Saturday, July 24, 2010

Limbo is Full of Minimalist Fun

We see trailers every week for the latest and greatest games. They all boast intense graphics, dramatic soundtracks, gratuitous sexual content, and visceral battle scenes. Clearly, no one at PlayDead Studios was paying attention to what the rest of the industry was doing. They have one, timeless philosophy: Simple is Best.

Limbo is a puzzle, platform, 2D, side-scroller that is available for download exclusively on XBL. The story, graphics, sound, and everything else are all kept incredibly simple. The game is in black and white and sits very much on the darker side of the gray scale. The environment is geometric and clean. Even the main character is nothing more th
an a well defined shadow of a boy with two bright white eyes. This simplistic environment really sets the tone for both the intensity and the charm of this game.

There are other games out there that have a similar feel. One thing that sets Limbo apart is the soundtrack, or near lack thereof. There is almost no music in the game. On very rare occasion, a quick, deep instrumental will play at the beginning of a more dangerous sequence. The rest of the time, there are no sounds except for the characters immediate surroundings. Expect some light water sounds, dragging boxes, a
nd the occasional clank of pipes. Even the character remains silent. The lack of dramatic, mood driving music makes the game more intense than other titles that employ a full orchestra. It's kinda like the Jaws effect: two notes can be scarier than a whole song.

I love simple controls. I know it's really weird to hear me say that considering I lean towards games like Final Fantasy that are heavy with menus. But this game is shockingly simply. You will use one joystick to walk and only two buttons for everything else. The A button is to jump and the B is the action control. That makes this game easy to learn and hard to forget if you walk away for a couple weeks or a month.

One disadvantage of the game is the story. There isn't much of one at all. You wake up as a boy in the woods on the edge of Hell. You must find your missing sister. No explanation is given for why the boy or the sister are in purgatory. I won't give away the ending, but I found it a little annoying. But again, this is another area where simple is probably better. If the game was full of talking or text, it would most likely lose some of its appeal. This game feels not like a story as much as art.

The game play is great. It is a classic puzzle game that starts easy and becomes more difficult and complex as the game goes on. Sometimes getting the timing perfect can be really frustrating, but that just makes the victory sweeter when it finally happens. Unfortunately this game is really short. I cranked this one out in about 6 hours. There is some replayability, but it's limited to achievement hunting. Despite this, I think Limbo is an absolute steal for only 1,200 Microsoft Points.

I clearly recommend this game for almost anyone. Sure, it's not crammed full of action and violence, but every gamer periodically needs a break from the over-stimulating games. When in doubt, just remember; keep it simple stupid. Do yourself a solid and download Limbo. You will thank me for it later.


Linz said...

This game sounds really cool. I love a good puzzle game. Plus it's just another nail in the "Games as Art" debate.

Debbie said...

the critics are completely ridiculous to say video games cant be art. if movies can be art, and writing can be art, and chairs glued to walls and shit can be art, than this game definitely qualifies. its so fun. a tough little game without needing the bells and whistles.

Unknown said...

take a look at echochrome, free demo on the ps3. i don't think there's any doubt about gaming as art.