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Limbo


Oozing atmosphere at every turn...
Developed out of a small studio in Copenhagen called PlayDead, Limbo burst onto Xbox Live Arcade last month in an explosion of depressing, moody glory. The game is a scrolling platformer at heart with enough puzzles to make your head spin. But the gameís true achievement is in the design of the frightening, amazing, haunting world that is Limbo. The game doesnít have much of a narrative beyond a boyís quest to find his sister. The boy awakes in Limbo, a black and white world filled with some of the most perilous, diabolical traps waiting to dismember the poor lad. The narrative is weak in regards to storytelling, but the pacing works.



The core of the gameplay is simply survival and the controls are simplistic. You can jump over obstacles, grab onto to creatures / objects and push/pull objects to help you pass certain areas. Many of the levels are designed for gamers with quick reflexes and can react immediately to slicing blades, falling rocks or giant spiders. Those without quick reflexes will be looking at trial and error across all the levels. Fortunately, the game is extremely forgiving when it comes to losing a life. Rather than having to traverse the entire level again, you will respawn a few seconds from where you died. Often times, itís easy to perish multiple times until you nail down the extra amount of time it takes to dodge an object or safely land a jump.

The game isnít apologetic about the brutality of grinding up a little boy either. While absent of bloody gore due to the color scheme, that small kid will be chopped, stabbed, impaled or crushed at some point in the game. If you can manage to stay alive, then tackling the gameís puzzles is the next objective. Puzzles typically require a bit of brainpower to solve and get progressively harder. They also stay pretty fresh throughout the game as new elements like rising water and gravity changes come into play in the later levels. While a linear pattern to the game definitely exists, the puzzles definitely have a way of keeping the game original and fresh, despite their difficulty.



Beyond solving puzzles, thereís collectible eggs to locate in the forest; an Easter Egg hunt of sorts. These are typically found off the main path and some in pitch black areas. Thereís also higher risk to locating these eggs many times. The achievement set is fairly inventive, rewarding the player for actions during the levels. The entire set is relatively simple to complete, but the ďBeat the Game with less than 5 deathsĒ is definitely a tough one to snag. Beyond that, thereís really nothing to speak of on the multiplayer side other than a leaderboard that keeps track of game percentage.

Graphics

  • The stunning art style really has to be seen in motion to get the full effect of the black and white visuals. Thereís no color in the game beyond black, white and shades of gray. Perhaps the closest thing on film would be something like Sin City or The Spirit, just completely absent of other colors.

  • Thereís a beautiful fluidity to character movement and how the environment comes to life often in a frightening manner. Thereís also a film quality to the visuals, something of a slight grain on the screen. It really brings elements like the boyís haunting white eyes or a giant spiderís leg creeping along the forest to a new level of nightmarish fear.


Audio

  • The sound mix is pretty amazing. Thereís no official soundtrack to speak of, just ambient environmental sound effects to tickle your ears. By going this route, the developer created a creepy feel to match the visuals. The player also has to listen for audio clues to certain puzzles, many times when itís simply too dark to see.

Conclusion

As one of the most unique puzzlers that Iíve played over the years, Limboís chilling atmosphere is an example of an incredible gaming achievement. Itís extremely difficult to describe how frightening and rewarding the game is at the same time. If I didnít know any better, Iíd say that it was created by the ghost of Alfred Hitchcock. While the replay value is short for the price of the game (About 4 to 7 hours; depending if you want to search for all the eggs), the quality of the gameplay is not. Feel completely justified in downloading the game today and embrace the gloomy, emotionally terrifying world that is Limbo.

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