Confession–I didn’t play Limbo when it was originally released for Xbox Live. I heard how great the game was, but my mind wasn’t on indie games. There were too many AAA games to play. And why would I want to spend money on a smaller game when I could put that money towards something like Saints Row? Time passed and Limbo made its way to PlayStation Vita. A system that has collected dust for months now. It was perfect timing. Earlier this week I wanted to focus on Vita games and Limbo seemed like the perfect game to start my journey. Did I make the right choice?
Simplicity In Design
What makes Limbo great is its simplicity. The controls are simple, but tight. The character’s jump and run movements look ‘floaty’ but you can tell it’s by design. The philosophy of simple design goes beyond character controls and seeps into the environment and puzzles. Limbo plays like one huge level. While the game is divided into chapters, it’s hard to tell where one chapter ends and another begins. The game sticks to a black and white color scheme, which give the game a noir feel. Sound effects blend perfectly with the environment. And there is just enough ‘music’ to give the game the emotion it needs.
When you play Limbo you know you have one objective–solve puzzles. It’s refreshing to see what a developer can create when the game’s mechanics have been distilled down to the essentials. For those who grew up in the 16-bit era, Limbo will remind of a time when emphasis was placed on level design instead of realistic graphics and complex controls.
Limbo is consistent with its approach to storytelling and gameplay. The game leaves you on your own to complete puzzles, and to create your own understanding of the story. For many of us, this will take some adjustment. I’ve been accustomed to having my hand held in video games. Today’s games will tell me where to go and what to do. And if I happen to get lost, a hint is only a button click away. This isn’t the case with Limbo. If you are going to play this game you are going to have to shed some of your gamer pride and ask for help–only after you’ve screamed at the Vita for a few minutes.
It’s been a while since I’ve played a game that made me feel very smart and very stupid at the same time. The team behind Limbo has created puzzles that are not only creative, but fair. When you fail at a puzzle it isn’t the game’s fault, it’s a lack of perception. The puzzles often have simple solutions, but many of us (myself included) are so used to over thinking puzzles that we must reprogram the way we view them.
Luckily for us the game’s premise and design help to carry us through the toughest of puzzles. Once you start playing you’ll want to solve the next puzzle because you know it will put you one step closer to finding out the answers to the story. There are instances where you will run across other people and creatures and their mere existence will drive you to figure out the reasoning behind your encounter.
Game Design Over Graphics
Limbo is a game that pays homage to the old 16-bit days. When game design took precedence over graphics. It is a balanced game where nothing feels out-of-place. All the game elements(character design, controls, and environment) work together to bring you an experience that is tighter than many AAA games. I remember reading reviews about Limbo and wondered if the game was going to live up to expectations. I’m happy to say that the game does live up to the hype. If you have a PS Vita and you haven’t played Limbo you should pick this up.