This week Microsoft kicked off its Summer of Arcade promotion with the release of of Limbo, a game created by indie developer Playdead. It’s been getting a lot of attention due its art style and focus on puzzle solving.
You start the game as a boy and wake up in a grey, shadowy world. The game gives you no clue as to what the controls are or what you are supposed to do. Like the young boy on screen you are left on your own to figure out what to do in a particularly hostile and foreboding environment. Moving about and interacting with objects is easy figure out. It’s the puzzles and the hidden dangers that get you.
When playing this game be prepared to die a lot. Sometimes dying is completely unavoidable and gives you clues on how to avoid it next time. It doesn’t stop it being any less nasty though. Whether you are being chased by monsterous spiders, trying to avoid bear traps or running from silent children who really seem to want you dead the game keeps you on edge and uses its nasty atmosphere to give you a little push to solve the puzzle faster. There is an achievement for completing the game with less than 5 deaths – I imagine that only the most dedicated gamers will manage it!
The game is fair and autosaves often so you never lose too much progress but some of the puzzles can be very tricky to figure out. Solving them can rely on many different factors; speed, interaction of objects, your own momentum, lateral thinking…and you won’t run across the same puzzle twice. The game constantly throws new and ever-more-challening puzzles in your path. Eventually the puzzles start becoming much more complex and difficult. Despite the difficulty they are also well-designed and once you understand the solution you’ll wonder why you didn’t see it in the first place. It also feels quite rewarding when you figure out something that has had you stumped for a few minutes.
Along with the gloomy, eerie visuals is a quiet and creepy soundtrack. The music in Limbo is very limited. Mostly you can hear the breeze and far off noises but when danger approaches the soundtrack gets more aggressive along with it. It’s enough to make you jump at times. Especially when it comes along with the visuals of a gigantic spider creeping it’s way towards you.
Limbo is full of character, atmosphere and provides an intense gameplay experience. I can’t think of any other game to compare it too.
Limbo costs 1200 Microsoft Points.