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King of the Limbo!

So, I tried the demo of Limbo, some 2D platformer that people are claiming to be the new definition of artsy fartsy, all because it doesn’t have music or colour.

(Thanks to Codie for reminding me how appropriate this picture is, and also how terrible my arms are)

This is why nobody respects the games industry, folks. We weren’t impressed with the revolutionary hair technology in Final Fantasy: Spirits Within, but douse a game in bloom and fog and we’ll be calling it the best thing since sliced bread.

Every review of Limbo on GameFAQs offers nothing less than a 9 out of 10, and consistently refers to the game as an “experience.” It certainly tries very hard to hammer that in. From the ten minutes I played, a lot of it is just spent walking forward waiting for an obstacle to crop up. The play style is limited strictly to moving, jumping and an all-purpose interaction button, which mostly involves pulling stuff. In the right hands a very simplistic control scheme like that could make for a very interesting game, but given what the rest of the game is like, it just comes across as lifeless.

People are praising the game for not having any narrative. You heard me. You wake up in a forest, abuse some corpses, get your head snapped off by bear traps repeatedly, and the game ends after finding a girl, so I have read. A lot of games involve the protagonist waking up with no memories or knowledge of where they are, and the goal is to investigate the mystery behind their surroundings and circumstances (like the game featured in this gratuitous plug to Scary-Crayon!). Limbo apparently foregoes that last part and just makes you wake up and go wandering for no reason. No motive or reason, you’ve just got no option but to keep walking to the right. I suppose if you didn’t know there was no narrative then playing the game to find one would be a sufficient reason to play it, but otherwise it seems like a pointless affair. Obviously a demo isn’t the best way to judge a game, but what little I played was uneventful and, more damning, unchallenging.

I know I rag on about games with unnecessarily large stories I don’t care about, and now I’m going to sound like a hypocrite for ragging on about a game with no story, but the point here is that the game just isn’t involving. I’m certainly not interested in actually playing it because it’s not very challenging and doesn’t make the best use of its concept. I’m not interested in it simply for the experience because it looks boring as hell. And I can’t even say I’m in it for the graphics because, jeez, guys, ever heard of a colour palette? Even some goddamned music would be nice. LostWinds was kinda joyless to play at times, but I won’t deny I kept going simply because the graphics, the music and the environment did capture my interest. That is a game I played largely because of the atmosphere. Limbo is a game that seems to be going out of its way to be as unappealing as possible.

With MS Paint and a buttload of filters, you too can make your own unique Limbo screenshot!

People are probably arguing that’s the point. It’s limbo! The realm between heaven and hell! A place or state of oblivion to which persons or things are regarded as being relegated when cast aside, forgotten, past, or out of date! It’s not going to be cupcakes and roses, sweetie! But, sorry, if you’re going to make a game for the sole purpose of going “hey you guys look at this allegory I made”, that’s just sad. For that matter, people argue about whether or not video games can be art, but what about other games? Is Snakes And Ladders a bitter commentary on the chance of the common man ever landing a stable life? Is Stuck-In-The-Mud basically saying no matter how good our medical science progresses, we’re going to be fucked sooner or later? If I keep talking like this then I’m going to become a pretentious asshole as well. Moreso than usual!

Also, sorry, but any hint of a game’s quality for seriousness vanishes when the hero’s head fucking falls off when he’s hit by a bear trap. He doesn’t get ensnared and bleed to death, nor does it simply break his bones, leaving him to slowly wilt and his consciousness fade away. No, it cuts his head off and it bounces around like a beach ball while a blood fountain gushes from his neck. That’s not mature, that’s an extract from your typical thirteen year old’s sketch pad. I love how even a supposedly artsy game about a kid in a forest can’t resist the desire to be unnecessarily violent.

Is it worth discussing that all but three of the Xbox 360 games I have are rated 15 or higher? The only ones that aren’t are Bomberman: Act Zero (which has frightening fetish robots with bouncing breasts), Sonic the Hedgehog (hedgehog-human romance!) and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (which is based off a movie where a remote control car humps a girl’s leg). What a wonderful gaming environment we live in.

I will admit the graphical style is interesting. Interesting is not the same as good, mind you, but it’s interesting. I really do just wish more was done with it, though. The boy just looks ugly the way he’s animated, and seriously, even just a few hints of colour would’ve spiced it up a lot. You don’t need to make it like bright fluorescent green or anything, just subtle additions that add to the supposedly ethereal surroundings, yknow. I think working in monochrome or with silhouettes can, in the right hands, make for a very interesting visual style, but Limbo just doesn’t do it in an attractive manner. It’d probably look nicer in an animated film, though.

Lost in Shadow is another game that aims for the monochrome silhouette look, but it just looks like a game set inside a toilet bowl. Will I write about it some time in the future? Probably not!

One Comment

  1. MightyKombat wrote:

    you’re not a fan of complicated stories, eh? You won’t like Tales of Symphonia 2 then :V

    But yeah, gimme a classic action fighting or shooting game any day. Like Doom.

    Friday, August 6, 2010 at 12:27 am | Permalink