Developed by Playdead, LIMBO is a puzzle platformer that uses a minimalist art style to invoke an ominous atmosphere. The gameplay of LIMBO is fun but also challenging, with the player having to not only solve puzzles but also rely on their reflexes to get past death traps. All of the puzzles allow the player to figure out solutions while still presenting a fair challenge. While the logic puzzles encourage the player to take a moment to think about the answer, there are also more reaction based puzzles which task the player with finding the solution and avoid getting killed at the same time. These reactionary puzzles are fun and add a bit of excitement to that game, but more often than not these events can be beginners traps often feeling unfair to a new player.
What I mean by beginners trap is that there are several moments in the game where the player will walk into an area only to immediately die because of something impossible to avoid if they didn’t know what was coming. This can be annoying when playing for the first time. It feels unfair, encouraging memorization instead of the logic skill that the rest of the game entails. With that said there is a certain catharsis when the player can pass through all the death traps unscathed on a second playthrough. While I have complained about some of the instant kill sections in LIMBO, death in a puzzle platformer is a necessity to make the game challenging, and life-threatening puzzles are used well in certain parts of the game. Now, this is a minor spoiler, but I think the following scene is an excellent example of what I’m talking about.
Early on in the game, the player’s path is blocked by a giant spider that will kill them if they get to close, forcing them to find a way to disarm the spider. if the player dies at this puzzle it is their fault rather than it being unavoidable, making for a fun puzzle that combines logic with quick reflexes. LIMBO is a lot of fun regarding gameplay, with entertaining and challenging puzzles that keep the player engaged throughout. However, atmosphere, Theme Theme, and story are the points where LIMBO really shines.
None of the story is told directly in LIMBO, the game just starts with a bright-eyed boy waking up in a dark world and starts walking, from there the player controls him through a series of obstacles and is left to figure out the narrative themselves. Even though there isn’t a concrete story, fan’s of narrative-based games will still be satisfied as a lot of thought has gone into the world with small details filling in the gaps. LIMBO is one of those abstract games that doesn’t tell the player anything about the world or the characters directly, instead, letting player draw their own conclusions based on the gameplay and atmosphere. Leaving everything up to player interpretation can be a risky move if done poorly. Games that fail at this will, more often than not, put no thought into what their game was supposed to be about and just use the “it’s up to interpretation” line as a cop out.
LIMBO isn’t one of those games, as Playdead put time into creating the story, but just decided not to tell the player anything. Not revealing the full story shows a lot of trust the developer has in their audience, believing that players are smart enough to decipher their ideas based on the clues left for them. Players have certainly taken to this style of storytelling, as there are hundreds of articles and think pieces about the deeper meaning of LIMBO. I don’t have time to get into all of the different theories in this article, but I will say that most of these come from the thesis that the title is literal. The fact that so many people focus on the plot to a video game instead of the gameplay really marked a change for the medium as a whole.
Games like LIMBO and Braid are responsible for bringing independent games, as well as more artistic games, to the mainstream. Since the release of LIMBO Playdead have gone one to surpass their original game with its spiritual successor Inside, which takes concepts presented in their first outing and improves upon them. LIMBO will always be a huge stepping-stone for the prevalence of artistic games and shows what the medium can achieve. The game’s influence can still be felt to this day in titles such as Little Nightmares, which uses the puzzle platformer gameplay seen in LIMBO along with having an indirect but well thought out story. If you believe video games are art, then you owe it to yourself to experience LIMBO.
- Fun gameplay
- Chilling atmosphere
- Thought provoking experience
- Abundant beginners traps
- Music Fits Tone But is not very memorable