tiistai 23. lokakuuta 2012

REVIEW - Limbo | PS3 | 2011

GENRE(S): Platform / Puzzle
RELEASED: July 2010 (Xbox 360)
DEVELOPER(S): Playdead ApS
PUBLISHER(S): Playdead ApS

The last few years have been very kind to independent and/or heavily obscure games, mostly due to the conception of commercial networking services for every platform released in the last seven years; Xbox LIVE, PlayStation Network, Steam and the Wii Shop Channel, as well as the evergrowing popularity of mobile gaming. Many independent developers around the globe have been given a chance to shine on these small, but renowned forums, and some of them have gloriously hit the bullseye with their very first title. One of the luckiest ones is Playdead ApS from Copenhagen, Denmark, who released the fascinating horror game Limbo to huge critical acclaim in the summer of 2010. Limbo is a very unique experience that everyone with an ounce of respect for independent games should consider to have - it's not the best digital download there is, but one refreshing game nonetheless. Not to mention, a damn creepy one.

The dark side of Oddworld

To discover the fate of his sister, a little boy enters the dark, obscure, monochromatic world of Limbo, where every step might be his last.

They hang children around here. Nice. Real
To put it simply, Limbo is the bastard child of LittleBigPlanet, Silent Hill, Pitfall Harry and good old Oddworld. I don't remember what drove me to download the Limbo demo - which I loved, by the way - and I had no idea it was a horror game. I thought it would be some cute and weird game like Flower. Well, it sure is weird, it's kind of cute at first too, I guess, but the truth reveals itself in less than a minute into the game. There are no cutscenes at all, no tutorials, not even a main menu to begin from - the moment you press that Start button, you find yourself staring down a beady-eyed silhouette of a small kid in a dark forest, ready for your brief commands. The list of functions is very short and to the point; you can run, climb, jump, push and pull stuff. You have no direct means to attack or defend yourself from the dangers of Limbo - which include huge sawblades, a tribe of bullies with dart guns, areas with anti-gravity, gun turrets and finally, one relentless, not to mention fuckin' gigantic spider. You have to use your creativity, and do it fast, or else you'll be a black pile of blood and guts in a nanosecond whenever you come across some of these hazards or any other surprises the world of Limbo has in store.

At first, Limbo's very obscure story and unique artwork hit me in a Goosebumps-like fashion - not much more than a creepy bonfire tale for teenagers wanting to get laid. Like every obscure story, Limbo's has a deeper meaning, but unlike Flower which openly rallied against industrialization or Journey that I interpreted as "walking towards the light", beautiful games with colourful graphics and high spirit, Limbo honestly turned out one of the creepiest and most disturbing games I've ever played. A lot of the violence is left to the player's imagination, with the total absence of the color red - as well as any other color besides black and white - but let me tell you, Playdead knew how to screw with the player's imagination with the delicate use of sound, well designed animation, and many details which one will certainly notice, but can't necessarily point out when it comes to the direct question of what's so creepy about the game. You have to see it for yourself.

Along came a spider... and he's huge.
Limbo's audiovisual design is perfect, there's no way around it - if you like experimentation, that is. The whole game is in monochromatic black and white, and there's barely any music to go with the gory sound effects. This creates an atmosphere like no other, and what's best about it - in my case, at least, since my PS3 HDD is filled to the brim! - is that the game doesn't hoard up any more hard drive capacity than a measly 90+ MB. That being said, it's a great game, and it honestly is one of the most audiovisually pleasing PSN games I've played - I do like experimentation.

Limbo is by no means a perfect game. It only takes a couple of hours to complete it, and still I think it's a bit too long, or that a couple of the more repetitive puzzles could've easily been edited out from the final product. It starts out really intelligent - in a really simple sort of way - and fascinating, but starts to taste flat towards the end. I've never been a huge fan of puzzles related to anti-gravity, which the final levels of the game are solely based on, but I'm even more annoyed by the glowing worms that stick to your protagonist's head and force him to walk in a certain direction until he comes in direct contact with sunlight or "birds" that'll eat that squiggler straight off his skull when close enough. Even though the physics engine is mostly incredible for a game of this size, it does have its awkward glitches and sensitivities which will lead to a lot more gruesome deaths than any on-screen hazard, the way I see it.

The fact that the trip through Limbo isn't that long at all - although it might start feeling like one before long - doesn't mean that the game would be easy. Some of the later puzzles are true brain wreckers; with such limited functionality to your character, you'd think that everything's plain as day, but it truly isn't. The solutions are simple, but you have to work to get to them nonetheless, and ALWAYS mind and study your surroundings from the very bottom of a puzzle room to the very top. There are many puzzles which test your reflexes above everything else, but luckily the annoying and oppressive feeling of being rushed or forced to race against time is relatively rare. Also, checkpoints are right on the spot most of the time.

Indy made it all look so easy.
Getting Trophies/Achievements has a twist. It's not enough to meet the stated criteria, you also have to find what I like to call "Trophy Eggs" from the vicinity of the met criteria, and some of them are so well hidden, that even while I completed the game and did most of the stuff needed to complete the Trophy list, I only ended up with 33%. One of the Trophies requires you to play through the game in one sitting - which I did - but also, playing through the game getting killed less than five times, which I think is just impossible, especially on the first round. After all, Limbo is a game in which every small mistake or slight error in judgement might spell your doom. You're going to utter a lot of bad words, but you'll feel good in the end.

Thanks to the general deflation of even the game's most attractive qualities towards the end, I'm not taking another trip in Limbo any time soon, but ultimately, I'm extremely glad I took the first one. The game's price is steep, but I have spent a lot of PSN credits on a whole bulk of games and add-ons that can't compare to this one game even by cumulative quality. Stay tuned for more by Playdead ApS, I'd say.

+ Simple, yet unique and perfect audiovisual design

+ Gruesomely violent, but in a subtle, calm and even somewhat beautiful (?!) way
+ Starts out as a really intelligent game with emphasis on great physics and great puzzles, in which the biggest challenge lies in the main character's limited resources...

- ...In time, these puzzles start to repeat themselves a little more than necessary, and the main character's limited resources become less of a fascinating feature - to put it nicely

- The worms
- Some minor glitches are abound, nothing too major to be all beefed about
- The staggering price of the game is a huge turn-off (try the demo to be sure!)

< 8.1 >

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