For those of you that don’t know, Limbo is an XBLA exclusive title that will be featured on Microsoft’s second annual ‘Summer of Arcade’ promotion. The game is a classic mix of platforming and puzzles. The game is super stylistic and even more sadistic; it may be the best thing coming to XBLA this year.
Limbo is developed by Playdead Games, an independent European developer. The art director and puzzle designer were both on the show floor, and this turned out to be my only opportunity in twenty-five years to shake hands with real geniuses. The art is moody while the puzzles are relentless. I can’t rave enough about these two central experiences to this downloadable title, but I will try.
As soon as Limbo starts you will be immersed into a dark and disturbing 2D world. The backgrounds are an organic gray fog with astute shades of lighting. The foregrounds are all black silhouettes with sharp and jagged geometry that are designed specifically to illicit melancholy and dreadful emotions. The nameless character who will be your avatar through this nightmare land is a purposefully diminutive silhouette with only two glowing eyes. Everything about what you see in this game will make you feel isolated in a scary nowhere; it is limbo.
The sound is just as selectively created as the visuals. The main theme is an eerie static noise at a low, almost indiscernible level. It seems to be heard subconsciously, but its impact is felt. Movable objects creak and moan wistfully while traps and monsters strike with silence shattering thuds. These moments are very startling. The visuals and sounds come together wonderfully to create a creepy and artsy presentation.
The gameplay is completely puzzle-based with fundamental platforming mechanics mixed in to traverse the game world. Puzzles are solved by augmenting the environment. During my demo, I had a chance to play both levels; each featuring several puzzles. They are clever and will rack your brain. Each one has a certain twist that is always satisfying to unravel. Every puzzle also has traps that will murder you. In keeping with the spooky spirit of the game, these death animations are terrifying or disturbing.
Playdead Games is a small team consisting of eight core members (16 members at its peak), and LIMBO proves that these small studios can show the mega-developers how a single simple vision can speak volumes. This title is a downloadable game that will release at 1200 MS points, like all ‘Summer of Arcade’ games, and its more polished than some of the Xbox 360’s full retail offerings.