Limbo

Said the spider to the fly

Limbo is a bleak and lonely place; a grainy grey film reel of mistakes and terrible consequences. If this is only limbo, I am officially afraid of hell.

The game is unobtrusive to the point of slyness. I watched the opening forest scene for quite a while before realizing that nothing was going to happen until I made the boy stand up. There would be no narrated introduction, no context whatsoever. The boy was sleeping, I woke him up, and together we now faced a long, hard road through some horrible traps and unfortunate accidents. I felt somewhat responsible for his plight from the very start.

There are few things the player needs to know about silhouette boy. He is simple. He runs and jumps and pushes boxes so he can jump to new places. He is frustratingly complacent about drowning if he falls into a lake.

Actually, silhouette boy takes all of his deaths well. When he gets impaled by spikes, or bonked on the head by a falling log, or ground into hamburger by gigantic gears, he doesn’t make a sound. No screaming or crying or swearing, just steadfast resolve as he follows the player’s stupid plan to his inevitable fate. He fails in some amusing and grotesque fashion, and then he lives once again. No ‘You Suck’ fanfare graphic. No loading screen. No real penalty for death.

You die and it looks cool, or you succeed and feel like a badass, which is an excellent dichotomy of possible outcomes.

The game mechanics are simple and predictable enough that they fade into the background, allowing the strange environments to take center stage. The settings seem to follow some wonky evolutionary path, subtly shifting from primordial forest to Charles Dickens Presents a Steampunk Nightmare to sci-fi lasers and gravity wells.

Along the way, the sensation of loneliness is pervasive to the point where you are happy to run into other silhouette people just so you know that others exist in this place. And then they kill themselves or try to murder the boy with grim determination. Nobody talks to you, ever, and it’s eerie. All of the narrative is wrapped up in the sheer thrill of survival: the close calls, the narrow shaves, scuffling with the predatory spider who refuses to give up.

Limbo consists of puzzle after puzzle and the puzzles are largely minimalist. Here’s a box, there’s a lever, over there is a platform, and somehow these things must fit together so the boy can move on. Because every interactive object is so stark and visible, it’s difficult to miss a solution because of simple oversight. Hidden orbs of light represent the game’s only aside and they are never far away.

Limbo will probably be compared often to Braid, another puzzle-platformer with distinctive art direction and a modern twist on familiar run-and-jump mechanics. But where Braid is verbose in its storytelling, Limbo stays silent. Braid examines time, while Limbo is a study of light and shadow and the shades between.

And, most prominently, Braid is about fleeing from death through convoluted means while Limbo embraces a thousand gory endings. This is what makes Limbo the more re-playable game. It is a stylishly visceral death simulator, a fun and painless exploration of the many hilarious and disturbing ways in which a silhouette boy can fail.

Time to completion: 4-6 hours

Good value? Worthwhile for 1200 Microsoft points, and a steal for anything less.

Approximate # of brutal deaths for silhouette boy: 100

Comments

Clemenstation wrote:
skeletonframes wrote:

Just finished the game.

Spoiler:

Is it about a boy who tried, but couldn't save his little sister from drowning?

I'd be curious to know why you think that's the case. Is it because

Spoiler:

The final puzzle has you diving into 'water', and then you find her safe and sound afterwards?

Spoiler:

But is she safe and sound? Notice you never see her eyes. You know when the boy dies because his eyes close. Everything evil in the world of Limbo is distinguished by no white eyes. The boy stops as the little girl stiffens up at the end. There is no real cue to the player that the girl will be saved. You never actually get closer to the girl than the first time you see her, when she disappears.

There is so much imagery of water and wilderness. At one point, you even see a body floating in the background as if suspended in water. It's around the "enemy tribe" chapters. One of the very first things you do is ride a boat. And the end. It seems like you crash into water and slowly float to the surface of the grass.

In fact, the more I think about it, I think the game is about a drowning boy. Not a boy that is trying to save his drowning sister.

