Suspenseful game of light and darkness
Limbo is one of those gems that slipped past mainstream gamers like a cat in the night. The game arrived on Xbox in 2010 and slowly found its way to more platforms once players caught wind of its uniqueness. Sheer storytelling quality, simplicity of controls & interesting puzzles enabled Limbo to compete with 3D blockbusters, with a tale told entirely in black and white and no soundtrack to speak of. The game starts in utter silence, with the blinking eyes of a young boy lying in a forest. Time to get up.
Playing Limbo is all about finding your way through murky scenery, along a landscape that seems lost in time. In other versions, three directional keys and an action key were all you had and with iOS, the controls are reduced to just one finger. Once placed on the screen, you swipe to move the monochrome protagonist in a certain direction, whilst a light tap on the screen represents an action. Slide up and the boy jumps, which works quite well during a run. Jumping over spikes and other pitfalls lurking in the darkness is something you’ll do a lot in Limbo and the sparse lighting is not pointed at hazards.
Limbo invites you to explore the world and find the right approach for puzzles, using only objects found in a certain screen or nearby. Other than regular adventure games, where rooms are littered with objects, Limbo focuses on what the eye can’t see. Approach a box and you may notice you can shift it to a different location, or taunt certain hazards —dead or alive— by triggering them and then make a quick escape.
Other than most action games, Limbo does not obligate the player to perform a repetitive routine, but rather focuses on making the right move at the right moment. The game excels in careful dosage of action and puzzles, establishing itself as a fine action-adventure game for a large audience. Children, however, may want to look away when death is around the corner, as these sequences are not for the faint of heart.
Every now and then, the game reminded me of Eric Chahi’s brilliant action adventure Another World (Out of this World in the US), where me and my friends would be on the phone discussing certain puzzles and calling each other euphorically once a segment was cleared. Limbo offers many challenges that stick in your mind and make you think “now how did I kill that huge spider again?”. Consequently, the replay value of Limbo lies in the memory of certain achievements followed by the desire to ‘relive’ these. Playdead nailed it in terms of creating an impressive experience.
Without voice overs, music or on-screen narrative, Limbo fully depends on action, atmosphere and memorable sequences. You may want to sit down a few minutes to learn the controls, yet what follows is a beautiful, albeit horrifying adventure through a monochrome world in peril. Limbo is an exact port of the original and much like 3D blockbusters XCOM and Knights of the Old Republic proves that iOS is a genuine gaming platform. What LIMBO did well on other platforms, it replicates perfectly in the iOS version: simple controls, an eerie atmosphere and an experience that sticks in your mind.
Limbo is available now as universal download for $ 4.99 (iPhone 3GS and up)