Another month, another video game about dead children. But unlike Deathsmiles, Limbo isn't a celebration of superpowers and camaraderie. Rather, it inspires feelings of hopelessness, dread, vulnerability, and being alone. But it also makes for an exceptional puzzle game and a welcome change of pace.
Perhaps the look and the gameplay aren't entirely new (what is nowadays?), but Limbo is certainly far off the beaten path, so it will feel like a wonderfully novel experience to a lot of players.
You start off awakening in a silhouetted field - just a pair of blinking eyes at first, soon revealed as belonging to a shadow of a boy. The first several minutes of the game are exceptional, as you try to get a handle on who you are supposed to be playing and where you are supposed to be going. Figuring out the game world - how far you can jump, where it's safe to land - is great fun, offset only by the gruesome deaths you witness the many, many times you get it wrong.
An exceptional puzzle game and a welcome change of pace.
The puzzles mainly involve getting from one spot to the next. Not knowing who the boy is or whether he even knows who he is, there is little more imperative than simply, "keep moving and try not to die." Only one puzzle was frustrating for more than a minute or two, and I suspect that was just because it was near the end of the game and I was eager to proceed. But in the four or five hours it takes you to get to the end, you will likely remain interested and involved. I'm not going to claim Limbo wouldn't lose much of its appeal if it had a more conventional look (it probably would), but the gameplay and the mystery of the situation are enough to make for a memorable budget experience.
All the hero of the game can do is run, jump, and interact with a small number of elements like ropes and switches. There are no guns or knives to wield, but there are opportunities to kill some of the few other living beings that inhabit the sparse and somber landscape. Of course, you'll have to first distinguish just what is a threat and what isn't. But don't expect a big, joyous, color-soaked finale. In a way, the boy is like a mascot for a new generation, coming to grips with the bright eyes and black souls of a world where the journey is more important than the destination.