The whole story could take place in the unconsciousness of the drowning boy. When you dream, the things you did prior to falling asleep usually find their way into your dream. Perhaps that is why you start in the woods. Maybe he fell out of a boat? Maybe he was playing in the woods with his sister and that is why, while unconscious, he feels the need to find her. His mind might be telling him to find his sister, like its a way out of this world. In real life maybe he can hear her calling out to him, in the distance, from above the water. His subconscious can be applying this to his dreamlike state.

The enemies and levels of the game could be taken straight out a young boy's nightmares. Giant insects, tree-forts and tribesmen, mind controlling slugs...

The parts that seem to take place in a silhouetted New York could be the boy's memories of his home.

The boy, also, doesn't seem to even try to fight when he falls in water. He immediately gives up and drowns. The anti-gravity parts at the end could also be attributed to his body feeling the effects of floating in the water. You know, like if you fall asleep in a car and the driver has to swerve really fast, it affects what happens in your dream. Or how an alarm going off or a phone ringing can find its way into your dream.

The boy could even be saved from drowning. Maybe someone gave him CPR and brings him back from the brink. Perhaps that is why he finally reaches his sister at the end, and the game ends so abruptly, like someone waking from a dream.

This could explain why the game is called "Limbo". Isn't limbo the place between the living world and death?

I can't place the machine world in this theory, though.

Anyone here ever read Ender's Game? Remember the Giant's Drink? That's what this game reminds me of.

I watched my roommate play the game on his system and there were quite a few times that we laughed at the deaths, or the random hanging dead people, or just the overall morbidity of the game. This is some great stuff. It does feel like a darker version of Little Big Planet, and that is a good thing. The giant spiders are pretty freaky.

The minimalist sound and design, along with the overall feeling of solitude and desolation evoke nostalgia of Ico. That is a very good thing.

skeletonframes wrote:

Spoilery theory

I like this, and really can't think of an explanation that fits better although, yeah, the machine world and high-tech area don't really work all that well.

A few things:

Spoiler:

Super-interesting how you link the boy's unwillingness to swim when he falls into water to his 'real' predicament (drowning).

Are there ever any characters, other than the boy, who actually have eyes? (Well, white eyes). There aren't very many, if any at all. I seem to recall that the kid who is controlled by the slug and drowns so you can use his body to jump across had eyes, but I'll have to go back and confirm that.

And people occasionally refer to 'limbo' as an intermediary stage between life and the afterlife, but its classic definition is a (now-defunct) construct from the Catholic Church. 'Good' people who died before Jesus showed up to save their souls weren't consigned to hell, but rather limbo instead. Unbaptized babies and acceptable Greek philosophers, that kind of thing. I'm pretty sure Dante visits limbo before heading deeper into the Inferno.

The baptism/innocent child angle is somewhat pertinent to the drowning theme, actually.

The boy doesn't seem to come from a pre-Jesus time, given all the modern environments he traipses through.

hbi2k wrote:

Anyone here ever read Ender's Game? Remember the Giant's Drink? That's what this game reminds me of.

That was the adventure game that Ender got deeper and deeper into during his free time, right? I gotta go back and read that book again, it's been too long.

I'm actually happy to hear that this game has a gore filter. Unlike apparently the majority of video game players, I don't find gore funny and didn't enjoy my brief time with the Limbo demo precisely because watching a little boy get chopped to bits isn't my idea of fun. I'm glad that the developers went the extra mile to not only have the gore filter clean up the boy's deaths but to also clean up the environment a bit; I can't tell you how many games I've played where the gore filters keep the enemies from spraying fountains of blood but ignore the mangled corpses built into the levels or don't remove gore from the cutscenes.

(Brütal Legend also gets props for its gore and profanity filters.)

Clemenstation wrote:
hbi2k wrote:

Anyone here ever read Ender's Game? Remember the Giant's Drink? That's what this game reminds me of.

That was the adventure game that Ender got deeper and deeper into during his free time, right? I gotta go back and read that book again, it's been too long.

