Dark, sombre and thought-provoking, Limbo is as much a work of art as it is a video game.
Many gamers and game developers will claim that computer games today count as an art form. While this may be true in terms of the graphics, design and concepts, it is usually a stretch of the imagination to attribute this term to the whole (although you could argue that art is supposed to stretch the imagination).
Not so with Limbo. PlayDead Studios have created what can only be described as a masterpiece. If Halo, Portal and the flawed but terrifying Call of Cthulhu can be called Rembrandts, then for me at least, Limbo is an undiscovered da Vinci.
Many will disagree but this game – while suffering from some poor pacing – touched me somewhere that is very human.
The story doesn’t matter. The film noir faux 3D graphics do not count. The sombre silence punctuated at times by musical discords or environmental noises are irrelevant. The gruesome deaths perpetrated on the little boy you guide through the edges of hell have no importance.
The whole is greater than the sum; true here more than anything I’ve seen in many years.
But some, like I said before, will disagree.
The game has the aforementioned boy searching the lands of limbo for his missing sister. That’s it. No further direction or handholding.
Your character is perfectly animated. His small dark silhouette moves slightly awkwardly. You get the feeling that he is a small boy on the cusp of gangly limbs, a body growing faster than grace will allow.
At his disposal are a small assortment of skills and the inability to swim in deep water. You can jump, climb ropes (which I couldn’t do at his age) and push objects.
Although some simple puzzles will require the use of this modest collection of skills, the game is really more akin to most platformers; a test of foresight, reactions and luck.
Oh, and dying a lot.
Don’t worry though, after watching the hapless hero become headless with the help of a bear trap you will be teleported to the last checkpoint which is usually just two or three paces back.
It is still disturbing, though. Watching a child die over and over wears down your hard gaming exterior and makes you feel the rarest of gaming emotions: empathy and concern.
There’s no humour here for me to squeeze out of this review so I may wrap up. This game is art to me and while there are pacing issues in the last stages, it will still deliver six or so hours of interactive gold.
Platform: Xbox Live Arcade
By Logan McMillan