Several years in the making, the darkly atmospheric (and strangely realistic) platform game LIMBO has finally migrated from console download to the PC ecosphere. Crafted by Danish studio Playdead, LIMBO drops you in a shadowy world filled with dangers, immensely difficult puzzles, and more ways to die than you would really want to count. It's an incredibly stylistic and engaging game, one that just about any player can pick up and enjoy from beginning to end.
LIMBO begins with a nameless boy waking in the middle of the forest. He's looking for his missing sister, but he mostly comes in contact with creatures great and small, most notably a massive spider whose legs are as sharp as steel. Soon, as you work your way through different puzzles, you wind up in a village, an abandoned city, and finally in the forest again. Can he locate his sister? Who are these mysterious few people he keeps seeing? And why can't he fall more than a meter without dying?!
LIMBO is similar to games like Another World, where realistic physics take a front seat to exaggerated leaps and fantastic feats of physical prowess. You have a modest jumping ability, can hang on to ledges, ropes and the like, and will be, er, "subjected to" one or two other temporary skills as the game progresses. It's not about what you can do, it's about figuring out how to navigate the strange world using your limited set of moves.
Analysis: Games like LIMBO are rare jewels that should be unearthed, polished, played with, and admired for a great many years. The sense of desolation illustrated by the "one boy against the world" motif is both magnified and contrasted with the landscape, presenting dark, shadowy images that hint at a world of activity recently departed. How recent, though, and are you about to get eaten by a spider? You can never really tell, which is just part of what makes this game so engaging.
Having a limited movement ability further sets you against the bleak world of LIMBO. Navigating even the smallest gaps can be difficult, something Mario or that guy with really fancy pants would never even think twice about. But you, you're forced to deal with tiny obstacles made big by their realism. After all, you're just one tiny boy against a big, shadowy world.
The only potential down side to LIMBO is its tendency to emphasize failure. Dying is simply a part of this game. You have to do it multiple times in order to figure out what to do. Solving puzzles means you try something, fail miserably, watch that poor boy suffer a gory (but not explicitly so, owing to the monotone visuals) death, then try again, starting over from a nearby checkpoint. Replaying areas so many times can lead to frustration for some gamers, as it isn't a mechanism that's favored in modern games, especially not casually-oriented ones. If you can take the "punishment", LIMBO rewards you a hundred times over with every other aspect of its presentation and gameplay.
LIMBO is filled with genius moments of art and puzzle direction. It is storytelling at its most minimal, using sights and sounds to convey meaning and tightly-constructed obstacles to carve a delicate path to the end. It's easily one of the finest realistic platform games released in the last few years, and you owe it to yourself to play, if for nothing other than to see its marvelous ingenuity at work.