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E3 2010: Limbo

E3 2010

Tucked somewhere in the middle of Microsoft’s series of booths meant to promote their upcoming Summer of Arcade promotion, Limbo was clearly a stand-out amongst the trivial games surrounding it. We went hands-on with the indie charmer at E3 and found the game to be every bit as immersive and aesthetically pleasing as the early trailers made it out to be.

It’s easy to make a connection with the ambiguous main character who’s trapped in Limbo searching for his lost sister. There was no set-up or anything in the way of story to our demo and we were told the plot would be kept to a minimum. Limbo‘s all about creating incredibly convincing atmosphere within the limitations of its grayscale art style. Unlike many “indie darlings”, it forgoes a creepy vibe of darkness and fear instilled by the absence in color.

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Your protagonist exists only as a dark silhouette of a boyish, unidentified child. White slits emit holes of light through his eyes and he’s fairly short in stature. He’s one of the most adorable, innocent characters you’ve ever seen in a videogame. I immediately found it unnerving as I accidentally sent him plunging into a pit of spikes which pierced right through his flesh upon impact. I was relieved to find that he’d instantly reappear at the beginning of the current puzzle without consequence.

The puzzles were all fairly simple by design. Your character can hop, tug and push on objects, and use objects in the environment to overcome obstacles and defeat whatever enemies the boy encounters. There was an extremely chilling scene late in the first part of the demo in which I had to pull a bear trap back and forth, prompting a large, fur-covered spider to shoot its legs downward with deathly precision. The first time I attempted the puzzle, I got too close to the tree he was located on, got knocked to the ground by the spider’s free leg and my character was left unable to fend off an oncoming leg from the over-sized mutant arachnid. Watching him being gutted by the sharp leg lying defenseless on the ground felt surreal and slightly saddening. After I figured out how to clamp his leg in the bear trap by placing it strategically, I was led into his lair, where the character was caught in the webbing, and became plastered to the floor. I rapidly pressed the jump button, trying to work my way out of the situation, but there was no hope. Thus, the end of my time with the demo came to a close with the character’s untimely demise.

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If you’re looking for a truly special downloadable indie title this summer which is stylistically unlike anything else on the service, Limbo seems like a safe enough bet. Although the game’s lead designer told me the game could easily be finished within 4 hours, and that it wouldn’t be much fun to replay the puzzles once you already knew the solutions, it didn’t phase me one bit. I love the game’s art style and feel that in terms of interesting, minimal design, the game is likely to justify its 1200 Microsoft Point pricetag.

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in July 2007. Get in touch on Twitter @Calvin_Kemph.

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