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The first thing you will notice about Limbo is that it's indisputably stunning. Fully deserving a nod in the visual art category, Limbo stands out amongst more traditional puzzle/platformers by complementing simple gameplay mechanics with an eerie and engrossing world. The player takes the role of a young boy with luminous eyes, somehow lost in a foggy forest of horrors. The colorless flora and fauna and shifty visuals cause an immediate feeling of unease. This sense of dread is amplified by the fact that Limbo plays host to no music – instead silence is punctuated by ambient sounds of groaning trees, stumbling footsteps and wind whistling through barren branches.
We're not sure if the boy is escaping to or from the forest, but it's obvious that the woods are no friend. Physics-based puzzles open new paths when solved, but hazards and deadly traps are cleverly disguised to take advantage of your success. We're talking bear traps, spike pits, saw blades and more. One false step and the little boy will die a number of gory, unsavory ways.
Puzzles start simple and intuitive – pull a box here and push a lever there – but get complicated quickly. Even when you've finally figured out a correct solution, the escape attempt will keep you a breath away from death. Making timed jumps as a rocky platform crumbles, avoiding descending spikes as you sprint across a room, and thinking quickly as a chamber fills with water are all examples of what the young boy will endure.
Even after several hours of play, we had a hard time putting Limbo down. Though a narrative is near non-existent, PlayDead has managed to weave such a level of intrigue into Limbo that a morbid curiosity pushes us forward – one tentative step at a time. Without ruining any revelations, it's worth noting that new game mechanics are introduced as the game unfolds and that the "narrative" takes an unexpected twist. (It's not just the forest out to get you.)
Gory, unsettling, and utterly beautiful, Limbo is well deserving of it's name. Constantly on the razor edge between life and death, we've never been more enthusiastic about the unknown.
[Additional Game Details]
Platform: XBLA Release: Summer 2010 Price: TBA Website: Link