Note: iOS 9 + Facebook users w/ trouble scrolling: #super sorry# we hope to fix it asap. In the meantime Chrome Mobile is a reach around
hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts


Review: Limbo

11:00 AM on 07.19.2010 // Jim Sterling

I'll be honest, I didn't expect much when I first heard about Limbo. To me, it looked and sounded like yet another art game that people clambered over each other to fellate because it made them feel intelligent. Then I played it. Then I shut my mouth. Then my jaw fell to the floor. 

Limbo is an art game, there's no doubt about that. More importantly, however, it is simply art. It is also the most gruesome, twisted, and beautiful videogame that's ever been published on Xbox Live Arcade, and I don't say that to make myself feel intelligent. I say that because it's true. 

Read on for the full review of Limbo

Limbo (Xbox Live Arcade)
Developer: Playdead
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
To be released: July 21, 2010
MSRP: 1200 Microsoft Points

Limbo is a 2D puzzle platformer in which players take on the role of a small boy who wakes up in the woods with no explanation as to how he got there. From the outset, one realizes that this isn't your average puzzler. The unique monochrome style that renders objects and creatures as black silhouettes against a dreary grey background is stark and miserable, yet eerily beautiful. This is a dark, melancholic, thoroughly bleak game, and that is what makes it so gorgeous.

Gorgeous it may be, but it's as deadly as it is beautiful. The opening chapter starts us off nice and quiet. Too quiet, in fact. Much of the opening moments involve walking through a forest while nothing of interest happens. That is, until the first little "surprise" of the game, one that left me simply blinking in silence for several seconds. This defining moment is what makes Limbo stand out from the pack, and it only gets worse from there. Quick reflexes, a brain susceptible to twisted logic, and a strong stomach are all needed to see Limbo through to the end.

This gruesomeness is what truly marks the title as something out of the ordinary. The variety of deaths that can (and will) occur to the main character, not to mention some of the things the player will have to do in order to succeed, are at once morbidly hilarious and downright disturbing. Somehow, the lack of gore makes it even worse, with the shadowy graphics allowing players to truly focus on the insanity of what they're seeing, rather than simply gawk at the blood. Gore is nothing compared to truly psychological violence, and that's what this platformer delivers. Despite having an aesthetic that makes it look perfectly safe for kids, Limbo carries with it a perverse intensity that manages to be more compelling than your most gore-laden "next-gen" first-person shooter. 

If the gore doesn't break your mind, the puzzles will. Players are pitilessly assaulted with fiendish challenges that run the risk of infuriating, but always manage to stop just short of making a player want to quit. As the saying goes, you can skin a sheep as many times as you like but you can only kill it once. This game only ever skins, as brutal as the shearing process may be.

On rare occasions, some of the puzzles will feel like they lean a bit too heavily on guesswork and luck, especially those based around physics, but the fact that experimentation often brings rewards definitely helps to make up for these frustrating moments. Many was the time where a puzzle had exhausted my mental resources, only for me to accidentally stumble on the right answer just as I was about to surrender.

What truly make the game so powerful is how it cultivates an air of oppression and paranoia that sticks with the player from the moment the first booby trap is sprung until the game's end. Death comes hard and fast, sometimes with such ruthless speed that you may actually jump from your seat. Even worse are the parts where nothing happens, the quiet periods that require you to simply walk. So great is the terror that this game can inspire, these otherwise dull moments only serve to heighten the tension, as players are conditioned to expect some new and terrible trap to be sprung. Sometimes one is. Sometimes one isn't. If Alfred Hitchcock had made a videogame, this would have been it.

Despite the constant feeling of paranoia and fear, the sheer humor that can be had from the game is quite astounding. It's very rare that a videogame can kill me so often, yet raise a laugh every single time. The violence is so ruthless and savage that it becomes heinously funny. Death is its own reward, and since most of the checkpoints are well-placed, the trial-and-error gameplay actually works very well. Every death makes one stronger and more aware, and doesn't waste the player's time like many other "brutal" platformers do. 

Sound is used sparingly but to great effect. Ambient noise replaces a soundtrack, and the functional sound effects lend themselves well to a game that fuels the imagination with simple imagery rather than gratuitous graphical overkill. The visuals are alienating yet fascinating, drawing players in while keeping them at arm's length and slightly disconnected at all times. It's very hard to make such an aloof game engrossing at the same time, but Limbo manages it. 

In essence, Limbo carries with it many qualities that remind one of classic 2D puzzlers like Heart of Darkness and Abe's Oddysey. A dark sense of humor and an endearing artistic style blended with moments of true horror and savagery, broken up by a series of very clever puzzles. It's an old-school feeling, but modernized and adapted to the point where it doesn't feel like it's been done for cheap nostalgia. It's not a cloying game that relies on being "old-school," but fans of those older games will definitely love this one. 

Limbo is as close to perfect at what it does as a game can get. It's artistic without being pompous, difficult without being cheap, and violent without being gratuitous. It gets everything just right, and while the adventure will only take dedicated players a few hours to beat, the memory of the game will remain for much, much longer, and many players won't stop at beating the game just once. If I had to sum this game up in one word, I think that word would be "effective." That's what this game is, in every sense of the word. 

I'm not going to tell you to buy it. I'm going to ask you to buy it. 

