Rich Games for Poor Players, Part 3: Emotionally in LIMBO
As the penultimate installment of this series, today we’re going to talk about a little oddball indie, LIMBO. The game first caught my attention, as many do, through Penny Arcade, but it was many months ago, and it was only available via XBox Live, a service I didn’t have access to. I remember at the time being particularly struck by the visuals, the dark tone of the game, and the unique art of it. I remember wanting to play it and being disappointed that I couldn’t.
Luckily for me, LIMBO eventually came to Steam. I was talking to my buddy about this very subject (cheapies, not LIMBO), when he mentioned he’d seen a preview of a “platformer about a dead kid in black and white” (no spoilers there, dear reader, as his description is inaccurate). Aside for the wrongness of his depiction, I wondered how on Earth he’d seen a preview for LIMBO since he also does not have an XBox. I investigated, and lo and behold, Limbo was coming to Steam.
The game itself is about ten bucks and lasted me about three hours, though I think I’m expected to play it through again to collect all those white dots that are here and there. I got most of them on the first play through (I’m a pretty thorough player), so I have no real desire to go back and do it again. Based solely off the formula mentioned at start of this series, that a game is “good” if you get 1 hour of play time per dollar, this game falls woefully short. Compared to a game like Cthulu Saves the World (which I’ll review next time), this game is – solely by that measure – a bit of a rip off.
The game itself is actually pretty standard fare. It reminded me in game play of (oh man – going to have to look this one up…) Flashback and Another World, though in my research just now I saw that others have already made that comparison (damn you Wikipedia writers!). In these games, there are many environmental puzzles the player had to “solve” using various tools at his disposal to move forward. Additionally, these games were designed to give the player no real way to defend himself, so you were forced to use your environment to puzzle your way past enemies by dropping rocks on them or causing them to fall to their death.
Compared to a game like Braid, the puzzles in LIMBO were relatively simple. That said, though, I never had to look up a solution in Braid, but I did on two puzzles in LIMBO (I know, I’m ashamed, but I was too dumb to figure them out myself). One of the puzzles I couldn’t solve on my own really was my fault; I just didn’t explore thoroughly enough; the other, though, had a new mechanic that I just didn’t perceive as something that wasn’t part of the background. That’s still my fault, but it’s my fault with an asterisk. Once I saw the “background” item, I finished the puzzle in no time.
Overall, then, both in concept and in cost, LIMBO didn’t score very high marks. However, it’s developed an intense following, and I suspect it’s due to the artistic design of the game. I can’t remember a time recently when I’ve felt more spooked by a game than this. Not fightened, mind you; games where things pop out at you (I’m looking at you, tiny wrestler hiding in a locker in Borderlands that nearly gave me a heart attack and caused me to stop opening anything for the remainder of the game) are relatively common. LIMBO, though, establishes a creepy mood from the start, where giant, languid spiders creep out of crevices, wrap you up and chase you, and make surprise returns to continue the chase. The dark atmosphere and lack of music adds to this creepy setting, and I suspect that’s why so many people like the game, myself included.
Overall, that’s the review. I liked LIMBO. I didn’t like it as much as Bastion or EYE, but there was so little of it that it didn’t really stand a chance; it’d be like comparing your favorite 30 minute episode of TV (that one Scrubs with Brendan Frazer; I can’t say more without spoiling it, but I will say that I’ve not been tricked so well in years) to your favorite movie; it’s not a fair match. LIMBO was very good for the three hours it provided. Most puzzles were solvable with a few attempts and a fair share of critical thinking, the gameplay was engaging and entertaining, and the artistry is unique and enjoyable to look at. There’s not much else you can ask from a game, except, of course, a smaller price tag (now I’m looking at R.A.G.E. (what’s with all the CAPS games recently?) instead of the tiny wrestler).
On a completely different note, more progress has been made on the 10 x 85 challenge. No more 85s just yet, but I did get to 83 on my rogue and returned to PvP, though I suffered 2 losses and only had one win. More importantly, though, I felt useful in the BGs, something I hadn’t felt between 80 and 82. We had an excellent EOTS where I personally stole DR twice, causing an ally panic that let my team really take MT.
I also had the worst AV I’ve been in, a horrific turtle where I and a group of about 10 other players were doing excellently but the other 30 or so weren’t. We actually defended Galv and caused a wipe, but the other players simply didn’t take any towers in the meantime. We went and backcapped our next two towers, but saw that the other players still hadn’t taken a single tower. It’s not that they were losing them; there was just no progress being made. This led to a very, very long BG that we eventually lost simply due to atrophy of forces.
A fast BG benefits everyone, because if you win, it’s a ton of XP, and if you lose, it’s not nearly as much XP, but it’s not too bad of a time to XP ratio. A slow BG, though, only benefits the winner, as it’s still a fair amount of XP for the time, but the loser really loses; 45 minutes to earn 100k xp is terrible.
Additionally, I started on my lowest toon, a prot warrior, with my wife and a different group of friends. We ran two lowbie dungeons that were honestly a surprising amount of fun, and I look forward to trying to do this whole toon in dungeons; if nothing else, it’ll be a new experience, like leveling in PvP was.
Stubborn (who thinks several games coming out look great but doesn’t want to pay 60 bucks for them)
P.S. If I get arrested for using other people’s images, I’m calling Rio for bail! (;