In the past, I played an amazing indie horror game called Inside. Before this game blessed us with its eerie presence, Playdead released another game you may have heard of by the name of Limbo. Limbo seemed to be a big deal at the time, though after watching a brief playthrough of the first chunk of the game online, I ended up losing interest. When the game went on sale, I decided I would give it another chance to live up to the hype.
Limbo has a very interesting, monochrome art style. There’s a certain “low quality” to it that makes you almost feel like you’re watching it on an old TV. Though the game has no color besides black and grey, it only adds to the creepy atmosphere, and there’s enough contrast that the simple graphics don’t make it difficult to know what’s going on or what to do. Like Inside, this is a side-scrolling, puzzle platformer, and your character controls in much the same way, running and jumping and interacting with objects. While the presentation is unique and thoroughly eerie, I don’t feel like the rest of Limbo was as successful as its successor.
For one thing, I felt like the puzzles were a lot harder. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but for me, I ran into a lot of puzzles later on that I just couldn’t figure out. Admittedly, I took to cheating a few times after spending a long period of time utterly confused. Once the answer was known to me, I have to admit that the puzzles are quite clever and well thought-out, but I’m also unsure if the issue lay with me (I played the game in one 3-hour sitting, so maybe I was getting tired?) or if the puzzles really aren’t as intuitive as Inside’s were.
The final puzzles and platforming, however, seem like a lot of trial and error, which was also not the case with Inside. Either you’d be walking around a giant machine as it rotates, in near pitch blackness, fumbling around until you inevitably die to some sort of trap you could barely make out in the darkness, or there was some timing-based platforming where you seemed doomed to die countless times until you figured out just the right time to jump or push a button. I feel like, if you knew what you were doing, you could complete Inside without dying a single time. In Limbo, even a previous playthrough couldn’t prevent many deaths that don’t entirely seem like the player’s fault.
Limbo also has less of a story than Inside, which is, again, not necessarily a bad thing. But it also made Limbo a far less interesting experience. Inside kept getting more and more compelling the longer you played. Limbo really seemed to peak after the giant spider (I feel like the game’s infamous for that spider). And the spider is dealt with pretty early in the game. As such, the game started out really strong. Having something as creepy as that massive spider serving as a looming threat was really cool. After I managed to defeat it, however, I kept assuming that something else equally as intimidating would appear to challenge my progress. But it didn’t, leaving the rest of the game feeling a bit boring in comparison.
To summarize, Limbo suffered for me because the puzzles were often more annoying than fun and because they placed the most exciting threat at the beginning of the game. I could see why this game was interesting to people at the time of its release. But now that we have the masterpiece that is Inside, Limbo just seems to pale in comparison. On a more positive note, since Playdead’s second game was better than their first, I am interested to find out what they make next.