Gamer Journal: LIMBO

LIMBO is an atmospheric puzzle-platformer developed by Playdead in 2010 which plays with your senses and toys with your fears. With an ambiance reminiscent of a 1932 film the audio and visual work in LIMBO is a demonstration of what it is like to live inside a nightmare. Never quite able to see ahead of you, or behind you, the only clear thing is that you are certainly there; wherever you are. You can never be certain of what awaits ahead; the boy can only walk further into the haze.

From a game design perspective LIMBO is a puzzle-platformer at its core. With simple run-jump-climb controls it’s very easy to get into this game and start playing. What really makes LIMBO stand out from the crowd is the way the designers and artists have created this nightmarish environment. From the beginning it is hard to determine where you are and what you are doing, but you very quickly realize that you cannot trust anything that you are seeing.

Something that stood out for me was the way the game was paced. There was often a long interval between puzzles which created these long periods of anticipation and short intense periods of HOLY SH*T THAT’S A FREAKING SPIDER THAT JUST KILLED ME OUT OF NOWHERE!!!!!! And if you watch the video you will see me nearly jumping out of my chair!

Not only are you being given audio and visual feedback you also get tactile feedback in the rumble of a gamepad; you should totally play this with a controller. By playing with these three senses, in tandem with the game’s pacing, I got this feeling of anticipation mixed with anxiety as I wait to be eviscerated by a spiked bear trap or impaled by a giant spider sent from the deepest depths of hell… I really hate that spider…

Where LIMBO succeeded in a fantastic and well rounded design I failed as a player.

LIMBO is a great game, and if you like puzzles that toy with your fears then this is for you!  LIMBO is full of very clever and well thought out puzzles. Players are given visual queues, foreshadowing, hints; all the things a great puzzle needs to allow players to succeed without hand holding. However, I am the type of player that doesn’t often thrive in this sort of environment. In addition to the jitters I suffer from what I like to call Puzzle Fatigue.

Essentially, puzzle fatigue happens when you have failed a puzzle multiple times and now you are getting frustrated to the point where you start failing faster, and then you get more frustrated. This started fairly early on for me when I encountered the giant spider for the first time. I was able to push through but through too many trials and errors after an hour and a half got frustrated enough to stop playing.

Don’t get me wrong, LIMBO is a well designed, well executed, and all around awesome game. I’m not you, so you might be into this sort of thing.

 

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