We have a new contributor here at UWG! Everyone please give a warm and enthusiastic welcome to Shotgun Butterfly!
Shotgun Butterfly maintains a great youtube channel, and we has chosen to share their latest video with you here at United We Game! It’s even fits into our Halloween theme this week! How about that, eh? So again, welcome to UWG Shotgun Butterfly!
The following is from Shotgun Butterfly’s blog (found here):
Limbo. This was one of those games we’ve heard a lot of in recent years, one of the wave of indie hits that have gotten a lot of press, made a lot of money, and opened up new places for gaming. Indie games are taken seriously now, both by the big companies and by gamers, and Limbo was one of those games everyone sang the praise of when it came out. Since I had only recently begun PC gaming, and being eager for a new adventure, I bought the game, ready to see what the big deal was.
And to be honest… I was tempted to call it overrated at first. That first time through, I didn’t connect with the game the way I’d hoped, there wasn’t that little spark that a great game ignites in you. I think, sometimes, your mood and your circumstances can get in the way of the experience, prevent you from seeing it clearly. To be sure, I could see all the things that made the game good- it just wasn’t hitting me.
So, being interested in reviewing it, I made the time to play through it again, and I am glad I did. This time around, I was able to appreciate the incredible atmosphere, art, sound, and story Play Dead put in this game. It’s amazing what they managed to do with shades of black and grey: they brought an entire world to life (or unlife, as the case might be). Limbo has that quality I look for, even if I didn’t “get it” that first time.
Games are the artform of creating experiences. The basic actions you make in Limbo, or any other game for that matter, could be stripped down to rectangles and pixels (don’t worry, I’ll be getting to Thomas Was Alone soon enough), but when all the various elements are put together, moreover, designed for the purpose of fitting together, they create a world that lives in its own right, and an experience in that world that it alone can offer.
The gameplay revolves around puzzles and platforming challenges, blending the two together very well, and the world, particularly in light of the game’s title, is evocative of some kind of purgatory. This cohesion between the game and it’s setting is most admirable.
A game ought to immerse you, to draw you in and make the things you see onscreenreal, not a series of images or a piece of software, but something alive, and the things that happen to the boy don’t just happen to him, but to you, as well. His journey becomes your journey, his struggles your own, his goals your desires.
As I mentioned in the video, there are no breaks or divisions in the game, only a map that scrolls forward until the very end. That one detail is one of the most brilliant designs I’ve seen in a game. It creates a sense of restlessness and a vague feeling of urgency. Most of the time, nothing is actively trying to hurt you; you can stay in one place and be safe. It’s only when you try to move forward that you are in danger- and writing this now, I realize how brilliant a design that was. It creates a kind of tension: the endless scrolling and the wide view of what’s ahead pull you forward, continually putting you in harm’s way. You can stop your journey and be safe, but the path ahead will always be there, threatening, but also alluring.
This, I believe, is how Limbo manages to tell a good story without giving you any kind of conventional narrative. Books and movies are about a series of events and choices, a good game is a series of events and choices- this, I suspect, is one of the most important distinctions between these forms of storytelling. The tension between choices, the danger ahead, the option of an unsatisfying safety, the necessity of pushing forward- that’s a great story. And in a game with such great visual design and memorable atmosphere, it makes for a fantastic descent into the underworld.