It's that time of year again, folks. The days are short and cold, the nights are long and even colder, and one of the best places to be is in your nice warm house. Since you're there, you may as well break out the good ol' videogames and make those chilly winter evenings go by a little faster.
In honour of this, I'm going to be posting about one game each day in the run-up to Christmas, finishing on the magical day itself. Keep in mind that these aren't necessarily going to be games that feature Christmas (although some do). Rather, they're going to be a mix of winter warmers, personal nostalgic favourites, and games that echo some traditional Christmas pastimes. I'm sure other people will have their own winter favourites, but this is my unique list and I'm going to do my best to give a little history on each game and explain why they're featured here.
So, without further ado, onwards with day nine!
Released in 2010 as part of Microsoft's Summer of Arcade program, Limbo received nearly universal critical acclaim. Proponents of the "games are art" argument immediately latched on to it's striking visual style, haunting atmosphere, and clever gameplay mechanics, immediately making it one of the go to games for artistic debate.
Gameplay wise, things were fairly simple. Solve puzzles in order to escape from the various horrors which were stalking you, including a terrifying giant spider. Failure to complete a puzzle would often result in the hapless young boy you controlled meeting a gruesome death, including but not limited to; drowning, crushing, stabbing, electrocution, and getting your head chopped off by a bear trap. Combined with the game's moody visuals this makes for a very dark atmosphere, but one that is punctuated by moments of humour and beauty.
Despite it's position as a critical darling, which can often damn a game to cult status, Limbo has gone on to be a resounding commercial success. So much so in fact that developers, Playdead, were able to buy themselves back from their investors. This is the kind of success story, and the kind of game, that we need to see more of in an industry that has become somewhat stagnant in recent years. An inspiring indie success story, hooray!
Why It's Here:
Yesterday I talked about The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
, and compared it to the whimsical Disney classics that are always on TV at Christmas. Limbo is the complete opposite of this. It's that weird, creepy bit of animation that always freaked you out as a kid. And I think being scared and finding things to be a little odd is just as much a part of Christmas as whimsey and charm. I mean c'mon, we tell our little kids that there's a big, fat old man that buys them all presents and sneaks into the house at night. That's pretty fucked up when you stop and think about it for a minute.
Limbo epitomises this messed up side of the holiday season. A little kid, trapped, alone in the woods, pursued by a giant spider. It's as creepy as it gets.
The darkness of the silhouette world also reminds me of those long winter nights. Growing up in the countryside means I have many memories of driving through the woods at night, surrounded by the looming shadows of trees, staring out into the blackness and imagining the horrors that lived there. Being a child with an overactive imagination, I conjured up all kinds of eerie shit in my brain. These early childhood memories are blurry and not fully formed, not unlike the graphical style of Limbo. It's more about what it suggests is there than what it actually shows you.
Winter is a great time to indulge in some horror. More specifically, Christmas is a time to reflect on the horror of childhood, and you couldn't pick a better game than Limbo to get that experience.