A tiny game can offer a profound impact.
The rapid evolution of technology has brought our means of media consumption to an extremely efficient and simplified process. Micro-blogs, wikis, audiobooks, movies, and streaming videos provide us with the ability to consume published content faster than ever, remedying our desire for knowledge and entertainment quickly and with little to stand in our way. As we are able to cram more information into our brains in less time, our need for meaningful experiences tends to take the backseat. In this sped up world, we’ve begun to seek answers to our curiosity about life while exuding as minimal effort as possible.
So how does this affect the world of gaming? In large part, the world of gaming can be divided into two sections, casual and hardcore, and have been seen strictly as a means of entertainment by a majority of the public. Casual games typically take on the role of a pick-up-and-play experience such as Angry Birds or Super Mario Bros., whereas hardcore games, such as Final Fantasy and Halo, flush out larger stories, provide a wealth of characters, and span 8-200 hours of gameplay in a similar vein to novels. In turn, these classifications have created a polarized landscape of the gaming world. It feels as if the mainstream public is more than willing to scoff at the notion of being considered gamers while they invest countless hours flinging birds across their smartphone.
With the likes of indie games such as LIMBO, I believe we can official say that we have entered a new era in gaming. Like movies, these games tell complete and emotional stories that are compressed into 2-3 hour spurts that can be completed in one sitting. They provide simplistic gameplay like casual games but create an emotional bond between the player and the character(s) onscreen.
LIMBO is a unique, side-scrolling puzzler that takes place in a dark and haunting, black and white world where the protagonist, a nameless silhouette of a young boy, roams from left to right on an unknown quest. Along the way, the player encounters many unforeseen traps and puzzles, hostile silhouettes, bear-traps, and a gigantic spider. LIMBO’s traps will likely catch the player off-guard. Without a penalty for death, the game allows for experimentation and second-chances to overcome some very mind-bending obstacles. Filled with graphic death sequences and eerie surroundings, this game is not for the squeamish.
I was able to complete the game in roughly three hours, only due to some very tricky puzzles. LIMBO’s atmosphere and gameplay can tend to lull the player into a machine-like sense where they are likely to forget that they can roam around more freely than they think. It was because of this that some of the puzzles took me a little longer than they probably should have.
As I progressed through the game, I kept being tantalized by new mysteries embedded in my surroundings. Like the hit television show LOST, these mysteries only seemed to build upon themselves and quickly became the driving force behind my desire to play LIMBO.
Unfortunately, the end left much to be desired. The player is left to an open interpretation as the ending does not provide any concrete answers to the world’s mysteries or character motives. That’s not to say that the player would not be able to come to their own conclusion about the ending, it would just be a bit more satisfying with a little more information.
While the ending fell short, the art style, atmosphere, and puzzles make LIMBO a worthwhile experience. LIMBO is a great example of the succinct yet profound experience that video games can offer in a world where time dedicated to entertainment, let alone gaming, is hard to come by.