Hindsight : Limbo
Cab: Xbox 360 / PS3 / PC / Mobile
I had to climb over the corpses of dead children to complete this game. Not to mention orchestrate the murder of several others.
Now, imagine for a moment that this was a COD game: the newspapers would be plastered with all manner of vitriolic criticisms of games and their sick, sadistic, morbid fascination with death. Won’t somebody think of the (dead) children? Yet Limbo – something that quietly crept under any such radar – is every bit as harrowing and shocking as any game that you will ever play. And therein lay its genius.
We’ve become used to platformers being cute, cuddly, Mario-esque affairs – ones with stars, flowers and mushrooms that guide us through their pixel-perfect obsession with success. It’s a deeply bizarre juxtaposition when you think about the punishing nature of the average platformer. In Limbo, Playdead have turned this contradiction on its head and stripped away the flesh away to reveal the true horrors that lay beneath: pain, failure, dismemberment and misery. And yet the experience is strangely ethereal, enchanting and spiritual.
It’s arguably the most brutally honest and refreshingly intriguing game that you’re ever likely to play.
I. Hate. Freaking. Spiders.
Adopting the role of an unnamed, lost boy on the edge of what can only be described as hell; Limbo is a simple left-to-right, monochrome platformer with basic controls and quaint, physics-based puzzles. So far, so generic. Yet the game’s stark world, minimalist aesthetic and gruesome nature set Limbo apart from the crowd. Death is depicted in a shocking, graphic manner, with the player’s mind filling in the gaps that the seemingly innocent silhouettes leave behind.
You are extremely restricted by so much of the game’s structure that it feels, at times, like a damp cloth over your face – and yet in the same moment you are free to wonder about what grizzly delights lay upon the next screen; about how far away the conclusion of this harrowing journey is; about what drives the poor child to endure so much. The juxtaposition of claustrophobia and promise is at the very core of Limbo’s design – a design that suits the platforming genre with absolute perfection.
Some may argue that Limbo is merely style over substance, but that would be missing the point: in Limbo, style is substance.
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Husband. Parent. Gamer. Go figure.