LIMBO - Xbox One: Review

Stepping with a snap into bone-crunching bear traps. Being impaled by a jab from an outsized spider’s leg. Getting zapped by electrified surfaces, body ragdolling limply. These are just a few of the ways in which you’ll die in Limbo, an intriguing platform-puzzler in which everything is out to get you.

You play as a young boy, silhouetted in black against a gorgeous greyscale 2D background. You have no name, no voice, no idea what’s going on. All you can do is start making your way through the forest you find yourself in, and keep going through grassy savannahs, dank caves and industrial skylines, all packed with obstacles. The controls are simple: you can trot to the left and right, jump, and push or pull objects. These limitations lend you a tangible vulnerability; you have to rely instead on forethought and precision timing. One hit and you shuffle off this mortal coil. There are a lot of hits.

The puzzles are also a varied lot. Early on, you’re largely concerned with organic problems how to cross bodies of water when you can’t swim, or evading the clutches of a horrifically huge arachnid. Later, your surroundings get more urban and you’re up against man-made horrors whirring saw blades and pounding blocks.

Their setting is exquisitely menacing and unsettling, too. Animal carcasses lie splattered across the grass; faint outlines of figures similar to your own swing from distant nooses. It’s underlined by the sound design, which makes up for the lack of dialogue. The buzzing hum of flies on carcasses fills your ears, which go muffled as you fall into water and if you do a Bad Thing, all sound halts as if the game were shocked at your underhand ways. You’re never given an explanation of the world’s backstory, but the slivers you glean mean you can develop your own theory about what it all means.

If you’ve already played this on Xbox 360, the magic may well be lost on you especially as the Xbox One version offers no new content. This is a game that thrives on its power to constantly surprise you, and that element is lost on a second or third playthrough. If you’re yet to find yourself in Limbo, however, this indie gem is an essential piece of puzzling.


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