Specifically, a certain part of that game in which the player is put into an unwinnable scenario in which his avatar goes through multiple grisly deaths and respawns. The game was monitored by the teachers as a sort of psychological analysis tool, and the idea of that portion was to gauge the player's suicidal tendencies by seeing how often they came back for more punishment.

Limbo is like the bastard child of that and the Wii version of A Boy and His Blob, with the slight difference that the game is reportedly winnable. Just not by me. I played the demo, was not having fun, and put it away. I appreciate the atmosphere, but other than that it's just not my personal cup of tea.

Here's my spoiler theory about the ending:

Spoiler:

The boy is dead the entire game and going through Limbo. At the end you see him drown/die and appear as a ghost where we see him approach the girl from behind. She's kneeling and tending to something on the ground, which is his grave.

Seem plausible?

carrotpanic wrote:

Here's my spoiler theory about the ending:

Spoiler:

The boy is dead the entire game and going through Limbo. At the end you see him drown/die and appear as a ghost where we see him approach the girl from behind. She's kneeling and tending to something on the ground, which is his grave.

Seem plausible?

Yep, sure does. The one bit of narrative exposition you get is actually extradiagetic, though, and seems to suggests that the girl is NOT fine. When you look at the game description on the Xbox dashboard, it says "Uncertain of his Sister's Fate, a Boy enters LIMBO."

Also, "There are no refunds for this item."

So we know that the girl is the silhouette boy's sister, and the implication is that he voluntarily comes to this place in order to rescue her (but from what?).

Clemenstation wrote:
carrotpanic wrote:

Here's my spoiler theory about the ending:

Spoiler:

The boy is dead the entire game and going through Limbo. At the end you see him drown/die and appear as a ghost where we see him approach the girl from behind. She's kneeling and tending to something on the ground, which is his grave.

Seem plausible?

Yep, sure does. The one bit of narrative exposition you get is actually extradiagetic, though, and seems to suggests that the girl is NOT fine. When you look at the game description on the Xbox dashboard, it says "Uncertain of his Sister's Fate, a Boy enters LIMBO."

Also, "There are no refunds for this item."

So we know that the girl is the silhouette boy's sister, and the implication is that he voluntarily comes to this place in order to rescue her (but from what?).

Rescue her from the lack of refunds?

carrotpanic wrote:

Here's my spoiler theory about the ending:

Spoiler:

The boy is dead the entire game and going through Limbo. At the end you see him drown/die and appear as a ghost where we see him approach the girl from behind. She's kneeling and tending to something on the ground, which is his grave.

Seem plausible?

I really like that.

Spoiler:

He's dead. That's why she pricks up when he gets near. It's as if she can sense him.

skeletonframes wrote:
carrotpanic wrote:

Here's my spoiler theory about the ending:

Spoiler:

The boy is dead the entire game and going through Limbo. At the end you see him drown/die and appear as a ghost where we see him approach the girl from behind. She's kneeling and tending to something on the ground, which is his grave.

Seem plausible?

I really like that.

Spoiler:

He's dead. That's why she pricks up when he gets near. It's as if she can sense him.

Interesting.

I was sorta sad when I unlocked the final achievement because I usually need carrots to keep me coming back to a game. There are very few games that I keep playing after I finish getting all the shinies (Worms, Rock Band, 3 on 3 NHL Hockey are pretty much the only examples that come to mind).

But I found a new carrot this weekend: Watching someone else play for the first time. A friend came over and because the game's controls are so simple, he was able to pick it up right from the get-go. It was really entertaining to watch him freak out at the spider bits, and jump when a bear trap dropped out of nowhere to chop the boy in half.

I'll likely pick this game up at some point. I've played through the demo a few times now, and while my initial impressions weren't favorable, they've improved such that I'm curious to see what the rest of the game entails. It's strange to play this back-to-back with Super Mario Galaxy, though, because the protagonist in Limbo feels so sluggish by comparison, and he can't jump worth beans. I found myself seriously overestimating his range and timing.

