Greatest Game of 2010: Limbo

What happens when we die? No one knows for sure, but everyone can agree that the fate Undead Studios dreamt up for their main character in Limbo is hopefully not it. The game starts with a boy waking up in the forest and all you know is that he is looking for his sister. As the game opens you’ll find yourself admiring the incredible visuals. It is presented in film noir style and looks absolutely gorgeous. Playing in this world immediately makes you uneasy, however, it is not until the you step into the first bear trap, watch your head pop off and roll down a hill that you realize that this game is going to be different than other games you’ve played.

One of the scariest moments in gaming

The first death you experience completely changes the gameplay. Your focus goes from concentrating on the entire screen to a spot right in front of you. As the tension raises, your first encounter with an enemy forces you to listen as intently as you have been forced to watch. Some encounters are downright terrifying, but as much as the game punishes you mentally for failing it doesn’t punish you from a gameplay standpoint. When you die, and trust me you’ll die a lot, you will rarely have to restart more than a few seconds back. This really helps the player from getting discouraged and allows you to concentrate on moving through the levels.

Limbo is a puzzle game at its core, but it is the way the puzzles are presented that really set it apart. The controls are incredibly simple in that you can only run, jump, push, or pull, the solution is never feels unfair, and you have everything you need to solve them. The first half of the game is as close to perfection as a game gets.

The Hotel scene is cool but the second half fails to live up to the first.

The second half of the game, however, fails to live up to the lofty expectations set by the open act. The puzzles shift from being tense and scary to simply timing based. While these aren’t bad, they’re just not as original as the first 2-3 hours of the game. Some reviewers complained that the game was too short (it checks in around 5-6 hours), however, I thought it was the perfect length. The game left me wanting more, and while the ending is controversial (I loved it, many hated it), the game is worth playing to the end to see what happens.

Limbo is easily the best game on the XBLA service and a worthy choice for Greatest Game of 2010.

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