Limbo (PlayStation 3) review
"Despite the disappointing elements, its a genius game in many ways"
Once again, it is October, which means it is time to play scary games. I had some odd timing getting back from my vacation to Korea on 9/24. I didn't start any new games as I wanted to wait until October 1st to start playing scary games...
Anyway, first on the docket is Limbo. It's kind of an indie game classic, I would think. You play as a little boy in a 2d black and white silhouette environment. The aesthetic doesn't end there though. The amazing use of animation, diffused lighting and mist, and a running physics engine all work together with the lack of color to give the game a really sharp look. There is also a cool use of foreground effects that make many scenes feel like the game is a POV shot of an unknown predator about to pounce on you.
With no instruction and no explanation, you need to progress forward through various environmental puzzles. These puzzles are laden with horrible ways to die, be they traps, hazards, or even enemies. The many, many deaths you will die are quite a spectacle. They feature detailed animation, gory dismemberments, and a camera that lingers on the death for a creepy amount of time. Of course, this isn't quite as gruesome as it sounds as your character is basically a silhouette, but then again, that adds another layer of creepiness to what you are seeing, so it is pretty disturbing watching him get chopped up by a buzzsaw or smashed in bear trap. And the background trappings, like children hung from trees that you can barely see out in the mist and unknown chunks of meat swarming with flies do not exactly brighten up the mood.
The game's puzzles are pretty top notch throughout the whole game. There isn't really a bad one in the bunch. They all involve a few simple elements you need to manipulate to get from point A to point B. You might have a box or two you need to position properly to allow you to climb to a high ledge, or some switches you need to pull to move different things around. I'm being pretty vague here as the game is quite short (approximately 3 hours) and it's best for you to see all the puzzles for yourself. They are all quite balanced; I didn't find any of them too easy or too hard. Goldilocks the whole way, which makes for a really smooth and fun gaming experience that almost no other game can pull off.
I was really digging the game, but a couple of flaws really held it back for me. First, it's too short. Short games are fine, but this particular one needed to be longer. Second, it's story and theme are pretty bad. It introduces some really cool elements, but then they go nowhere. They literally just stop showing up in the game even though it seemed like they were important. The ending comes out of nowhere and was basically meaningless to me. There was no sense that I was building up to the last puzzle, and there was no sense that I was building up to an ending to the story. And when the ending came, it felt pretentious and meaningless. I literally thought, “Oh, it's over.” It kind of ends with a story note you've seen a thousand times before. I can't help but compare it to one of my favorite games of all time, Closure. The fact that they are both in black and white is pretty much a coincidence, but they are also both puzzle platformers with no overt story explanation. Closure is way longer, and builds up to and epic final puzzle and epilogue. The developer put in the time to make the game length enough that you build to something. Closure is also filled to the brim with meaning and clues, and its narratives and themes build and grow as you play. Limbo just ends... and kind of tritely... I had such a bad taste in my mouth from the end that I had no desire at all to go track down the collectibles, even though there is a secret level you can unlock, which is the exact opposite of how I felt when finishing Closure. Closure is an extreme example of story and theme done right, but I've seen lots of games (like Lone Survivor, Braid, and even Stealth Inc.) pull off some kind of cool meaning and theming in setups similar to Limbo, so it was disappointing to see it fall flat here.
Anyway, Limbo is actually a genius game in many ways. It looks amazing and the puzzles are great throughout, and there are lots of horribly creepy moments. There are two big sequences that I won't spoil at all that are really disturbing and haunting. Not to mention the countless upsetting deaths. Despite the disappointing elements, its a 3 out of 5.
Community review by Robotic_Attack (October 14, 2016)
Robotic Attack reviews every game he plays... almost.
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