Monday, December 10, 2012

Blog #9: Review of "Limbo"

Continuing my series of indie game reviews, here is my review for Limbo. Limbo is a game that was featured peripherally in Indie Game: The Movie, and it is actually fantastic. While the overall tone and gameplay mechanics of the game are quite different from Braid, the two games do share a few key elements. Mainly, they are both platforming games which feature a (probably) male protagonist tasked with navigating through a landscape alone who end up discovering a princess at the end of their journey. However, whereas Braid features enemies for the protagonist to kill, in Limbo, your journey is almost entirely done in solitude. When you do encounter other people, they are dead, attempt to kill you, or simply run away. This game has some of the best art direction I've ever seen. The black-and-white color palette, minimalist use of environmental fauna (giant trees, grass, water, etc), and horrifyingly depressing set dressings (rope bridges, fatal traps, industrial settings) all work together to create a mesmerizing experience that both demands to be played but makes you scared of what you'll see next. Despite what I've just written, Limbo isn't really a horror game. There are certainly horrifying moments, but the overall tone is that of despair, loneliness, and mystery. Everything in this game can kill (and will) kill you. Such killing elements include bear traps, water, other people, long falls, industrial band saws, or a recurring giant daddy long legs spider that attempts to stab you with its legs. In addition to the challenge of avoiding death, the other, and more common obstacle is rather challenging spatial puzzles involving the manipulation of gravity and a test of reflexes. This narrative of running from death continues until the very end, in which you encounter a young girl. Your final respite from the world around you is when she climbs up a ladder leading to a tree house and she beckons you to come with her. The game ends with the young boy standing before the ladder, wondering what to do. Overall, the game is a great example of consistent and sustained mood and use of art direction as a narrative element itself.

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