I finally booted up LIMBO yesterday, inspired by the Humble Bundle. I would not recommend it. If I may refer back to a recent post, if the first things people praise about a game are its mood and atmosphere, you should immediately note that “gameplay” is not at the top of the list.
The mood and atmosphere are good, though broken at the mid-point. Dark, grim, moody: more angsty than thou. The game sets up some promising little sequences and settings then wanders off from them. The spider section plays out fully. The human adversaries, not so much, unless that was the last of them you lead into a trap. Then you fall into the earth and … it’s a hotel? Which then becomes kind of a factory? With whirling death blades? A leads to B leads to C smoothly and quickly, only failing to hang together if you stop to think about it. Dream logic is like that. I think the first half is stronger because it holds together as a world before becoming all physics puzzles. It’s more satisfying when it makes some sense. Given the first half of the game, spending the second half in the factory of death doesn’t follow. I suspect that several folks were working on it and combined what they had, rather than working from a single plan.
The gameplay? 2-D platformer that aspires to be a puzzle game but is usually, explicitly “Trial and Death” gameplay. About the only cruelty not done is hiding a fatal trap behind a foreground visual element. The best example is the transition to the physics puzzles. There are two traps next to each other. The only way not to set off Trap A is to do X. Moving along to Trap B, doing X sets it off. Good luck! Checkpoints are usually frequent, so it’s just pointless abuse. The physics puzzles are marred by some dodgy controls and the question of what you interact with versus what is decoration. Oh, that’s a button I must hit while I fly by as gravity reverses itself, why didn’t I think of that?
Am I the only one who gets a chill when he sees an action sequence in a puzzle game? I just know it is going to involve precise timing and movement in a game with slightly dodgy control, with the save point at the start of the action sequence, and there will be something half-way through that could not reasonably be expected, so guess which way you’re supposed to jump when it — nope, start again, jump before it appears next time. LIMBO has several of those in the second half.
I will credit its being short the same way I credit Portal 1: once it is out of ideas, it ends. It does not try to give you “your money’s worth” by padding its length. Portal 1 gets extra love for tying all its elements together once you finish the training levels, whereas LIMBO just goes to its ending. Then again, when the gameplay involves trial-and-error deaths, it doesn’t really work to repeat them. 3-5 hours total length.