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Limbo (Xbox 360) artwork

Limbo (Xbox 360) review

"Hell is where the heart is."

Limbo initially thrusts you in the middle of a dense, dark forest. There is no prelude or introduction, no narrator or indication of who or where you are. You won't be stumbling upon any misplaced journals, clunky monologues or dramatic scenes of revelation. Everything there in the dismal forest and beyond is for you to piece together and theorize.

The bleak and dismal environment composed of black, white and various shades of gray tells you that something ominous is afoot. You've stepped beyond the boundaries of reality and into a world without pity or remorse. Fog rolls about in the fore and back, and only vague shapes can be made out in thick whiteness. Those of us who've played our share of horror games might look for moving shadows in the fluff or listen for the screech of a radio going haywire, and tread cautiously as a result. Somehow, though, the trepidation inspires you to move forward so as not to make yourself easy prey for whatever lurks beyond the mist. Atmosphere like this can be cut with a knife and practically tasted. It's haunting, and fans of fear-based games may smack their lips after that first mouthful and want more.

Limbo asset

You might say that your ultimate goal is to get beyond the forest to safety, but even in the city--now a funhouse of danger and decay--you'll find no solace. Between giant spiders trying to devour you and rogue turrets ripping your body to ribbons with high speed fire, there is no room for rest or breathing. In Limbo nowhere is safe.

Safety cannot be gained by firing a machine gun or picking flowers that bestow pyrokinesis. They wouldn't be much solace anyway against giant saw blades and killer bear traps. It falls to you to time your leaps and hope that your foot doesn't snag on a saw tooth, or that you didn't press the button too late and end up impaled on a spike. Traps are weaved around puzzles, and you must invoke the best of your wits and skill to survive. You might be able to time your jumps effectively when running against a treadmill, but what do you do against a piece of floor that elevates faster than you can run? Your options are to use your gray matter or become a greasy stain on the ceiling.

Each hazard and piece of the environment is placed with care and seldom feels haphazard or contrived. You'll push your share of convenient crates, but also find yourself shutting off electrical switches so as not to wind up sizzled on a dilapidated hotel sign. After that you might leap from a ladder on a rolling cart in order to crash through a window, slide down an incline into a downward drop, only to latch onto a fire hose to keep from hitting the concrete at terminal velocity. All of these objects work in brilliant harmony, but none feel like a contrivance or alien to the environment.

Limbo asset

Unlike many early puzzle adventures, Limbo does not take the same puzzles and rearrange them. Your first puzzles may involve pushing blocks, but later puzzles will have you beating a clock to avoid electrocution or using magnets to move blocks to more convenient locations. You'll even find yourself using water level to raise platforms or leaping from one moving gear to another before they crush your frail frame. Even the stimuli can serve different purposes depending on the puzzle. Crates usually serve as staircases, but can also shield you from bullets. Even that automated turret that tore you apart in a previous attempt can be used to cut ropes or destroy bits of environment.

Limbo is not without forgiveness. Death will only set you back to the beginning of each puzzle or situation, but even in death you seldom feel cheated. You're rarely killed by cheap tricks or overwhelming odds thanks to fair puzzle design and tight controls.

There comes a point when all experiences must end, and even through all the desolation, ruin, trepidation and dread you find yourself wishing it weren't so. Only a few hours after beginning and the ride through hell resolves, leaving you wishing for more layers to slice through and aberrant obstacle courses to negotiate.

With clever puzzles, tricky platforming, a thick, dark atmosphere; and astute usage of fear and brutality, Limbo is a worthy and horrifying journey. The world it creates is depressing, yet somehow beautiful and creatively desolate. Also, Limbo holds one huge advantage over other stylized adventures: substance. It has challenge, variety, skill-based gameplay, and immense man-eating spiders. What more could a fan of horror and side-scrolling platformers ask for?


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (May 10, 2011)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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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!

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Masters posted May 13, 2011:

You've sold me. Sadly, I remember this game being on sale not so long ago, and I didn't pick it up at the time. =T
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JoeTheDestroyer posted May 13, 2011:

I was in the same boat. I wound up spending the full $12 on it. At least they give discounts, unlike certain download clientswiiwarevirtualconsole.*

*or maybe they do give discounts and I just didn't realize it. All I know is a lot of the games on there don't seem like they're worth more than $5.

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