LIMBO is a 2D silhouette based puzzle platformer where a boy must traverse a dark eerie world full of weird creatures and deadly traps in order to save his sister.
The controls are very simple. Although you don’t see a virtual joystick on screen, to move to the sides, you press your finger down, and move it left or right to walk or run. It also works up when you’re near a ladder to climb up and down. To jump, slide your finger upwards across the screen; and you can also slide down your finger to let go of ropes, ladders, edges of objects or cliffs.
To interact with an element of the world, just push down and hold your thumb on the screen, and the character will grab whatever is near him. This works for pulling or pushing objects, activating switches, turning on and off machines and grabbing stuff.
Like many platforms games, the objective of the game is just to move right until the end of the world, but the boy here isn’t anywhere as nimble, agile and acrobatic as certain italian plumber we all know and love. The main character here is not very fast, and while he is able to jump, don’t expect him to make huge leaps or reach places 3 times his height. And here’s where the physics based puzzles of the game come into place.
What makes LIMBO the indie success that it is, is the way you must figure out what to do in order to reach the next part of the world. At first you will only need to jump bear traps, avoid animals trying to eat you, or maybe just wait for the right moment to cross a certain path while the trap is deactivated. But pretty soon you’ll have to use many different objects, move boxes or vehicles to serves as platforms to reach higher places, and figure out how some devices you encounter affect the physics of the sections of the stage like inverting gravity or magnetizing metal boxes on the ceiling so you can manipulate stuff and continue your journey.
Something that players looking for a good mental challenge will love, is the fact that this title doesn’t give you Text Hints or very obviously tells you where to go and what to do. You must figure out how to overcome the each new test the game throws at you, even if it means getting stuck and dying more than a few times with every puzzle.
When you first start playing the game, time won’t be a factor, and the game won’t really require you to be fast with your fingers or have much gamer ability; but once you reach the middle of the world, you will have to complete some tasks in a hurry, before a moving platform gets too far away, a trap activates or a chainsaw that you must jump over gets way too close (or is still not close enough).
While most of the time you’ll be in danger by inanimate objects such as blades, pits, spikes, electrified floors, machine guns and such, you will find monsters and even other boys that aren’t very friendly to strangers, and you will have to find ways to kill them before they kill you.
The game has several checkpoints, and most of the time when you die you’ll restart right before the trap that killed you, so it doesn’t really gets frustrating like old NES games that took you back 3 full stages after the end boss defeats you.
LIMBO came out 10 years ago con home consoles and PC, and at the time it may have been truly great looking even with the lack of color. Currently there are many more games with a similar visual style, but the art and animation you see here still holds up today.
Even though you can only see black and white (and a little yellow in some light sources) you can make out and be able tell what everything on screen is supposed to be (most of the time), but there will be some traps that you’ll find, kind of hidden from normal view at first sight, and the are some sections where the light source like a hanging lamp is moving around and you’re not able to see what’s ahead of you all the time.
There are also special effects like electricity, fire, smoke, water and even dragonflies emitting their own light while flying over flowers. For the backgrounds, you’ll start out in a forest and be able to see trees far away in lit areas, and as you advance you may notice tree houses and man made objects in the layers behind your character. Also, there’s an old film filter applied to create the feeling of watching an old scary movie from the 50’s, all that along with the animation creates a unique visual experience.
The boy is animated like early 90’s PC cinematic platformers, Flashback for the Amiga. He moves smoothly with every action, and you can notice subtle differences in his stance, mostly his arms and head direction, once he’s near an object he can interact with. Also, you can notice that he blows over dust when he walks fast on land, and even big chunks of gravel when he slides down steep roads and runs on dirt.
What truly sets apart this game and creates some perturbing imagery, is the way the kid dies. Since there are many different traps and ways to die, it is unsetting how the character reacts to impacts, blows, sharp objects and all the things that can kill scattered across the LIMBO world. Sometimes you will even notice that the boys is still alive after falling into a trap and notice how life slowly leaves him, which is pretty disturbing since you wouldn’t tell that this is a horror or violent game from the start.is your into physics based puzzle platformers that will make you overheat your brain.
LIMBO doesn’t really have music, but the way the ambience sound sets the atmosphere of the game, the noises the creatures and world elements make, and the SFX you hear, create a superb audio work that doesn’t have anything to envy great horror/thriller classics like Resident Evil or Silent Hill.
Maybe you’ll notice that walking over metal, grass, concrete and land doesn’t make the same sound, and when you fall into a trap, you’ll hear all kind of different sounds of crushing bones and flesh being torn. This game definitely holds its own even against the Mortal Kombat Fatalities audio department.
For a Speed Runner that overcomes every obstacle the first time with no deaths, this game will last less than an hour. But for the average player trying out LIMBO the first time, it’ll take 3 or 4 hours to finish the main quest.
Besides just trying to reach your sister, the world has extra challenges in the form of hidden eggs you find in alternate ways. Sometimes you’ll get to a difficult to reach platform just to find an egg, and not the actual route you must follow to keep going. Or sometimes you’ll fall into a pit or find a new path in a dark area that will take you to an egg. It’s a nice way to make you want to explore or purposely throw yourself into what seems to be a certain death, only to find an egg and get a new achievement.
While trying to beat the game fast is something a few youtubers do, most users will probably quite in the middle of the game in a hard puzzle and leave it at that after about 2 hours of gameplay. At least until they see a video walkthrough that shows what to do where they got stuck.
LIMBO is a unique title that may be a little harder to play with a touchscreen than a controller, but it is worth the 5 dollar asking price le thinking what the deck to do in order to solve the problems the game has you facing.
If you’re into more action style scary theme games, you’ll probably like more a zombie shooter than this game. Or try out Deadlight for an easier experience (with color).