Independent games are not only a bit of a gamble, aren’t they? Sure, the cost is lower than that of the average industry release, but one doesn’t know the quality of the gameplay. Is it long? Short? Was it put together slapdash, or is this company trying to show what is possible, but need financial backing to produce a truly monumental game? There are two really good venues for buying indie games – one being Xbox LIVE, and the other being Steam, the virtual marketplace set up by Valve (some advanced warning about the new Counter Strike would have been nice, fellas). While there is open discussion about which one is better, Steam is certainly more user-friendly when looking for specific games. Today’s indie gamble is LIMBO, remade and released for Steam (having been previously released on Xbox LIVE).
LIMBO is a puzzle/platformer, with the story of a nameless Boy in search of his sister. The plot is very minimalist – it’s difficult to directly discern, and is certainly open for debate as to what the true plot actually is.
The environment is eerie, and that’s putting it lightly. Light sources are not constant or steady, and many images are blurry. The blurry images are easily ignorable, and it is best to keep an eye on the few things on screen that have actual contrast and sharpness to them. In almost all circumstances, those things are trying to kill you.
It is easy to die in LIMBO. This is easily forgiven, as there are many passive checkpoints. The Boy (when I played the demo for this prior to playing the full version, the cutoff referred to him as ‘The Boy’) has to be creative about how he will escape the many harrowing events in LIMBO, but nothing is so difficult as to make a person rage quit the game permanently.
Aside from moving left and right, there are precious few other options; jump, climb (near a ledge or on a rope), or grab. This is all one can do for the 3-6 hours of gameplay.
There’s something to be said for minimalist games. When approaching a minimalist game, the biggest factor suddenly becomes the cost. If I know a game is short with no replay value (replay value, for those unfamiliar with the term, refers to the ability of a game to be played once it has been completed. Sports games, with their many different ways of changing the gameplay, have lots of RV. RPGs that contain multiple endings or multitudes of side-quests, also have lots of RV), then I’m not likely going to purchase it – and I’d recommend likewise.
LIMBO is short, but is $9.99 on Steam as of this writing. If paying $12 for a 90-120 minute feature film feels like a good investment, then LIMBO is worth experimenting with. LIMBO’s Xbox LIVE release received its own review from other groups, so user experiences are well-documented by this point. This revue is mostly for PC gamers who would never touch a console. I’ve sat down playing LIMBO thinking about how I’ll get through certain puzzles, while breezing through others.
All of that said, LIMBO is too short; it needs more concrete detail. Human opponents that run away, or try to kill you, THEN run away is not satisfying if one or two are not captured or cornered. Perhaps developer Playdead wanted players to contemplate the existence of The Boy. Perhaps he is already dead, and his journey brings him closer to salvation. When a game is so open-ended, either there needs to be more content, or a more concrete story. The developers weren’t lazy, but rather they took a gamble, and in this revuer’s opinion, lost that gamble.
If avant-garde stories are up your alley, then LIMBO will be a worthwhile game (while we wait for the new Counter Strike). All other things being equal, I enjoyed playing it.
LIMBO doesn’t strain my dinky Compaq laptop to play, so it is safe to presume that meeting the minimum technical requirements will not be difficult to achieve. If you actually play this game on a commuter route, I salute you!
LIMBO has been rated T for Teen by the ESRB for animated blood and mild violence. This game is NOT for young children.
FINAL GRADE: B-
TRR Video Game Revue by Geoffrey Beebe