Gaming Flashback: LIMBO
April 5, 2013

Gaming Flashback: LIMBO

This unnecessarily creepy arcade game may possibly be one of the greatest selections that I’ve played in quite a while now. There are no rules and regulations in the world of LIMBO, save for the limitation of the player’s ability to wield weapons, a personality, or a sense of humor. Calling it a sense of humor would be far from the point completely: from the instant that you drop into this blurry underworld, you know that whoever placed you here has no soul.

We never meet the creator of this place, much less the inhabitants, for the most part.

However, we do know that you play as a little boy, aptly looking for his sister in LIMBO. LIMBO is a purgatory dreamland between life and death. You’d best think of it as an extremely dark version of Inception, minus the layers of dream worlds. The game’s nature didn’t truly settle into my room until five minutes had passed by. After the fifth minute, I got the feeling that I was being tested by someone.

While you’ll spend all of the game traversing obstacles by yourself, the faintest drop of self-ambiguity will burn at the back of your skull. There is no in game music, only the sound of echoing throughout a hollow land that was abandoned long ago. You begin your journey in the forest, fighting off a giant spider. This hardly spells out a boss fight; he/she wraps you inside a cocoon in mere seconds and sticks you to a ceiling for a late night snack. I watched the boy shake around before he was set free of the ceiling cobwebs, and bounce his way through LIMBO to get free of the remaining web.

No one came to rescue us. The player’s persistence to continuously explore and travel is rewarded with very vague yet decisive clues about why the boy is here.

For example, the context of obstacles and enemies makes no sense whatsoever. We’re reminded that the boy is still alive in some form, but we can’t see the detail in his clothes because he is painted completely black; only his eyes offer any bit of light on his player model. The cities that you run through are abandoned, yet we see no signs of war or even resistance. Unknown (and unexplained) entities move to kill you, yet we’re not told why or whom they were. Finally, we know that the boy is looking for his sister. But knowing that this is the edge of hell, why is a child solving riddles and jumping through obstacles against extremely violent depictions of death (hanging bodies from trees, machine gun turrets placed under mountains and valleys)?

What were the developers trying to say?

The obstacles are unbelievably fun. No matter how accomplished you feel about a two hour-long riddle, another will be waiting immediately after you finish. The game is purely based in its ability to push you through tons of obstacle rings before offering just a tiny bit of back-story on the boy.

Since so much of the game design was done on purpose, I can’t offer criticisms in an area in which I was freaked out. To me, that proves that the developers had me wrapped around their fingers to begin with.

Why fight it?

Image Credit: Playdead

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