Limbo Review

Limbo contains the wonderful aesthetics and crafty puzzles from the previous versions, but the atmosphere isn't quite as striking on a smaller screen.

Almost three years after Limbo landed on the Xbox 360, it finally arrives on the Vita. Limbo is nearly unchanged from its previous incarnations, and in it, you roam through ink-black locales, overcoming traps while braving the suffocating atmosphere. Intuitive puzzles prove just as satisfying on the go; however, the aesthetics are not quite as arresting on the small screen. It's a tiny problem that results in a mere blemish on this translation. Whether you've been enthralled by this poor boy's trek through a strange world before or have yet to experience this somber journey, Limbo is an artistic adventure that takes hold of your imagination and refuses to let go.

Just like a young George Washington.

The opening scene thrusts you into this world without any explanation for your predicament. You play as a young child who finds himself lying on his back in a foreign land that is far from welcoming. He is nondescript, appearing as a black silhouette that blends in with his dark surroundings. His lone distinctive characteristic is his shining, white eyes. These flashes of light are always visible, making it the one part of his body you can recognize even when the rest of the screen is completely black. There is no story pushing you through this quest, no signs to give you hints nor characters to clue you in on an overarching plot. Rather, this is a game about survival, where merely making it from one area to the next, surviving one obstacle after another, is what pushes you on.

You have a small repertoire of moves to help you stay alive in this 2D puzzle/platformer hybrid. A modest jump allows you to clear small gaps; certain objects can be pushed or pulled; and you can climb up or swing from ropes. Submerging yourself too deep in water, falling from a high ledge, or making contact with any of the numerous traps kills you instantly. Your lack of heroic moves does not mean that the puzzles you must overcome are equally limited, though. There's plenty of variety in Limbo's puzzles, and even those that appear similar initially are invariably quite different. The early puzzles are single-step affairs that require you to move a bear trap out of the way or cross a river. But later puzzles are much more complex, forcing you to use objects, flip switches, and perform perfect jumps in order to come out on top.

Trial and error is a major component of Limbo's environmental hazards. A boulder may roll unexpectedly toward you, crushing you before you have a chance to react. Or you may stumble upon a bear trap hidden in foliage. Death is quick and brutal. Checkpoints quickly return you to the scene of your demise, so there's no need to walk over the same ground more than once. Once you understand the viciousness present in Limbo, and realize that your precious life can be taken away at a moment's notice, you notice these traps before they can kill you. It's an amazing feeling when you recognize an obstacle way off in the distance, pulling you ever further into this adventure.

Who would put a bear trap up there?

Limbo is an expertly paced adventure where progress is made much faster than in a typical game that emphasizes puzzles. Most obstacles can be completed in just two or three attempts, so even though you may have to analyze your surroundings to progress, you rarely dwell on any one section for long. This is one of Limbo's greatest strengths. The stifling aesthetics swirl in your mind, trapping you fully in this world. Dread follows your every step. But once digested, the feeling of hopelessness in each inhospitable section dissipates. That's why it's so important that you keep marching forward. Limbo wants you to progress, to see each unnerving location, and understand the plight this poor child faces.

The subdued aesthetics are the main draw of Limbo. Subtle audio hooks and restrained visuals guide you further along your destined path, never offering a moment of respite. You walk through dense forests, decrepit towns, and abandoned factories, all of which feel confined and desolate. Everything is tarnished beyond repair. The audio beautifully complements the darkness. Ambient noises send shivers down your spine. The snap of a branch or chirping of crickets sounds so real, so normal, that it makes this shadowy land even more surreal. And when the music plays, it crashes down in full force, awakening you with a start. However, as great as the artistic design is, it doesn't work as well on the Vita. The small screen doesn't do justice to the utter bleakness, making you feel less immersed in this grim world. For many games, this wouldn't be a problem. But for Limbo, which is so reliant on making sure you're always completely invested, it does slightly lessen the experience.

Even though there aren't developed characters or a story to care about, Limbo elicits a strong emotional connection. The striking visuals and low-key audio are instrumental in pulling you in, but it's the harsh manner in which death is depicted that evokes the most powerful reaction. This is a violent game. The boy can die in a wide variety of ways, and every death is incredibly painful to behold. Bear traps cut him into pieces, spikes impale him, and electrical currents shoot through his body. The elaborate death sequences do not feature excessive amounts of blood, but they are affecting nonetheless because of their shocking depictions. Death is handled in such a cold manner that it continually shocks, even after you've seen it dozens of times. This creates an emotional immediacy that is difficult to forget.

Sometimes you must look your enemies in the eye.>

Limbo poses the questions of death versus life and reality versus dream, but it doesn't answer them. It's the questions that are important here, and you're left to contemplate the meaning of this world for yourself. Although this is a game without clear-cut answers, the lack of concrete explanations doesn't detract one bit from the overall experience. This is a delicately crafted adventure whose elements tie seamlessly together. The fact that you can finish the entire game in just a few hours is disappointing only because it's so difficult to pull yourself away once you've been sucked in. Limbo is a wonderful adventure from beginning to end.

The Good
Moody, black-and-white visuals
Excellent sound design
Thoughtful puzzles with lots of variety
Hidden secrets reward a second playthrough
The Bad
Audio and visuals aren't as impactful on the Vita
8.5
Great
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Discussion

33 comments
happypanda53
happypanda53

great game for sure yes, but I already have it on PS3. if it were cheaper id get it on vita, I cant spend another $15. buying it again.

shakensparco
shakensparco

So the only cons for the game are things that are impossible to avoid? The game is getting a ding in score because the Vita is too small and has bad speakers? I call BS.

