Arnt Jensen's "Limbo" is a mind-blowing video-game that masterfully combines breathtaking visual design and platforming with mind-bending puzzles and gameplay...
Game developer Playdead's 2010 downloadable platform/puzzle game "Limbo" has quickly joined the ranks along with "Shadow of the Colossus", "Metal Gear Solid" and "Heavy Rain" as a strong contender in the argument of video gaming being a valid form of the arts. The game is a revolution for platform and puzzle gaming, and the visual style pushes it to breathtaking heights. This is one of the finest games available for download on the Microsoft X-Box 360 or Sony Playstation 3.
The story is minimalistic- you play a nameless young boy, pursuing a young girl through a hellish domain of forest and decaying cityscape, forced to solve treacherous and life-threatening puzzles to stay alive and proceed. There is no dialog and music is kept to a bare minimum.
The first thing that attracts most people to this game is the dark, unsettling visual style. Almost the entire game is played in silhouette- your character and his immediate environment is pitch black, save for the young boys paper-white eyes. Fog generally obscures portions of the background, but you will also see layer after layer of gray-scale trees, structures and buildings in the background. The game is easily comparable to old black-and-white film noir, or German expressionism in terms of visual stylings. There is a complete absence of color, leading to elements like fire, sparks and water having an oppressive, blurred white effect that is almost hyper-real, and therefore even more threatening.
As mentioned above, there is absolutely no dialog, and an almost complete lack of music. Instead of music, we are treated to the sounds of the environment- the patter of feet against the ground, the groaning of metal, or the wind whipping through the trees. Only in certain rare cases will there be tones in the background. Not even traditional music, just haunting tones that prophesize coming dangers or triumphs. Again, it has an almost hyper-real quality.
Controls are extremely tight, simple and responsive. Which is a great help for the intricate platforming and puzzles within the game.
This is a game of puzzles, more or less. The entire game is divided into chapters/challenges (although there is no official level system, there is a chapter selection screen through the pause menu), and each one increases in intricacy and difficulty. While your first few puzzles are relatively straight forward (pushing and pulling boxes, etc), over time the evolve into hellish and inhuman heights. By the second half of the game, you will find yourselves in environments that spin and have gravitational shifts, involve the use of magnetism, and involve increasingly deadly booby-traps. Combined with the unsettling visuals and disturbingly low-key audio, the deadly puzzles turn this game into an ultimate experience of horror and mystery. I have not been so frightened of a game in my life since the original "Fatal Frame", which to me is one of the single most frightening experiences of fiction in my life.
I have to give this game a perfect 10. It has something for most gamers. For those looking for a standard platforming adventure, this will deliver. For those seeking a suggestive and provocative mind- bender with an artsy flair, this will astound them. This is the rare perfect game.
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