Monday, December 12, 2011


Limbo is a game developed by the Danish studio Playdead. It is labeled as a "puzzle-platform" game, which essentially means that it is a brainy Super Mario Bros.

The game begins without any backstory, music, directions of any kind and absolutely no rhyme or reason given as to who the character on screen is and why anything is happening. The mood is stark in the about the starkest way stark can be stark. There is literally ZERO color in this game. Greys, whites and the deepest blacks from the pits of despair are all we have. The main character is a young boy who is represented as a pure black silhouette except for his piercing white eyes, which burn through the scenery and forces the player to assume that there is more soul inside of the darkness than is allowed to be revealed. As the game begins, so does the questioning and bewilderment over what this is all leading to.

I stated earlier that this game is a brainy Super Mario Bros, and by that I mean that it plays with the same overall mechanics of SMB but there is no way to progress simply by jumping over or on enemies. I also should have added "sinister" to that description. While the game presents riddles which are solved using dexterity of physics and logic, the consequences of miscalculating most of these mysteries are some of the most brutal and intensely violent animations seen in two colors. Bear Traps play a large role of the early stages and goofing the timing of jumping over one or walking too far one way will literally lead to the young boy being decapitated, or generally ripped apart at the limbs, allowing for the armless and legless torso to casually tumble to the ground while black blood squirts from extremities. If Mario ever met a fate anywhere near as vicious as some of these deaths, we'd have a generation of delusional vampires fighting for supremacy at the local Papa johns.

Perhaps we would not be that strange, however I digress.

This all being said, Limbo is a game that proves that video games can be fun as well as provide an insight to a collective mind. The loneliness and desperation of every scene in the game is enriched by the fact that the player is engaging in it to progress the sentiment of what an out-of-body experience might feel like. Immersing ones self into the game is a complete release of all the trappings of "why", and only requires the need for "how" and "when". Which, in life, is all we ever know from moment-to-moment, day-to-day: how and when it will end.

There is not much to say about the screen shots here outside of the obvious. This is a hauntingly beautiful game, and feels like an abstract Wynn Bullock photograph in motion.

The lack of music and stress on sound effects was a ballsy and appropriate choice for this game. Every footstep forward has weight and meaning; swampy and slow when over unsure ground, light and peppy when on assumedly solid ground. The sharp shrieks from a giant spiders blade ripping into the boys torso has MUCH more weight and gravity when it comes from literally nowhere and shatters the serene mood, shaking up not only the ambience but the player who has quite possibly indadvertedly become emotionally attached to the young boy's journey. The sound effects are synthetic in nature but natural in effect, and to that Limbo strikes directly at the heart.

Death and the question of what happens between the body failing and the soul fleeing is a topic no religion will ever provide any appropriate answer for. An invisible man in the sky judging us on a daily basis does not sound like a kind of spirituality I want to be a part of, yet a Godless and meaningless existence of Atheism just seems way too simple of a reason for some of the greatest miracles in life. As someone who is quite agnostic, this game's approach to having fun with the question of death and experience feels very apt. It's dark and UNKNOWING, yet works in a world based on rules and logic. That this was designed by a Danish company might have something to do with it, but as an American with heavy Mexican and Catholic roots, it taps into everything I think I should be feeling as far as the fragility of life, and the guilt of allowing someone to be killed without any kind of objective reason. As is life, just when the topic is beginning to become accepted in all of it's idiosyncrasies and moroseness, it's over.

This game is a meditation and it is worth, at the very least, experiencing in person. However the short length and lack of social features that even the worst Burger King games offer are just a little too much to stomach. Couple that with the steep price-of-entry, and it's a case of a near-perfect game hobbled by it's intrinsic sensibilities to be independent.

Four out of Five


  1. Hi Martinis,

    My name is Pierre and I enjoyed playing the game thanks to your review. I can tell that you're a thinker and your way with words is very fluid. I particularly liked your philosophy when you described the style of the game. I hope to see more of your thoughts and "out-of-the-ordinary" material like this.


    1. Thank you so much for your kind words; it is very much appreciated, and I am so glad you enjoyed the review. Hopefully Playdead will release their next game soon, really looking forward to seeing more from them.