Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Limbo: Small, Cheap, Good

I mentioned before that I'm one of those miserable bastards still playing video games into adulthood. And how most games just aren't worth commentary unless they're particularly bad... or stunningly good.

Limbo falls squarely in the latter. It's an old-fashioned side-scroller full of jumping, puzzles, and numerous ways to die. Really, half the reason to play is to discover all the nasty, brutish deaths the developers put in there for The Boy. That's what you play as, The Boy looking for his sister or something. It's a bare-bone plot but there's something respectable about that. At a time when video games are getting up their own asses in cinematic pretensions - despite having the sensibility of twelve-year-olds raised on B movies - it's refreshing to come across something that just wants to be a goddamn game.

I'm getting off into a different rant here. Limbo... It's definitely one of those less-is-more packages. No music, no color, nowhere to go but forward through ever more complicated and tricky death traps. As you play it, you start seeing The Boy's trials and tribulations as reflective of our own lives, ever moving forward without much point and then a giant spider shows up!

Symbolism? Or just damn scary?

And did I mention all the ways to die? Assuming the spider doesn't impale you on one of it's eight horrible legs, you might just step in a bear trap. Or fall onto spikes. Or get electrocuted. Or hurled into a buzz saw by the world changing it's own gravity just to spite you. And don't even get me started on the brain slugs and crushers. Time it wrong and you're pudding.

But you'll keep playing. I spent the morning of Turkey Day playing this until my eyes were dry. Then I played it again the next day. We're thankfully out of the days of limited continues and if you die in Limbo, you get to try again not too far back from where you were. Or maybe it's reflective of something deeper in the game, how The Boy really is in some nebulous afterlife. One without God or the Devil, just other lost souls - and there are "people" in the game who naturally try to kill you - all buffeted about in a stark nightmare. The Boy only stands out because of his quest to find someone...

Or not. Like I said, the game is thankfully sparse on plot details because it fully recognizes what it is - a glorious distraction. We need that sort of thing in an election cycle and Limbo delivers with more puzzles, fun, and fantastic ways to die than any of those Call of Battlefield clones. And I know I keep saying it but it really bears repeating - you will die in Limbo. Alot.

And it'll be beautiful.

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