Unreal Game Review: Limbo


While I’ve been immensely enjoying DeathSpank, the game I’ve been most looking forward to from this summer’s slew of releases by Xbox Live Arcade is Limbo.  It hasn’t disappointed.  The simple yet unique and gorgeous game is accessible to just about anyone and still manages to challenge regular gamers like myself.  Limbo is essentially a minimalist’s approach to game design and one of the most interesting games I’ve played in a while.


There is no introduction or tutorial when Limbo begins – it just starts.  You’re immediately thrust with no direction into a spooky and beautiful world that could easily be some sort of alternate plane of existence.  There is no color – everything is black or white or shades of gray – and the only sounds are those you create by exploring and an occasional twang or random chord.  The game’s controls couldn’t be simpler: move using the analog stick, press A to jump and B for action/grab.  And with that, you’re off to explore and solve the various puzzles and obstacles that obstruct your progress.  After just a minute of playing Limbo, it becomes clear that atmosphere and tone are the game’s greatest strengths.  In fact, Limbo is proof that a unique design can carry a game, even a game as simple as guiding your character from, for the most part, right to left.

Limbo is indeed linear, and during the course of the game the player is presented with various puzzles to solve and traps to avoid.  Some puzzles need to be solved simply to keep moving, while others can mean the difference between life and death.  Fortunately, the failure to solve a puzzle or avoid a trap that does cause death simply results in being spawned before that same puzzle or trap with a chance to try something new.  And that brings me two of the greatest things about Limbo – the process of using creativity to solve puzzles and dying.


The puzzles start off simple enough, like having to drag a crate to an area so that you can reach a rope and swing to a ledge.  Later they become much more complicated, involving conveyor belts and giant spinning saws, or buttons that, when pushed, will totally flip the force of gravity.  The physics of Limbo seem realistic enough, but you’re not nearly as limited as you may initially think.  I’ve found that an unconventional idea or approach may indeed pay off, and for some puzzles, it’s incredibly rewarding.

Not all puzzles involve inanimate objects, though – sometimes you’re chased by a giant spider, for example, who can impale you with one of his legs.  The deaths in this game are very disturbing, partially because you’re playing as a little boy, but more because the physics of Limbo makes those deaths seem “realistic,” and hence, very, very gory.  Even falling from too high a ledge can be creepy, but when your character is sliced into pieces by a giant blade, it’s almost tough to watch.  Death usually means trying again in video games, but in Limbo, it haunts you.  There’s an option at the beginning of the game that allows you to switch of the gore, but of course that wasn’t a consideration for me.


I won’t be surprised at all should Limbo win some awards at the end of the year.  The game shines when it comes to atmosphere and is designed in such a way that watching someone play would be entertaining.  Simply put, Limbo is a stunningly gorgeous game that’s simple in theory yet rich in actual gameplay.  Roger Ebert retracted his statement that video games weren’t art, but his reason for retracting was because he wasn’t actually familiar with video games.  Had he played Limbo, I think he’d still retract that statement, although his reasoning would have been different.

5 out of 5 stars

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  1. I’ve played the game and beaten it before but I don’t recognize that last screenshot from the game. I’m guessing this is some kind of concept or fan art?

  2. yeah, i played this and coma. Same exact storyline pretty much, longer to complete, still a cool game though. I think they are made by the same guy.

  3. @ Anonymous

    That last screenshot is from the original concept art. I’ve been waiting for this game for four years, and it comes out on the 360. I’m praying for a PC port, but I know it isn’t going to happen. Drag.

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