Limbo iOS Impressions – The Same Beautiful Experience, With Inferior Controls
I consider myself a bit of a Limbo expert. I played the game multiple times when it released on Xbox 360, even getting the “fewer than five deaths” Achievement. When the game released on PlayStation 3, I played through it again (getting the fewer than five deaths Trophy this time), and yet again when it was made available on Steam.
I love everything about Limbo, from its ambiguous story and ending to its terrifying sound design and beautiful visuals. I simply cannot get enough. I was excited to learn that the game was coming to iOS, knowing that it would open up the game to a wider audience.
Going into an iOS port of a console game, it’s hard not to have some preconceptions about how it will work translated to a touchscreen. Some of those concerns are justified, but in a few areas, Limbo on iOS exceeds my expectations. It’s the inferior choice when compared the console and PC versions of the game, but it’s far from unplayable.
On iOS, Limbo hasn’t received any balancing or layout changes to compensate for the less-than-perfect controls, but that’s okay because Limbo only becomes a twitchy platformer on a few occasions. Otherwise, jumps are usually easy to clear, and detailed movement is rarely necessary. It has the extra content of the PC and PS3/Vita versions of the game, but it doesn’t have the extra hidden eggs that were only found in the Xbox 360 version.
One of Limbo's more difficult timing-centric puzzles seen above, was more difficult using the touchscreen controls
An invisible d-pad on the left side of the screen is used to move left and right and climb ladders and ropes. To jump, you swipe up. If you are already moving, when you swipe up to jump, the boy retains his momentum. You don’t ever have to adjust his movement midair. This is one of the areas where controlling the boy surprised me, and felt right. Holding down your thumb on the right side of the screen makes him interact with objects and switches.
The biggest problem I ran into was the fickleness of the invisible d-pad. Sometimes the boy would just stop moving mid-jog and I would have to reset my thumb. It was frustrating, but in a weird way, it made the game scary again. With the imperfect controls, getting away from the spider (which I have done so many times) is terrifying all over again. That jump that I had perfected through all of my playthroughs was suddenly intimidating again. This, of course, is only a good thing for seasoned Limbo players. It’s unfortunate that getting to experience the game in a new way has to come at the expense playability.
Limbo is still a beautiful game with excellent puzzles, and it looks fantastic on the iPhone’s retina screen, as well as the iPad – even if there is a giant thumb or two in the way. The difficult controls make this version the worst available option, but it’s still an excellent game and certainly worthy of your time if you’ve never explored Limbo’s engrossing world.