutorials to point you to a puzzle solution, no color-coded hints and no warning signs. You have to rely on your wits and you should be ready to fail spectacularly. Though Limbo lacks crimson tones, the on-screen action feels plenty gruesome when blades tear your character apart or when he is skewered by giant insect mandibles.

If you want to avoid an untimely end, you'll need to rely on your brain more often than you do your reflexes. Consider one of my early stumbling blocks. My character was running through the forest and a butterfly took flight ahead of him. I didn't think much of it until my winged friend was suddenly skewered by a giant spider leg. A second later, so was my character. No matter what I tried, arachnid execution seemed to result each time that I tried to advance. I could generally dodge out of the way at the last minute if an attempt went badly, but eventually I always perished. I knew that there had to be a way to proceed, but it repeatedly eluded me. When visual and aural clues finally led me to the solution, I definitely felt satisfied.

Much of that satisfaction wouldn't have been possible if the game had punished me unfairly for mistakes, but Limbo's developers knew better than that. When I faced that spider, for instance, each failure set me back only a short distance. I always had immediate access to all of the tools that I needed to succeed. Defeat was frustrating but tolerable. Elsewhere, I would run through one gauntlet or another while preparing to solve a puzzle, then die just before I could put everything into motion. In lesser games, I would have been forced to repeat the process. When I reappeared in Limbo, however, all of the most troublesome steps remained complete. I'd love to see other game developers adopt a similar approach.

Another of the game's strengths is its refusal to wear out its welcome. Too many games of this sort force the player to go through the same few crate-pushing puzzles with only one or two weak variations. It's an easy way for a developer to make a game last longer. While Limbo does feature its fair share of crate puzzles, though, you'll never really have to solve one that feels like a rehash of earlier challenges. Timed switches, changes in gravity and massive gears are just a few of the wrinkles that keep things from growing stale. If you stumble across a new crate or some other such object, you can be sure that you'll soon put it to use in a different way than you did previously. It's nice to play a game that values my time nearly as much as I do.

In an obvious and fairly typical attempt to add to the game's length, the developers also included collectible items. There are 10 of them available. Most of them are hidden away quite cleverly. Each one that you find is worth an Achievement, so there's incentive to keep searching. If you happen to miss any, you can also select "chapters" to revisit favorite zones. Of course, you may wish to simply play through the entire adventure a second or third time. The developers figure that if you can make it all the way through and only die five times or less, you deserve another Achievement. I'd say that's about right.

Thanks to its solid visual design, satisfying puzzles and intelligent design that doesn't punish the player for trying to have a good time, Limbo should be an easy recommendation. Unfortunately, its current price point makes a purchase difficult to justify. Give the game a try if you're looking for something different, but don't mistake it for anything more than what it is: a unique and polished title that doesn't last nearly as long as most players would expect from such a premium release.

Rating: 8/10

honestgamer's avatar
Staff review by Jason Venter (July 23, 2010)

Jason Venter founded HonestGamers in 1998, and since then has written hundreds of reviews as the site's editor-in-chief. He also is a prolific freelancer with game reviews, articles and fiction available around the Internet.

More Reviews by Jason Venter
Super Toy Cars (Wii U) artwork
Super Toy Cars (Wii U)

The mini-car racer is still a fun concept, but Super Toy Cars is neither refined enough nor interesting enough to justify your time and money.
Shovel Knight (Wii U) artwork
Shovel Knight (Wii U)

An attempt to revive old school sensibilities that works much better than similar efforts often do.
ReignMaker (PC) artwork
ReignMaker (PC)

It's a real shame the quality of the hybrid gameplay doesn't match the genius of the game's clever title.

Feedback

If you enjoyed this Limbo review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!

board icon
Ben posted July 23, 2010:

This is a superb review that I'll be honest only makes me more torn about whether to buy it or not. This would've been an instant purchase were it not for its 1,200 MSP price, and you've just confirmed my doubts. Maybe I'll wait until there's a sale or something.