Ripper_TV
Ripper_TV

This game is a strong 8.0/10 because of the weaker 2nd half.

DrHorrible123
DrHorrible123

I found this just as enjoyable with a good pair of headphones as the ps3 version. Both this and the last of us Deserve a 9.0-9.5

canuckbiker
canuckbiker

I can't believe this kick ass game only takes up 130 mb on my memory card.

ForceFedBullets
ForceFedBullets

Am I the only person that finds the trial and error style of gameplay annoying? Sure it looks great but it is too frustrating for me

Mohjong
Mohjong

Was thinking either this or Last of Us.  Thank GOD the review scored helped me made my decision.

hippiesanta
hippiesanta

Tom mcshea banned to give below 8.5 by gamesputt

IncisionX
IncisionX

Yesterday I could have sworn this was given a 7.5/10 - Now it's sitting on 8.5/10.


Dare I say we got through to you unless it was always 8.5/10..?

LoG-Sacrament
LoG-Sacrament

I disagree that there is no story/character elements. The lone (and lonely) sentence associated with the game clues you in. "Uncertain of his sister's fate, a boy enters Limbo." It's expressed to the player through the minimalistic design, of course, but the biggest element is who is on screen the with the boy.


Neat review though. It's always nice going back to Limbo and reading about it too.

survivor9712
survivor9712

Reading this review and TLOU review, Tom is my favorite editor. I'm going to read his previous work. 

IncisionX
IncisionX

Review it for the console it is on and the restraints it has to work within - not too mention other reviewers claim the game still sounds fantastic with some good quality earphones. 

Mark it as a Vita game but just say "It is slightly better on the Ps3 if there's an option to play that version". 

Evil_Apai
Evil_Apai

Now I know what type of game Tom really like.

hiphops_savior
hiphops_savior

Now you know the pain Nintendo fans feel when Skyward Sword got 7.5'd.

Lhomity
Lhomity

Thanks, Tom. I'm looking forward to getting this on Vita... when I finally get a Vita (soon!). I have this on PS3, but still haven't gotten around to playing much of it.

For anybody else who does already have this on PS3, the Vita version is (apparently) free. Hooray for cross-buy.

minfreah5005
minfreah5005

where is the hate? tom reviewed this game.

Kaizensan
Kaizensan

@shakensparco If the sound is poor due to the game, is one thing but not if comparing the PS-Vita's speakers to your T.V.'s speakers. Plenty of games provide solid sound with the PS-Vita and to get more sound there are options: head-phones, Bluetooth speakers, etc. 

As for the screen, are the issues with size or a display issue. Does the small screen hamper play as their isn't enough contrast from the limited colour pallet making seeing dangers too difficult?

I hope the developer didn't drop the ball and failed to tweak the game for this portable release, but I don't expect a game to be dinged because it is reviewed on a 24-inch T.V. w/ desk speakers after watching it played on a 72-inch w/ Dolby surround sound.

canuckbiker
canuckbiker

Yeah I kind of cheat my way with guides when I get stuck.

Leboyo56
Leboyo56

@stevenspall Well, almost any game sounds better with headsets. He's rating the sound quality based on how it is without peripherals.

Hurvl
Hurvl

@hiphops_savior Now we know the pain when not every reviewer likes a game as much as the fans do. Man, it's just a review, one person's opinion, you can't let that ruin your gaming fun.

Leboyo56
Leboyo56

@hiphops_savior Except Limbo is 3x cheaper than Skyward Sword, so comparing their scores to each other isn't recommended. Based on the quality of other games in or around the same price point of $10-$15, Limbo is a quality 8.5/9-rate title; well worth your money. Now I haven't played TLoZ:SS, and I'm not attacking or defending it in any way, so don't take that comparison negatively toward SS.

Kaizensan
Kaizensan

@Lhomity if you access the PSN Store thru the online store, you can add the PS-Vita & other Cross-Buy versions of PS3 games you own to your library. Then once your PS-Vita is bought, you just have to d/l.

I'm always weary they'll change their mind on a current Cross-Buy, as most put in the description "...for a limited time..." 

blankempathy
blankempathy

@Leboyo56 If thats the case I'd like to know why he gave Scott pilgrim vs the world a 6 when it set out to recreate the 2d side scroller couch co-op and succeeded and he bashed it for doing just that. I wonder if he has a hard time focusing on many things on screen since that was a primary complaint of his for that game and dk 3d for the 3ds.

Leboyo56
Leboyo56

@Kid_Black_Star @minfreah5005 Most people viewing this review probably own a Vita/are going to get one, like me and Lhomity, since this is the fourth time Limbo has been reviewed on Gamespot (360, PC, Ps3, Vita).

Leboyo56
Leboyo56

@blankempathy @Leboyo56 I didn't like Scott Pilgrim vs. the World the Game that much either, and I'm a huge fan of the graphic novels.

LIMBO More Info

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  • First Released
    • Macintosh
    • PC
    • + 4 more
    • PlayStation 3
    • PlayStation Vita
    • Unix/Linux
    • Xbox 360
    LIMBO is a black-and-white puzzle platforming adventure.
    8.5
    Average User RatingOut of 3980 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate LIMBO
    Developed by:
    PLAYDEAD
    Published by:
    PLAYDEAD, Merge Games
    Genres:
    2D, Action, Platformer
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Teen
    All Platforms
    Animated Blood, Mild Violence