There are times when you can sum up a game in one sentence. This is one of those times. If there is one thing to be said about Limbo, it is this. This game is art.
Limbo is, in concept, quite simple. You are a little boy lost in the woods. You go from left to right and take on environmental, physics based puzzles to get through any obstacles that block your path. Simple, right? Yes, it is. But man, it’s the execution of this concept that brings this game to an entirely other level. First of all, take one look at the game and you see that it’s visually unique. It is done completely in black and white, with the boy being nothing more than a silhouette with two white eyes to give him emotion. Everything in the world is a black object for you to push and pull and vault over or run from. All of this seems so simple from the perspective of someone who hasn’t played this game. “Oh, why should I buy something that has almost no graphics, is incredibly simple gameplay wise and is very short?”
Oh yeah, almost forgot. This game is short. I beat it in a weekend. And really, it’s okay. It’s okay to think these things about Limbo. From the outside, it does seem incredibly simplistic. You’re just wrong. That’s all. The worst part is, describing how this game makes you feel is wholly inadequate. It’s like someone asking you to describe what is good about a beautiful painting that they’ve never seen. As pretentious as that may sound, it’s the best analogy I can come up with. I wasn’t kidding when I said this game is art. But let me try.
From the minute you begin the game you are completely alone. You are the little boy with the white eyes, lost in the woods and trying to find your way home. You don’t know where you are, you vaguely know the direction of home, and everything around you looks hostile. This feeling of loneliness and isolation is helped by the fact that there is barely any music. The game just sort of has an ambient sound that plays around you, enough to let you know it’s there but not enough to give you comfort.
Then there are the puzzles. A few of them are just “push block here, then stand on block.” Those are fine and sometimes really test your brain. But then there are the majority of puzzles that, somehow, increase the sense of impending doom and overpowering dread that permeates the game. The worst part of it is I can’t tell you about these puzzles. To describe them would be to spoil them and their effects on the player. Let me just say that the first encounter with one of these “vicious” puzzles left me feeling…affected. And it never stops from there. You get to feeling like this entire world is incredibly hostile towards the little boy. And all you want to do is get home… The puzzles are also quite brilliant for being challenging but never frustrating. Whenever you die, you know it’s your own fault. You just haven’t figured out the game yet. It never feels cheap. If you just take your time, look at the environment and think things through, you will be able to solve every single puzzle. And really, every single puzzle makes complete sense when you look at it in retrospect. The world really does react in a way that the real world does. If you want to do something, think about how you would do that thing if you were really there. And even if you die, which you will, the game doesn’t really punish you. You reappear right where the puzzle starts, giving you more incentive to try and experiment. The best part of all is that, upon completing a puzzle section, you can always go back and play it again. Or, even better, have your friends play it. There is nothing better than watching your friends try and fail, all while you know the answer. That should teach the bastards. Steal the last slice of pizza my ass.
I hope I have made it clear that this game is a grand triumph. Do I completely understand how and why it is a triumph? No, not really. That’s what makes it art I guess. It’s all open to the player’s interpretation. That it’s fun is of no doubt. One cannot really argue that. That it is a triumph as a showcase of how video games can be considered art? Though that is always open to interpretation, I will go ahead and say yes to this one as well. Limbo is a game that everyone with access to a Playstation 3, Xbox 360 or PC should play. It simply is one of the most effective, cleverest, most emotional and best games I have ever played.
|Clever puzzles and a fantastic atmosphere make this one of the best games out there. That it's priced at under $20 just removes any excuses you may have. Go buy this game.||It's over too soon, but I prefer to look at it as not overstaying its welcome.|