I find myself in a dark forest, filled with deadly traps and huge spiders. Apparently I'm in Limbo, since that's the title of the game, but I'm not told a thing about who I am, or where I'm going. Make your way right is the basic principle at work, but wise from experience I first walk left to see what happens. I stumble upon a glowing orb and collect my first achievement in Limbo. It's just been a minute and I'm already enjoying this elegant and minimalistic little puzzler.
Limbo is a world where no colours exist. But don't let the lack of colours fool you into believing there isn't beauty in this world. The backdrops and little details are exquisite, and the animations are fantastic throughout.
The atmosphere in Limbo is something that you need to experience on your own with the sound turned way up and the shades down. The minimalistic approach to the design also runs through the sound design, that lets you experience every little bump, drop of water and decapitation. It reminds me at times of games like ICO and Another World. The lack of explanations, and the silence, doesn't frustrate as it is sometimes better this way.
Speaking of the decapitations, Limbo is a surprisingly gruesome experience where the little boy will get impaled, beheaded, and drowned repeatedly. A lot of the puzzles are designed in a way that you really need to try and fail once, before you realise what you need to do in order to progress. Therefore, it's really a blessing that Playdead have made the many deaths of our little boy in Limbo so thoroughly enjoyable.
Some of the puzzles or obstacles require exactly timed jumps, or involve real time elements such as moving cogs, giant spiders or kids who try to kill you with poison darts.That sense of emergency is mixed up with more less frantic passages that let you take your sweet time thinking about a select number of objects you need to interact with in order to progress. The puzzle design is inspired, and even if elements are repeated at times, the way you use them vary. There is a constant feeling of discovering new things and mechanics throughout the game.
One mechanic that I found interesting was the parasite that drops on your head and turns you into something of a zombie, only walking in one direction. When you walk into a lit up area, the little boy you control, will turn around and walk the other way and this simple mechanic mixes things up in a few key places.
Length is always a tough thing to weigh in on when it comes to Xbox Live Arcade games. Personally I think this is the perfect place to release well crafted games that are shorter in terms of length. Limbo isn't overly short, and if you're a bit thick like I am it will last you more than a handful of hours. If you are very experienced with physics based puzzle solving and platforming, then you might be able to run through in a shorter amount of time. Still, it is the kind of game you will want to replay for achievements, and also a game you may want to show of to non-gamer friends in order to impress on them just how different games can be from the what is generally perceived.
Less is sometimes more, and every minute of Limbo somehow feels important. Even the frustrating parts, as getting past them is all the more rewarding. Limbo is a little indie gem, that you owe it to yourself to experience.