ClockworkHouse wrote:

It's strange to play this back-to-back with Super Mario Galaxy, though, because the protagonist in Limbo feels so sluggish by comparison, and he can't jump worth beans. I found myself seriously overestimating his range and timing.

I had similar issues with Limbo boy not being able to swim, especially because I had just been playing Symphony of the Night and Alucard (once properly equipped) has some good times underwater.

Then all of a sudden I'm controlling this floppy jellyfish kid who sluggishly heaves himself into a lake and then doesn't even have the gumption to paddle two feet to shore to save his own life.

This was a perfect lazy afternoon game. The phenomenal art and character animation got me to pick it up but what kept me playing were the great puzzle's. I felt like the puzzles were just hard enough so you got that great feeling of satisfaction when solving them. What I really liked about them was how they were ever changing and you could use sort of common sense to figure them out. There weren't pop ups or info sessions explaining the game mechanics to you.

But what surprised me was the minimalist story telling that was going on similar to ICO (as someone pointed out above). Whether it was sparse use of music or simply the sounds of the environment there was a great sense of atmosphere and a journey.

And the ending. I just sort of sat there stunned for a couple minutes. Really interesting reading through some gwjers interpretation of it.

Fantastic game, I really enjoyed it.

My take on the ending. Sorry if this is late, I just beat it and searched the first six pages of the Games forum to see if there was a catch-all. Also? It's a shame not a lot of people are playing this game since it isn't nearly as pretentious as Braid was. It's open ended with the story, and no shoveling of the actual truth down your throat. Like has been said in this thread there is little story behind "kid goes to look for his sister". Anyway, here's my take. See if it makes sense, and feel free to comment:

Spoiler:

There was a car crash near a forest when the kid and his family were on the way home from a vacation (hence the HOTEL sign, meaning that's the last place they stayed so it's the last place his mind remembers) and the boy and his sister were presumably seriously hurt or killed. This is why he "wakes" up in the forest at the very first part of the game, meaning it's either: a.) where his body landed, or b.) where his mind wakes up to when he is floating in and out of life and death in reality as people are trying to save him.

The whole game is the chase of this boy's to help his sister out of the situation they are in since presumably they are/were very close. The spiders and multiple types of deaths that he faces along the way are things that his mind is conjuring up from his actual past to either: a.) do the whole "life flashes before your eyes when you die" bit, or b.) a way for his mind to come to rest with what has happened so it can feel like he is saving her when he doesn't have a chance in the real world since he himself is already dead or close to it.

Let's face it. The kid is dead no matter how you look at the ending of the game. I think once he crashes through the "glass" at the very end of the game it signifies two things to the player: the car crash that resulted in him being in both LIMBO in the first place and the forest, and b.) as well as the end of his mortal life since he has finally passed on from the accident. The crash and subsequent time slow down that happens shows that he finally died in the real world. Also keep in mind that he lays down on the ground and closes his eyes exactly like how the game started, so when he "wakes up" from this state he is now officially dead and out of limbo. The last couple of minutes in the game are nothing more than his soul coming to rest with what has happened. What do I mean? Read on.

He never finds his little sister in the real life, or in his mind's world. He has a glimpse of her during the battle to stay alive but he does however find whatever is left of his memory of her in his mind, and he uses this when he finds her burying him in the forest near where he landed. Once the credits roll you see that a lot of time has passed and there are flies where his body lays under the dirt.

Wooooo! Just finished this up this afternoon as part of the Limbo 3-pack.

What a fantastic little game!