Score: 10 -- Flawless Victory (10s are as close to perfect as you will get in a genre or on a platform. Pure, untarnished videogame ecstasy.)



Limbo - Reviewed by Jim Sterling
Editor's Choice Award - Is it legal to marry a videogame? Because I want to be with this game every day for the rest of my life. It completes me. It is my soul mate.

See more reviews or the Destructoid score guide.

Jim Sterling, Former Reviews Editor
 Follow Blog + disclosure JimSterling Tips
Destructoid reviews editor, responsible for running and maintaining the cutting edge videogame critique that people ignore because all they want to see are the scores at the end. Also a regular f... more   |   staff directory

 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our community fisters, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding * to your whitelists.

destructoid's previous coverage:

  Jan 05

Maybe you want to play Limbo on PS4 too?

How much of this game can you take?

  Jul 03

Limbo is out now for iPhone and iPad

You should get around to playing this

  Jun 26

Limbo will launch on iOS on July 2nd

Now it's on practically every platform ever

View all:powered by:  MM.Elephant

Ads on destructoid may be purchased from:

Please contact Crave Online, thanks!

On The Fence

Five wrestling games in which kayfabe is REAL

Persona Still Reigns Perfection

Cblogs of 11/30/2015 + Saudi Arabian Ban Hammer

Eleven indie games that will CHANGE YOUR LIFE in 2016

Should 'Mercy Spoilers' be a thing?

Thankful It's Over: Assassin's Creed 2

Virtua Memories: Virtua Fighter/Remix (Virtua Fighter Month)

FNF: Christmas toime is hear

 Add your impressions

Status updates from C-bloggers

Pixie The Fairy avatarPixie The Fairy
R steepled her fingers and smiled as she looked over at S and Z. "We have stopped two shipments of breasts from making it to America as well as Europe, meaning those will be added to our boob coffer. In time, all the breasts shall be mi... I mean, ours.."
siddartha85 avatarsiddartha85
I finally backed Indivisible. After hearing about Red from Transistor, I played the demo again. That platforming is solid and I'm used to the combat now.
GoofierBrute avatarGoofierBrute
Man, I completely forgot how awesome Pokemon Black and White's soundtrack is. The Vs. Trainers theme is probably one of the best I ever heard, if not the best in the entire series: [youtube][/youtube]
EdgyDude avatarEdgyDude
Indivisible's campaign is over $1.4 million! just a little more!
Dum, dum, dum! Another blog bites the dust! And another done, and another done! Another blog bites the dust! #RIPtumblrbecausefuckit
Jed Whitaker avatarJed Whitaker
Ugh, I've been sick for what feels like 3 weeks. If I die I leave all my games casket because they're mine. Stay away! *hiss, hiss*
TysonOfTime avatarTysonOfTime
Apparently the upcoming Tri-Force heroes update makes the local-play only items possible to get for everyone. That's pretty great!
FlanxLycanth avatarFlanxLycanth
What youtubers y'all watch? I need more.
RadicalYoseph avatarRadicalYoseph
Playing For Glory earlier today, some guy beat me and changed his name to "ifukdu_up". I won next round and he changed it to "ILETUWIN". I then 2-0ed the little sucker, and he left the lobby. I took great pride from this incident.
Dalek Sex avatarDalek Sex
Henshin into a person with a larger disposable income.
The Dyslexic Laywer avatarThe Dyslexic Laywer
Why the hell are we suddenly accepting micro transactions in fully priced games? It used to be only acceptable in free-to-play games but its sickening that even AAA developers like microsoft are on the bandwagon.
OrochiLeona avatarOrochiLeona
If you're ever writing about something from the heart, and you stop and think "I don't know how people will react to me if I write this" then you absolutely should go ahead. Passionate conviction is often the only voice you'll have.
VeryImportantQuestion avatarVeryImportantQuestion
Wait a second...has the blog editor been changed with the idea being that the formatting be done in Word or something and then pasted in? Have I been using it wrong these last few posts?
OverlordZetta avatarOverlordZetta
guys I'm standing in a Target looking at a Xenoblade X special edition what do I do
Zer0t0nin avatarZer0t0nin
Dear Dortmund Zoo: how's it possible for people to steal 3 monkeys, 3 squirrels and 2 penguins while killing a manatee and another penguin since April and you still have no clue how to stop this?
WryGuy avatarWryGuy
We got Xbone! We got Xbone! We got Xbone! We got Xbone! We got Xbone! [img][/img]
Flegma avatarFlegma
Two more reasons not to preorder: the game might appear in stores before release day (Hello, Xenoblade Chronicles X for 60EUR at my local mall) or the mail workers may be on strike (well, they were until Monday).
Rad Party God avatarRad Party God
ModDb's MOTY (Mod of the Year) votes are up, there's quite a TON of interesting mods this year, give it a look and vote for your favorite! ---
OverlordZetta avatarOverlordZetta
Hey, US Pokemon fans! Apparently if you just rename your SSID to Mcdonalds Free Wifi, you don't even need to go anywhere to get your Hoopas. Seems like they could've just made this one a normal download.
Archelon avatarArchelon
It may have been a war of attrition, but I just took out a Snowspeeder on foot in Battlefront. Aww, yeah.
more quickposts



Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme

Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo

Back to Top

We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -