LIMBO Puts Death in a New Light

The immersive noir atmosphere of LIMBO Image courtesy Playdead

My friend recently showed me an interesting side scrolling puzzle game by Playdead called LIMBO. The game was released in July 2010 and has won numerous awards including Gameinformer’s Best Downloadable and Gamespot’s Best Puzzle Game. The game follows a non-descript boy, who you only ever see in silhouette, as he enters LIMBO in search of his sister.

The puzzles in the game are challenging and increase quite nicely in complexity as the game progresses. The trick to solving most of the puzzles is a combination of logic and trial and error, but because each of the puzzles is made up of various pointy objects or menacing creatures ready to do in the character, some have called the style of game play more “trial and death” than trial and error. For this reason I would strongly caution younger gamers away from the game.

However, as morbid as it sounds, I do have to congratulate Playdead on how they kill the character in the game. Generally I am rather squeamish when it comes to blood and guts in movies or games and I have always found that the best deaths happen off-stage or out of frame, because I feel it evokes stronger emotional reactions from audiences and because our imaginations will always fill that visual void better than any visual imagery.

The creators at Playdead, I found, managed to evoke an emotional response to each and every of the character’s deaths (and there are a lot of them) and this is why I feel I should congratulate them. The noire atmosphere and the general tranquillity of the game in LIMBO makes death more of a sobering reality, albeit a grizzly one, encouraging the player to try and avoid pitfalls at all costs rather than making death an over the top blood and guts caricature.

Beyond the morbid trial and death element to the game, the graphics, backgrounds, the intricate puzzles, the seamless game play and the little surprises that await you (and often made me jump) make this game a wonderfully immersive and compelling game. I give it 5 out of 5.

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