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.

: Zubon

16 thoughts on “LIMBO”

  1. But, but, it’s all *emo* and meaningful… or something. That’s teh awesomesauce!

    …yeah, I tried the demo and came away unimpressed. It was the talk of the office for a while, but I just don’t like games that have that sort of “die repeatedly to learn the game” schtick. I don’t like Meatboy either.

  2. Hmmm.. Sounds like I wouldn’t enjoy this either. I am was vacillating on the latest Humble Bundle. I have most of the games so if Limbo doesn’t suit me then I would just be paying $8 for Bastion which is OK but not un-missable.

    Perhaps Indie Royale wins it for me this round.

    1. Mind change.

      I downloaded the Limbo demo to try it out and it scared the shit out of me. In this case I think that atmosphere and setting really does trump game-play and I am going to get the full game.

      That said if it degenerates into a precision jump fest I will probably give up before finishing it.

      1. The jumping is not precision, but the timing is.

        One thing I must credit the game for: there is one section where you are in the dark and a lantern is swinging in and out of usefulness. The proper thing to do is wait until you can see what you are doing. By that point, the game had already trained me to expect unfair deaths that I would need to run blind to avoid, so I was pleasantly shocked to die because I was over-anticipating. If you get ahead of yourself there, you die; if you wait for the swinging light to show you the next step, you’re fine.

  3. “Oh, that’s a button I must hit while I fly by as gravity reverses itself, why didn’t I think of that?”

    I’m not sure if it is the same part or not, but leaping off a steep roof, flying through the air, and trying to work out what to do, is that a signpost or button. That was the only part I’d to look up in a guide.

    Overall I liked the game, the forest was the strongest section I felt with the spider being a really creepy element. Didn’t mind the trial and error approach, the gruesome and visceral deaths kept a sharp edge on things.

    1. Same moment, I think, given the roof. One of the last couple of gravity puzzles, leading to or from the last HOTEL sign visit?

      1. Not sure about the hotel, there was a zipline that had a spikes at the end (surprise!) just before it, a steep roof with loose slates, there was what looked like a sign with an arrow that you had to hit the action button while falling past to change the direction of gravity. That part stuck out for me because up to this point, the gravity changing mechanic had been up/down, think this might have been the first time to have seen the directional arrow gravity button, as my character hurtled past it trying to see what I was aiming for.

  4. It was basically an homage to Out of This World and similar old-school titles. Once you understand that, the only real negative is the price-to-length ratio, which is practically negated with the bundle.

    As a MMO gamer, I would have thought you’d enjoy Trial-and-Death. ;)

    1. “Out of this World”/”Another World” isn’t actually much longer than LIMBO – and it was a full-priced game, back in the day.

      Loving LIMBO. Currently stuck around chapter 12 or 13 you have to use a see-saw log to jump a rather wide gap. (but I’ll keep trying – remember, as they say, dying is fun :)

      1. Got past that part. After I died like twenty times. I’ll give you a clue, encoded in a substitution cipher.


        And here’s the solution:

        Xbju gps uif tqjefs up ipme epxo uif puifs foe.

  5. I haven’t finished Limbo yet, but I laughed my butt off when the spider got me the first time. And when I finally completed this difficult jump only to get squashed flat by this giant log I accidentally knocked over. And it is really creepy in spots. I’m really enjoying it and the look complements the game.

    1. This was what hooked me on LIMBO. I don’t think I have ever had as much fun seeing how a game designer would manage to kill me next.

      While fairly simple in mechanics, I think it managed to avoid being too repetitive, changing up a bit just when a certain section would get to be too much.

      Made it to my list of favorite short games, anyway. :)

  6. I’m enjoying it immensely. And I normally dislike trial-and-death games. Somehow the designers communicated that (a) you’re going to die, a lot, and (b) it’s all right, you’re not expected to get it all the first time.

  7. I got it for $5 or less on some Steam sale and loved it. The atmosphere is great. I enjoyed the gameplay. Then again like was mentioned above I expected exactly what it gave having played Out of This World / Another World, Heart of Darkness, and that alien one (Odyssey something) I am forgetting.

  8. Just finished the game and I have to say I liked it overall. I do agree that the forest part at the beginning is the best bit of the game but for the most part I thought the puzzles were OK. There were a few towards the very end that required fairly precise timing that annoyed me but thankfully there weren’t too many of them.

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