The biggest danger of reviewing a game like Limbo is getting the balance right -- you don't want to give too much away, but you also want to tell enough. I think in this review, the balance is spot on. You never reveal any of the solutions, but I got the sense of satisfaction that you get when you play the game.

Just one thing I'm not sure about, though:

There are around 12 of them available. Most of them are hidden away quite cleverly. Each one that you find is worth an Achievement, so there's good incentive to keep looking.

You say that each of the 12 collectibles are worth one achievement each, but then later on, you mention that you get another achievement for dying five or less times. That doesn't sound right -- that means there are at least 13 achievements, but I'm pretty sure the maximum for an XBLA game is 12?
board icon
honestgamer posted July 23, 2010:

There are two achievements that don't relate to those hidden objects, and then there are the ones for the objects themselves. The total is 12, as you said. I'll fix that.

I'm glad that you enjoyed the review. It definitely didn't come easy for me, and striking that balance was difficult (as was giving a good example from the game that would mean something to the gamer without giving it away). I chose the one that I did because you can encounter it within the demo, if you choose to download it, but I still didn't want to give away the answer and spoil it for anyone. Honestly, I spent about as much time writing the review as I did playing the game. It's nice to hear that the results worked for you.
board icon
zigfried posted July 23, 2010:

I wrote up some feedback, but then I realized you might use this in the TT.

So now you'll just have to wonder what I was going to say.

//Zig
board icon
zippdementia posted July 23, 2010:

Definitely the Xbox beats PS3 in terms of their indies. Limbo looks amazing, even if it probably is just a mere diversion.
board icon
jerec posted July 23, 2010:

I played the demo for this. It was good, and genuinely creepy when that spider showed up. The decision isn't so hard for me, because I have so many games I haven't played yet, that I can wait for an eventual special deal for this one.
board icon
Lewis posted July 24, 2010:

I'd argue that its length is one of its strengths: like Portal, the short running time means Limbo can be consistently brilliant and constantly surprising throughout. It's an easy GotY so far, for me.
board icon
EmP posted July 24, 2010:

Lewis bigs up artsy monocrome title; shock and awe abound.

I've wanted to play Limbo for a while now, but there's no way I'm dropping that many points on it.
board icon
JANUS2 posted July 24, 2010:

Just download the demo. It features quite a lot of content. You probably won't need to buy the full game.
board icon
zigfried posted July 24, 2010:

The length really isn't the issue, as tons of shorter games offer plenty of challenge and reason to return. Playing Limbo is like a would-be lover who always kicks you out right after you both get naked. It plays like the prelude to what should be a great rest of the game... I hope they finish it someday. Until then, I've no reason to replay the prelude. Finishing was more frustrating than gratifying.

//Zig
board icon
jerec posted July 24, 2010:

_[¯]_
o_q

I do declare Limbo to be the finest electronic video game to be released in the year of our lord 2010.
board icon
Lewis posted July 24, 2010:

Really? I thought it built up to a wonderful and satisfying ending.

Gary: Limbo does indeed look beautiful, but what I loved about it was the constant evolution of the puzzles and the environments, rather than any artsiness. I found it to be a very unpretentious game.
board icon
EmP posted July 24, 2010:

I'm only kidding, old chum.

Trial version is downloading away now.

You must be signed into an HonestGamers user account to leave feedback on this review.

Site Policies & Ethics | Contact | Links

eXTReMe Tracker
© 1998-2014 HonestGamers
None of the material contained within this site may be reproduced in any conceivable fashion without permission from the author(s) of said material. This site is not sponsored or endorsed by Nintendo, Sega, Sony, Microsoft, or any other such party. Limbo is a registered trademark of its copyright holder. This site makes no claim to Limbo, its characters, screenshots, artwork, music, or any intellectual property contained within. Opinions expressed on this site do not necessarily represent the opinion of site staff or sponsors. Staff and freelance reviews are typically written based on time spent with a retail review copy or review key for the game that is provided by its publisher.