Limbo is not a nice place to be, but for some unbeknown reason it's a great place for game developers. Who would have thought that the adventures of a little boy in a place that could very well be the dreaded Limbo, will make a great game and something to be remembered.
Limbo was developed by Playdead Studio and imagined by Arnt Jensen. It draws from numerous sources of inspiration, one being the film noire genre. It’s hard not to notice the gritty and dark atmosphere, but it also reminds me of some other things, more specifically a game and a book. Installation
Limbo has sparked some debate because is not a native Linux application, but it's the Windows version that runs in Wine (in a wrapper that provides all the necessary files without actually installing Wine). I couldn’t care less. It's running and I can play it. This is all I need.
Granted, there are some problems on Ubuntu 12.04 LTS, and the sound doesn't work without some tinkering. The developers provide 32-bit and 64-bit .rpm & .deb files, and a .bin file. You will need a terminal in order to run any of the aforementioned files. We have installed via the .bin file. Just enter the terminal and paste the following commands. sudo chmod a+x install-limbo-1.3.bin
Just follow the installer and all should be well. Now regarding the sound issue, just paste the following command in a terminal: pulseaudio --kill
Wait a few seconds until the audio service restarts and you are good to go. The developers have promised an updated version that should fixe this problem. Story
The game I’m referring to at the beginning of the review is a little known side-scrolling adventure, which I believe it’s the best of its kind, released in 1998 and called Heart of Darkness. Just like Limbo, it’s about a boy who is trying to save his dog from a place called the Darklands, and just like Limbo, the death scenes are as gruesome as they can possibly be.
The other reference is a book by Orson Scott Card, called Ender’s Game. Some might not make the connection or maybe the connection is just in my head, but I’ll take the time to explain it.
In the book, a little boy is playing a game and his path is blocked by a giant with a simple puzzle: two drinks are offered and one will kill the player. The boy never manages to survive beyond this point and dies violently, differently every time, until he figures out a solution that is something the developers of that particular game never thought about.
In Limbo, a boy awakens in a dark forest (the entire game is monochrome) and he starts searching for his lost sister. The tagline of the game is simply “Uncertain of his sister's fate, a boy enters LIMBO.”
According to Christian mythology, Limbo is a place where the souls of unbaptized people and children go after death and it’s considered to be at the edge of hell, so the setting of the game fits this description beautifully. Gameplay
The main protagonist of the game can do some simple actions, but because of the way the gameplay is built, he doesn’t need to do too much in order to survive or to keep the players’ interest alive.
The entire game is built as a 2D giant world, with no loading times, featuring puzzle after puzzle, each one with an increased difficulty.
We have seen 2D platformers before, therefore moving crates, boulders, and climbing on various contraptions should not be something new. Limbo does it with a little more aplomb while entertaining an eerie sense of wrongness.
The developers have designed the game with failure in mind. It is assumed that players will first die and then they’ll be able to tackle a puzzle properly, after knowing what horrible death awaits them if they fail.
Limbo is built with an amazing physics engine and almost all of the puzzles and conundrums are making use of it. Moreover, the deaths of the main character are one of the most imaginative I’ve ever seen, with the exception of Heart of Darkness.
The graphics of Limbo are not impressive, but the art style is one of the best in the business, proving that looks is not everything and that with the right talent you can make everything scary, especially in black and white. The Bad
There are little to no clues on what to do in some situations. This could be a good thing if you are a hard core gamer, with lots of time to spend on a puzzle. But if you are like me, with thousands of hours of gaming, you might be tempted to look for solutions online.
The one other thing I found to be a little disheartening is the fact that the game has almost no replay value. As far as I understand, that was not the developers’ intention, but I would have loved to find motives to play it again. Conclusion
Limbo is a nothing short of a gem. It’s an extremely polished and amazing piece of entertainment that teaches us all over again why we love games. We do it because we love the mystery, the grit, and because we like to explore someone's else imagination. Limbo is all of these and more!