As for theories:

Spoiler:

I'm inclined to agree with the thought that the boy is in Limbo the entire time. My take on that, though, is that he isn't aware that he is dead, and the entire game is him trying to 'escape' this strange place he has found himself in. That last jump through the glass is him breaking through the illusion that he has made for himself and finally realizing - and accepting - that he is dead. Perhaps he had a gruesome death in the forest, and just at the moment of death, he 'woke up' in Limbo - in this case a twisted recreation of the last place he remembers in his real life - and he isn't cognizant of this until he 'breaks through' the veil and sees his sister mourning over the site of his death, thus causing him to realize that he's been dead all along. Kinda like Bruce Willis' character in The 6th Sense.

Well, it looks like this thread is the main Limbo thread. Just bought the game on Steam and am looking forward to playing it tonight!

tuffalobuffalo wrote:

Well, it looks like this thread is the main Limbo thread. Just bought the game on Steam and am looking forward to playing it tonight!

I'm looking forward to hearing whether 60 fps translates into fewer brutal deaths.

Clemenstation wrote:
tuffalobuffalo wrote:

Well, it looks like this thread is the main Limbo thread. Just bought the game on Steam and am looking forward to playing it tonight!

I'm looking forward to hearing whether 60 fps translates into fewer brutal deaths. :)

Well, at 60fps, more frames means more deaths I suppose. I've died a lot. I've played 4 hours and managed to deduce without spoiling anything that I'm on level 21/24. I absolutely love the game. There have been a couple puzzles that have been hard but unsatisfying when I figure out the solution eventually which is a little annoying, but most of the puzzles are quite fun.

I actually played it with my laptop and a 360 controller hooked up to a 1080p TV, so it was basically like playing it on a 360 (unless the 360 doesn't play at 60fps). The settings are limited and I haven't been able to find any resolution settings. The game is so hazy/fuzzy that it's hard to tell if it's 720p or 1080p. It doesn't really matter because it looks awesome. I did find it odd that you can't go in and tweak a .ini or anything.

I've read elsewhere there is a file called settings.txt that will permit you to alter the controls. Don't know about the resolution, I think it uses whatever your desktop's set at.

Hans

hidannik wrote:

I've read elsewhere there is a file called settings.txt that will permit you to alter the controls. Don't know about the resolution, I think it uses whatever your desktop's set at.

Hans

Yeah, I had found that. It lets you change a few things on the keyboard if you use a keyboard. You can either use the arrow keys or WASD. You can limit the game to 30fps and you can reduce the game's color depth to improve performance. I didn't see any resolution options.

Finished! I absolutely loved the game and the ending was beautiful! It looks like it took my about 5 hours to finish according to Steam. Two puzzles had me stuck for quite awhile.

I thought it would be fun to invert the colors on a screenshot:

IMAGE(http://i.imgur.com/iFyJLl.jpg)

IMAGE(http://i.imgur.com/OGzvTl.jpg)

I am toying with the idea of putting together gameplay footage with the music below. I think they would go well together. Anybody care to enable me?

That was outstanding! Really fun, beautiful and thoughtful Games like this sure don't come around every day.

I'm pretty similar in ending interpretation to others here, mostly...

Spoiler:

Vrikk's setup of the accident, hotel, etc make a lot of sense. I figure both the boy and sister were injured. However, as the boy is dying his love for his sister is stronger than his concern for his own situation. So in his mind/limbo he struggles and overcomes absurd odds to try and save her. All until he eventually wears down and comes to realize that he's in fact dead.

If you want to be real depressing you could say that was the mother in the final scene, mourning the death of her son and daughter both. He followed right behind his sister into death.

Seeing that so many of you finished this game, I thought I'd throw this question out there. A friend of mine recently bought this through Steam and is playing on his PC, when he gets to the part where the boy breaks through a plane of glass, the game freezes. Is this a bug? We're both relatively new to Steam and I don't know how to help him resolve it. It seems to be bugged, but thought I'd check here to be sure it wasn't some part of the game or if you guys have any input on how to debug it.

I suggested maybe he beat the game and we both agreed that would be the worst ending ever.

I've never played the Steam version, but that sounds like a bug. You are supposed to crash through the glass and then survive the descent; crashing to desktop is not part of the intended challenge.

Yup, that's a bug.