Limbo, a 2D sidescroller by Playdead studios, is a combination of meticulously designed platform-based puzzles, interlaced with a grim and grisly setting that looks like a melancholic visual representation of the Otherworld; it is quite a bleak game. How I discovered this game was pretty weird. I just randomly typed ‘limbo’ on google images. I was expecting to find random pictures of people arching their back and bending their knees to get under a long stick at some raucous birthday party. Instead, I was treated to images that resembled a dark and unnerving landscape that made my nightmares feel like heaven by comparison. While the screenshots for this game disturbed me quite a bit, I decided to go try it out since I do enjoy games that involve puzzles, (even though I’m a complete baka-chan) and I also do have an odd fascination with any work that explores macabre themes.
The story for Limbo is never really explained at all in the game, and it basically leaves everything that you do and encounter during your journey all up to personal interpretation. The character that you take control of is a young boy who awakens from his comatose state in a dark and desolate forest resembling purgatory; which is somewhere between heaven and hell. There is zero dialogue throughout the entire duration of Limbo, and pretty much all of the living beings and creatures that you come across are all out to kill you. While a lack of dialogue may be a point that I’d nitpick in most other titles, I thought it was one of my favorite aspects of this game since it really does an amazing job of making you feel alone in a mad world where you need to abandon your humanity in order to survive a hellish cesspool full of vile monsters; it is a very oppressive feeling of isolation.
Aside from a couple of Mario and Sonic games on the Gameboy back in Elementary School, I think this is this first 2D platformer game that I’ve played and completed. While the gameplay is somewhat simple since you only really use three buttons in the entire game, I found all of the puzzles to be fascinating and mentally-stimulating. The puzzles place a heavy emphasis on timing your moves in a scrupulous manner, which can require plenty of trial and error since you will probably die quite a bit in this game. While dying a lot can be incredibly frustrating, it never broke the sense of immersion for me since I always felt my heart sink a bit whenever I watched the young boy get brutally decapitated or fall to his doom due to my stupid mistakes; which was interesting because I usually grow apathetic or annoyed when I watch the main character repeatedly die in most other games.
As I have alluded to earlier in this review, this game is pretty difficult regardless on whether or not you are a puzzle-enthusiast. But I wouldn’t necessarily call it unrelenting in terms of difficulty like Dark Souls since I was able to eventually figure out what I needed to do next after thinking things out and weighing my options for a couple of minutes. The great thing about the puzzles in this game is that it always felt exceptionally varied and original from one area to the next. In some other games, you might see the exact same puzzles thrown at you with maybe a slight alteration in terms of layout, but the puzzles in this game never became stale since it incorporates new components and features to keep you on your toes.
All in all, Limbo is an ingenious and visually provocative game through it’s creative puzzles, and due to a deeply immersive ambience that never gives you a moment of calm respite. While the high difficulty can be quite irksome at times, it makes progressing through the game even more rewarding since it does require you to constantly think like a tactician. If you are fond of 2D platform games, or looking for a uniquely engrossing experience, you might find something to love in the atrocity exhibition of Limbo.