Limbo is a good game that stands out from the ever-growing crowd of Xbox Live Arcade games
Kicking off Xbox Live Arcade’s third annual Games of Summer promotion is Limbo, a gothic puzzle platformer in the vein of Braid and Flower. It is no surprise that this game made the cut for Microsoft’s promotion. Right from the main menu, it’s easy to see that Limbo is unlike anything you’ve played before.
Waking up in a dimly lit forest, a boy, the central character of Limbo, awakens quiet and alone. Moving (mostly) in the traditional left-to-right style we have come to expect from platformers, the boy traverses forests, swamps, and dank, rainy cityscapes in search of something unknown to the players but perhaps not to the boy. Other children are seen at several points throughout the game, sometimes fearful of the boy and sometimes assaulting the boy head on. It’s hard not to have your mind wander to Lord of the Flies while playing this game. It’s a dark and vicious world populated with children and beasts alone. The game’s description tells us the boy is searching for his sister, but this is not made immediately apparent by anything in-game.
Simple box pushing and pulling evolves across several hours of gameplay into anti-gravity, spinning saw blades, and magnetism. Even fluid dynamics and lighting make their way into the puzzles at one point or another throughout the game. Where similar titles like Braid tend to deal primarily with a singular puzzle mechanic like time or physics, Limbo treads the territory of multiple puzzle games, never straying too long in one area so as to frustrate and bore the player.
Due to a rather unfortunate error in menu navigation on my part, I started a new game save over my old save when I was very close to completing the game. Replaying through the game’s first three quarters, what had originally taken somewhere near or over 4 hours of total playtime took well under 2. Like most puzzle platformers (unfortunately), Limbo has little to no replay value. The second time around, the game was a cake walk that failed to retain any shred of its former atmosphere. It simply became about going through the motions. This is partially a nature of the genre Limbo finds itself in, but also a problem with the game in that many of the sections of the game simply aren’t that visually exciting or fun to run through a second time.
Ultimately, Limbo is a good game that stands out from the ever-growing crowd of Xbox Live Arcade games. The puzzles are difficult and diverse enough to keep most players attentive and entertained. The world is strange and eerie enough to keep most players exploring and on edge. The achievements and controls are ambiguous and precise enough, respectively, to feed the desire of speed-runners and perfections across the board. Unfortunately, the tiny hints at a greater story remain mostly ignored until the end, leaving the dramatic and interesting final moments of the game far weaker than they could have been with a few more “cinematic” moments sprinkled through the game.
If you were a fan of the puzzle solving of Braid or the atmosphere and exploration of Flower, Limbo will certainly not disappoint. Priced at 1200 Microsoft points, it’s on the high side for downloadable titles so players with less of an allegiance to puzzle games may want to try before they buy.