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Limbo XBLA [Summer of Arcade]

Overall Feeling: 

Dark, creepy, atmospheric puzzle/platformer that hits all the right notes and creates a truly unique experience, but the price may be a little too much for what's provided.

The Pros: 

Dark, simple, attractive art-style. Creative puzzles that will give you a head-scratch. Fun, simplistic gaming and controls.

The Cons: 

Very short. No additional play modes. $15 price tag, with little to no replay value. Rating : 

Finally summer has arrived; beaches, warm weather, sun, and blockbuster films… But for a gamer there’s really one event that trumps them all: Xbox Live’s Summer of Arcade. Each year we receive a collection of new arcade titles featured on the Xbox Live Marketplace that offer a variety of gaming experiences; a sort of video-game-buffet for those of us who are easily offended by the sun. This year’s first entry into the Summer-time fun is Limbo. A creative little side-scrolling platformer/puzzle game that takes place in a dark, creepy world consisting entirely of black and white backdrops forged in the fires of 2D. So other than being a superb test of your TVs contrast ratio, what does indie-darling Limbo offer to Xbox Live Arcade goers?

Limbo is a creative little thought-exercise wrapped around the story of an unnamed hero who wakes up in a glade in the midst of a dark, creepy looking forest. The goal of the game is simple, and rather well established in the 2D platformer realm: Go right. As with most great games, a simple premise gets twisted, turned, and skewed into something dark and nefarious. While progressing through the game you’ll find yourself working out a series of puzzles focused around obstacles like: giant spiders, traps set by the native inhabitants, electricity, and even gravity. While the story isn’t clearly defined, one can assume that based on the title of the game you’re trapped in some kind of alternate world, and making your way to an escape.

One of the most unique and appealing aspects of the game is its unique art design. While the characters/objects/obstacles might not seem like they are the most detailed, the stark contrast between light and dark working on multiple levels becomes something awe-inspiring. It seems silly to think that what would basically equate to a paper cut-out style of graphics can be truly unnerving and creepy. The music, tone, and changing lighting of the game sets atmosphere throughout that will have you running a gambit of emotions from claustrophobic, creeped out, terrified, and relieved. One of the most interesting points for me personally was early in the game during the first encounter with the spider-creatures. I found myself genuinely afraid to approach it on first encounter, and running like my life depended on it later in the game. For a game with such a simplistic approach to art-design, it really is impressive the emotions they manage to evoke.

The single-player “story” is the primary focus of the game. All you need to do is get from point A (the glade you woke up in) to point B (the final checkpoint in the game). So in that sense it could be described as a little lacklustre. However, the puzzles between A and B are unique, interesting and, during a few points in the game, had me scratching my head. Aside from the core game there are a few additional extras: achievements of course, leaderboards, and the ability to replay chapters in any order you like once you’ve completed the game. Unfortunately for $15 (1200 points) that does feel like a little bit of a let-down.

Limbo has managed to take two genres, puzzle and platformer, and combine them in such a way that it feels new. While it may inspire comparisons to other indie-fan-faves like Braid, Limbo is truly its own unique experience. It feels like a classic arcade experience re-told in a modern era with some interesting twists on puzzles that will have you thinking quickly. At the start of the game it may feel like some of the puzzles are strictly trial-and-error, but if you train yourself to look for the subtle visual cues in the game you may find yourself seeing danger before it becomes an issue.

All-in-all Limbo proves itself as a strong first entry in this summer’s “Summer of Arcade” line-up. It’s one of those games that the critics are going to love talking about, and everyone will be clamouring over for some time. If video games were a book-club this would surely make everyone’s list. For a $15 price tag though I would encourage everyone to either wait until it comes down in price, or just play it at your buddy’s house. You know the guy that buys everything anyways? It’s something that deserves to be experienced, but at $15 you may feel a little short-changed.