Yup, a game about a voiceless, little boy trapped between the world of the living and the world of the dead, which is filled with deadly traps, one friggin’ scary spider, and evil children ready to eviscerate him…yeah, that’s the game everyone should play. Limbo–fun for the whole family!
I won a free download of Limbo last summer and thoroughly enjoyed my time lingering in the space between. Because of its simple controls and lack of overbearing narrative and on-screen tutorials, it’s a game one has to experience, learn as they go, become one with, and for that I have a story, a story I meant to tell long ago, but never got to it.
After beating Limbo, I had my wife Tara play it. I told her very little about the game prior; I sat her down in front of the TV, turned the Xbox 360 on, handed her a controller, and took my spot on the floor next to her to watch. Just watch. I did not say a word. I did not answer any of her questions or react to anything she said. The game had started some minutes ago, but she wasn’t aware yet as she hadn’t touched a button. Once she did, the little boy’s eyes opened, and she started moving through the forest. She ran right into the first bear trap, destryong the little boy, yelping–just like I had my first time. Then she tried to jump over it, dying again. I remember her getting frustrated, because there was no way to jump over the bear trap given where it was placed and the angle of the landscape. Then she discovered that the little boy could push and pull items. Again, I’ve still not said a word at this point; it was thrilling to watch her learn how this world worked, how to manipulate the environment. And she was doing so well…
…until the spider showed up.
Once the spider was crawling after her, she began to panick. The littly boy rushed forward without care, stumbling over ledges, falling down into pits, all in the hope to avoid the spider. Now there was an urgency to everything. And it took her some time learn how to have the spider hurt itself via one of those beartraps, with a teeny bit of nudging from me. Again, there’s only so much you can do in-game thanks to its sparse controls, but thinking outside of the limbo-box is definitely required. When the spider grabbed the little boy and covered him in webbing, she believed she had died again, slowly putting the controller down; however, that was not the case. There was much giggling as the boy, bound and gagged even more than Frodo by Shelob in The Two Towers (the book, natch), hopped as fast as possible to anywhere but there.
Unfortunately for Limbo, once the spider and early forest scenarios are done, the game stops being something to experience and more like something to solve. Like, it becomes very obvious that you’re really playing a puzzle game by the time the boy leaves the forest instead of an adventure title. I showed Tara some of the later scenes via YouTube, and that had been enough. She had experienced Limbo, also known as Run From That Spider. There was no need to ruin that with frustrating puzzles that the majority of the gaming community had to look up online for solutions. Still, it’s a game everyone should play, especially just the first hour or so. With little music and cutscenes to distract, you’re quickly brought into the unsafe world and tasked with exploring, something everyone can connect with, something I know I loved doing as a young boy. Sure, it’s a depressing time, an untold story of siblings separated, but its uniqueness is more than worth the sorrow.
So…have you played Limbo yet?