For any of you who’ve not yet played Limbo, it really is quite wonderful. Sort of Ico-meets-Another World done in the style of German expressionism. (Wikipedia coined that definition, not me, but I can’t think of a better description.) It tells the story of a small boy who is searching a forest searching for his missing sister. The forest is presented in moody greyscale, our hero nothing more than a simple silhouette with an oversized head and two beaming eyes, like Peter MacNicol in Ghostbusters Two (as can be witnessed at 1:05 in this clip).
You die many, many times in what is basically a series of trial-and-error puzzles – the solution is never obscure but sometimes requires precise timing and character placement. Deaths are grisly and unpleasant and imaginative, and the sheer variety of the gameplay makes for a compulsive experience. But I’m not doing it justice here, because the best way to show you this is to – well, show you:
You get the idea. After a while the forest gives way to a grimy industrial landscape, full of switches, pipes billowing steam and gushing water, electrified rails and gargantuan gears and cogs. Here the game arguably becomes less interesting, if nonetheless compelling. As I go to press this morning I am trying to correctly operate a magnetic switch. I find myself playing in short segments, because the restart points are forgiving and aptly suited to third-rate casual gamers like me. And it’s just so gorgeous to look at.
But this isn’t a review site, and my reasons for posting this are simply that I’ve wondered for a while what the characters actually looked like behind the shadowy visages we see on-screen. Part of the joy of Limbo is that it really doesn’t tell you anything, and in the days of tedious exposition and unnecessary backstory (usually posted online in the form of irrelevant supplementary material aimed at fanboys only) it’s nice when developers actually leave the detail to your imagination – it helps with character empathy and a more rounded experience. At the same time, I did wonder whether I was controlling Dennis the Menace (the US version), or one of the characters from Charlie Brown, and equally I wondered about the spiders who were following me. Anyway, someone else has obviously had the same idea: