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Played Out - Limbo

This summer, my friend Pat bugged me to play Limbo, a downloadable title for the Xbox 360. I’m interested to know whether or not Pat still checks this blog, so I’m now writing about it in an effort to bait him out. I have a bear trap waiting. Let’s see what I catch.

By the way, this is the second week in a row I’ve referenced bear traps. Check out Jigsaw’s Halloween post next week for the third. Then I’ll do my November hunting round-up after that, which ironically won’t mention trapping of any kind, due to the Blogulator’s NRA grant.

Limbo is the story of a silhouetted boy who goes from left to right by solving a variety of environmental puzzles. I guess he’s saving his sister or something, but that’s pretty unexplained and irrelevant. The game is all about atmosphere, with the only important plot point being that everyone and everything in the world wants you dead. For a medium that so often disallows the death of children (in the bloody shadow of exploding heads everywhere else), this is a disturbing yet welcome offering.

The game performed surprisingly well considering its indie-ness. The critics loved it, and somehow that actually resonated in sales figures. Perhaps the gaming population is more aware of its industry than consumers of other pop culture media? A question for another time… All I know is that the Danish developer Playdead Studios is feasting on herring this Christmas.

I will thusly rate my opinion of the game on my new, stupid INDIE scale. It’s similar to the DENNIS system from Always Sunny in that it also represents an acronym, but that ‘s about it. It’s not nearly as sexy or successful as its counterpart, and will probably frustrate those of you who read on. Enjoy!

IIndie-ness. Shut up. Okay, so from my reading of its Wikipedia page, it seems like the “vision” of Limbo pretty much succeeded in its rejection of corporate interests. Designer Arnt Jensen made the game his heart told him, too, which is as legitimate an argument for the napoleonic “games as art” debate as anything. The need to make the moneys for the herrings did transform what was planned as a free Windows game into a Microsoft-published $15 experience, however, so I do have to take away some indie points. Note that these points are neither good nor bad because indie game patrons are often annoying hipsters (see: post-Braid discourse).

N Niche-osity. Is this just an independent version of a game that’s already been done (and done better) by major developers? No. Puzzle platformers exist, but none that I know of so well confine the experience to its individual, creative arc. All you really do is move and jump (Mario Brothers anyone, lol? ANYONE); yet Limbo's ambience renders it unique.

D – Durability – Limbo falters in its replayability. Sure, $15 is fairly equivalent to the price of a one-time movie viewing; that doesn’t mean it has to feel good, though. There is much to-do in the game reviewing community nowadays over the role of price in critique, especially since the same forum-goers who so frivolously toss their money away on Whoppers burst their mayonnaise over slight dollar differences; but you know, it’s insane how little content there was to many of ye olde side-scrollers that sold for box price back in the day. Tangent tangent... My problem with Limbo is that, due to its nature (a linear puzzle game that will always have the same puzzles with the same solutions in the same order), I can’t really get a whole lot out of it again until I replace my memories with sufficient quantities of booze and lemonade. That could take days!

IInception. This category relates to the emotional component of the game, vis-à-vis the interpretation of dreams as visualized in the summer mind-melter Inception. I have not yet seen the movie, so I don’t know the proper quotient here. Let’s go with 8 (2 Airy + 3 Filter + 3 B&W). In other, comprehensible words... Limbo is pretty dream-like, especially for people who have terrifying, 2-dimensional dreams.

EEver after? Nah. I couldn’t think of a good “E.” I thought I did when I was in the shower, but I forgot it (if I ever even had one). Electrification? Enigmatism? Whatever.

Pat, you were right about Limbo being a good game. It didn’t change my world, nor did it really blow my mind, but that’s through no fault of its own. I'm tainted by personal biases against puzzles (death laughs at me when I get stuck) and for previews that reveal way more than I need to know. Seriously, who wants to read someone else's in-depth impressions of a game before they get a chance to play it themselves?

That's why this post is for you, Pat.


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  1. Blogger P. Arty | 2:26 PM |  

    Yes, yes, I am here. Thanks for the dedication, Doktor!

    Limbo blew me away because of the atmosphere and the creativeness of the puzzles. Changing gravity, using magnets, revolving around a giant gear. Every time I solved a tough problem I felt really smart. And I like feeling smart.

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