In preparation for this month’s podcast on indie platformers, I played Limbo and even though the game is nearly 10 years old (which is approaching retro territory for us), it remains one of the most highly-acclaimed indie games ever made.
So how good is it really?
Incredible atmospheric storytelling
Fantastic minimalist art direction
Not a platformer for fans of the genre
More art than game
In Limbo, you play in a black and white 2D world as a boy looking for his sister. Right from the get-go, the game looks very art-house or film noir and while not for everyone, I love the minimalist art style. If you see a screenshot of Limbo, you’ll instantly recognise it.
This art style works with the beautiful atmospheric soundscape magnificently. You can listen to the soundtrack for yourself if you’re after something ambient but you definitely won’t find any tunes that you’ll be humming to yourself later on. Much like the art, less is more when it comes to the sound design.
When both the visuals and audio combine, you’re left with a game that tells you a story, albeit vaguely, and doesn’t spell everything out for you. Much like everything else in the game, it’s not for everyone. This wonderful environmental storytelling is still some of the best I’ve ever seen in a game and while it’s not a story you’ll be retelling to all your friends, it’s an experience (there’s that word again) that should leave a lasting impression on you.
Now it’s time to get to the drawbacks. If you wanted a game, this probably isn’t for you. The linear gameplay doesn’t give the player many options and it always seems that for every section of platforming or puzzle, you have to work out exactly what the developer had in mind. While this does lead to some excellent set-pieces, it can leave the player feeling robbed of any real agency.
Similarly, the platforming isn’t the best you’ll ever experience. The protagonist doesn’t handle anywhere near as well as Meat Boy (which was released the same year) or Madeline from Celeste (nearly a decade later). While most of the gameplay includes platforming, this isn’t necessarily a game for fans of the genre.
In the end, Limbo can feel more like an art project than a game. While I don’t personally believe this to be a bad thing, it won’t (and hasn’t) given the game mass appeal.
When it was released in 2010, Limbo was a game changer and it’s still an indie game worth picking up today. It showed us the potential of games as an art form and did things with the medium that were rarely seen at the time.
It might be a little too artsy-fartsy for some players, but other players will really get a kick out of the experience offered by this title.