Originally released on
Xbox Live Arcade in 2010, Playdead’s rapturously received minimalist
platformer Limbo has finally made the transition to handheld
devices, taking full advantage of the technology to deliver an
Armed with only the
merest scrap of back-story- "Uncertain of his sister's fate, a boy
enters Limbo" – You take control of the aforementioned boy and, through
a style of play dubbed Trial and Death” by Playdead, proceed to die
relentlessly and graphically as you solve puzzles and traverse
environments ranging from dark, haunting forests populated by an irate
giant spider to more austere industrialised areas where the steady clank
of machinery is the Boy’s only accompaniment.
Controls are as simple
and intuitive as you could desire, boiling down to three basic motions –
Moving from left to right, grabbing or dragging objects and jumping.
Movement works like you’re using a digital thumb-pad and grabbing works
with similar ease, with only a protracted tape of the screen necessary.
Jumping can be, unfortunately, a tad unresponsive, with Limbo
often not registering your jump at the correct time or even at all. This
only to me a handful of times throughout two playthroughs but it was
noticeable enough to compound my frustration.
The puzzles in Limbo
are elegantly designed and sit comfortably amongst the macabre aesthetic
of the game, with many requiring rather grisly solutions. The puzzles
are mostly environmental, existing of obstacles hindering your
progression throughout the grainy, black and white landscape and
requiring you negotiate the Boy past a series of intricately laid Bear
traps or through the ruins of a factory, using the crumbling edifice to
dispose of some shadowy, mysterious pursuers. Parasites that take over
control of the character’s movement must also be contended with.
Challenging but never unfair, solving Limbo’s crafty little
puzzles offer up a real sense of achievement, even if you did
happen to die seven times before getting to that point.
has a strikingly evocative visual style, with its unique silhouette art
direction complimented by a gritty filter overlay that gives the game a
sense of being viewed through an old projector. The soundtrack is as
sparse and restrained as the art style, but is as equally effective;
comprised mainly of ambient sounds and the staccato tattoo of the Boy’s
hollow footsteps, less is more in this case and, when enjoyed with
headphones, Limbo’s sound design is unparalleled in its ability
to create an immersive and believable auditory landscape.
A gaming experience
like no other, Limbo succeeds in both evoking an austere
atmosphere through its black and white 2D graphics and the effective use
of logical, physics based puzzles that stand in the way of the Boy and
his uncertain final goal.
has made the leap to iOS admirably, losing nothing in the translation
and only minor quibbles with the jumping mechanics really stand out
enough to drop the score slightly. Indeed, Limbo is surprisingly
well suited to the sporadic habits of the handheld gamer, with well
thought out checkpoint placement allowing you to tackle a few quick
puzzles at your leisure whenever you have a spare minute or three and
the spine tingling aesthetic of the game benefits greatly from the
intimate nature of handheld gaming.
If you’re a fan of
great gaming experiences - And let’s face it, who among us isn’t? – Then
you owe it to yourself to delve into this monochrome nightmare, even
more so now that it fits conveniently in your pocket. Recommended.