The scene opens to a dark hazy view in black and white, no menu after the title screen to interrupt and break the mood fostered by what players have undoubtedly heard about the title in the almost three years since it was first released. The figure of a boy only opens his glowing white eyes with your prompt: a tap on the screen dividing you both, the first hint of the positive changes fostered by the move to a touch interface.
Indie developer Playdead’s first game, Limbo is a puzzle platform game with a touch of the psychological thriller genre, but only a touch enough to set your teeth on edge and no more. If by some miracle you haven’t heard about this title before now, Limbo is a dark, side-scrolling adventure that puzzles both in the complex problems players must solve to proceed through the game and with its mysterious world leaving us wondering precisely what is happening in the dark environment.
Players take control of a boy who wakes up in limbo, on the edge of hell, as he ventures onward to find his sister, a plot that isn’t spelled out in the game at all which has left many critics to argue about what is actually occurring. The game’s lack of overt plot allows for a level of freedom for the player to let their imagination run which can serve to heighten the game’s level immersion and make it more interesting; Others, though, may think negatively of the lack of outlined story and see it only as a set of puzzles to be solved one after another. With Limbo, how the gameplay is received is largely up to personal taste.
Blurred surroundings obscured by the dust you kick up with every step serve to put the one on edge. Leaning closer to the screen causes your shoulders to tense, not only from craning your neck to study what you’re stepping toward but from the stress of the frightening unknown. Limbo has an uncanny ability to drag you in to its world, something many larger budgeted games try and fail to do. There’s something horribly unnerving about throwing a lifeless body on a trip wire to thwart attempts to kill you by unknown human-like shadows in the dark and Limbo effectively capitalizes on that human tendency to empathize.
With over-ear headphones, the room around the player quickly falls away as they are consumed with straining to hear their surroundings over their own footsteps, trying to surmise whether the sound of flowing water dictates a lake ahead or something more sinister.
With ports, one of the biggest worries is what the game will feel like on its ported device. Above other qualities such as graphics and sounds, the interface often has to be entirely reworked when moving from controller to mouse or touchscreen. Limbo makes the leap flawlessly and, in fact, one might never know it was made for another medium simply by playing it on iOS.
If there’s one thing that was perfectly adapted, above all of the other qualities of this fantastic game, it’s the controls. Pressing your thumbs to either end of your device, as no controls are visible in concert with there not being a HUD, reveals movement is dictated by the touch of your finger anywhere on the screen.
The child moves in any direction you direct, with upward diagonal strokes prompting a leap in the desired direction. An ever so slight nudge to one side or the other is rewarded with slow steps, while a swipe on screen sends the boy sprinting. Movement is sensitively precise enough to bend over, grab, and drag a trap with the touch of a single finger, while also enabling you to run and leap away from a falling boulder with frantic swipes.
As a new feature with its move to iOS, Limbo synchronizes with Game Center and boasts thirteen different achievements total for you to discover in competition with your friends. Other than competitive achievement hunting, there is no true multiplayer, but this is not a source for negativity. Limbo doesn’t need the crutch that cooperative play can sometimes bring to a lackluster game; Limbo stands all on its own.
Limbo launched in the iOS store for $4.99 on all Apple mobile devices thus dashing the oft cited argument that Limbo is too little game for too high a price. While Limbo is available for PC, Mac, Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PS Vita, mobile is the cheapest way to play currently and is by no means any less of an experience than its more expensive console and computer counterparts.
With one of the best experiences mobile gaming can offer, Limbo is a must have addition to your portable collection.