Limbo

In a world where COD 10 and Halo 16 fight it out to be the most generic, mass-appeasing FPS of all time that year, it's a great relief that there are still outlets for inventive games with decent production values. Limbo is a store title that finally transitions to the PSN from its home on the other side of the pond, bringing a fresh gaming experience as unique as Flower and PixelJunk Eden. Though not a massive-budget blockbuster, Limbo is a game that cuts no corners, resulting in a finely tuned, highly enjoyable, atmospheric experience. All FPS thoughts are thrown firmly out of the window in this gentle platformer that combines gaming elements from past and present, while crafting something entirely new.

Limbo

Before commenting on any of the gameplay elements, the first thing that will strike you is the incredible visual style, featuring only greyscale visuals. With no colour to speak of, it's a tremendous achievement that Limbo is so captivatingly beautiful. Every area of the game feels like it could have been painted by a master artist, with every aspect of the back and foreground oozing mood and atmosphere. You'll be tempted just to trot backwards and forwards for a while admiring the environment and marvelling at the subtle motion of the background and the incredible attention to detail. The main character is animated in a similar style, appearing only as a silhouette, aside from hauntingly bright eyes that cut through the blackness, and yet is more lifelike in appearance than many of the main characters in top-flight FPS games.

With the game so expertly crafting an atmospheric environment, it's no surprise that audio elements are used to amplify everything further. This is not a game with imposing music or heavily laden effects; instead Limbo features subtle layers of sound, like rustling grass, creaking trees, dripping water and the gentle hum of electric devices. The gentle use of sound not only cements the terrific atmosphere, but also allows stronger use of sound to accentuate certain key moments. For example, after gently padding through a forest area, you might encounter a boulder that becomes dislodged as you try to pass. The frantic escape, dodge and slam as the boulder crashes loudly into the nearest cliff face genuinely get your adrenaline racing, and complete a truly immersive environment.

Limbo

That said, the game would still be a short-lived experience were it not for the success of the core gameplay elements. Limbo is no straightforward platformer. Though not as complicated as a puzzler like Braid, there are relatively few areas in Limbo that can simply be coasted through on first encounter. Many areas in the game will require a moments pause, but every puzzle is perfectly balanced so that gamers will almost certainly figure out the correct solution within a few minutes, though not necessarily immediately. This balance is incredibly hard to achieve, but Limbo manages to avoid any unwanted frustration or lack of achievement with an ideal blend of puzzle elements. That said, many of the smaller puzzles are more traps, really, which many gamers will fall into, only to avoid on a second attempt. The trial and error elements of the game never become too imposing though, and there's still plenty of room for puzzle solving in many areas prior to an untimely character death.

No amount of planning will avoid a huge number of character deaths on first play though, without a guide at least, and this is where the game's adult rating comes from. It's perhaps something that excludes an audience that would greatly appreciate Limbo for the platform perfection that it is, but much like the use of sound, the somewhat gruesome deaths are not overly exaggerated for the sake of horror. As horrible as it is to contemplate, the sort of deaths that can happen in the game are met with understandable injuries and consequences. For instance, meeting one of the larger creatures in the game, a large spider, your character might end up unpleasantly skewered by a needle-sharp leg, but such unpleasantries aren't restricted to the more-typical nightmares. A simple buzz saw, boulder, deep pool of water or explosed electric circuit could lead to the worst, and each is animated with naked realism. As a result, the game wouldn't suit anybody squeamish, but this element does much to enhance the moody atmosphere of the game. The world of Limbo is a scary place, not a simple playground, and this is something the game won't let you forget.

Limbo

The controls are satisfyingly sharp though, meaning that any tragedy befalling your character is likely to be your own fault, as he nimbly jumps across the terrain. There's no double jump though, bringing a doce of reality to proceedings, so you won't be springing wildly between floating platforms. In Limbo physics plays a strong role, but this results in a game that's fun to interact with and highly enjoyable to play. For those keen to try new things in gaming, either as an alternative to COD 12 or to provide something different alongside a collection of Prestige medals, Limbo is an absolutely stunning game to try. There's few games that have crafted such an amazing atmosphere, and fewer still that manage to complement it with solid gameplay. Though it's not a particularly long game, there's enough depth and replay value to mark this title as one of the best on the Playstation Store.

Game details

Game logo

Publisher:

Sony

Developer:

Playdead

Players:

1

Online:

None

Release:

2011-07-20

Trophies:

13

Review summary

Gameplay:

Gaming that will make you think. Perfectly tuned

Graphics:

Moody, atmospheric and absolutely stunning

Sound:

Beautiful music; a truly atmospheric game

Lastability:

Fairly short, but with great replay value

8.8

Supernova

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