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Review: Limbo

Limbo is a heart wrenching indie platformer from developers Playdead. It’s a bleak, unnerving tale of a young boy making his way through the darkness, trying to avoid the perilous traps and monstrous creatures that lurk there.

You are tasked with navigating your way through the land of Limbo as an unnamed young boy. You are equipped only with your quick wit and platforming skills as the game gives you no means to defend yourself with whilst traversing the hostile environment.

Despite the protagonist having no voice or dialog the game is powerful in its nuanced storytelling. He takes the form of a black silhouette with no facial features, only his white eyes being the only bright light source in an equally dark environment. Sometimes it’s all you can see with levels being completely pitch black for short periods of time.  It’s a simple yet effective art style allowing for the player to project their emotion onto the character but also fuelling the constant threats and fears of what is lurking a few steps ahead or behind.

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The ‘boy’ – Limbo/Playdead

With the story being so ambiguous you are tasked only with getting from point a to point b. There are no tutorials as you are expected to figure out how to solve puzzles, avoid enemies and ultimately find out why you are here, all on your own.

Its soundtrack creates a thick atmosphere throughout and is used at such moments that makes it all the more poignant. It makes use of ambient sound in some cases like the sound of the weather that surrounds you. The game hasn’t got a constant soundtrack blaring, instead its used at just the right times during the game, to create strong feelings of emotions whether that be sadness, fear or dread.

Its gameplay consists of running, jumping and moving objects in a puzzle like fashion to conquer areas so that you can progress. The game highlights how treacherous its landscape is as any trap that hits you, or water you become submerged in, kills you instantly. These puzzles become more complex and varied as you progress further and you will find yourself dying – a lot. You will ultimately be tasked with timing the moving of boxes and flipping of switches perfectly to overcome obstacles in later stages.

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Navigating puzzles – Limbo/Playdead

Luckily the game places you back at the nearest checkpoint after your die, right before the puzzle that vanquished you and has quick reload times. Whilst you may find yourself stuck momentarily on a particularly challenging puzzle, overcoming it gives you the encouragement to continue on and I never felt the game was being unfair. It was fun to complete without the use of any guide but only with the use of trial and error, helping me become a savvier player as I progressed.

It was a game that I felt was played best in one to two sittings even though it is challenging at times. It doesn’t have any transitions into the next area and as a result feels like one continues level. It grips you in such a way despite is dark undertones that makes you want to continue on the journey and find out why you have been placed here in the first place.

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Leaping over obstacles – Limbo/Playdead

Limbo is an achievement in storytelling. Despite its simplicity it is able to evoke strong emotions and engaging gameplay with its clever use of timely audio and intriguing puzzles. Death is horrible and abrupt despite the use of only a black and white colour palette. It can often be startling when you meet your demise.

It’s also a game that, within its ending seeks to have the player construct their own meaning and answers to the narrative. You can tell a lot of thought and creativity has gone in to constructing this game and its all the better for it. It’s a thought provoking, unconventional masterpiece that will have you dwelling on its sombre themes for weeks to come.

Limbo is out now on PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC, iOS and Android.

For more information, you can check out the games website.

You can also check out Playdeads other title, Inside here.

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