The LIMBO game, developed by independent studio Playdead, is a dark/horror puzzle-platform title (single player) available for PC, Xbox 360, PS3, Xbox One, PS4, PS Vita, iOS, Android and Wii U. Released back in 2010 as a Xbox Live Arcade exclusive and later made available with a game pack in 2011. After the year-long Xbox 360 exclusivity, Playdead decided to port LIMBO also on Microsoft Windows and PS3. The Xbox One and PS4 versions respectively came out in 2014 and 2015.
The plot is not exactly clear when you start the game for the first time. A young boy awakens into a black forest on the “edge of hell”, starting a creepy journey seeking his missing sister and also encountering dead bodies scattered here and there, dangerous traps, giant spiders and puzzles to solve in order to proceed.
The boy manages to found the little girl in the end, but she runs away for no apparent reason the first time and then seems to be startled the second, the game’s ending is left completely open for this reason.
LIMBO is a 2D sidescroller with interactive objects and environments. There are no instructions nor help texts, since the player is supposed to try again and again before finding the correct solution. Playdead named this game style “trial and death” and even inserted some gruesome scenes regarding the boy’s death if a method fails.
The whole environment is black and white with some volumetric lighting and uses a grain texture for a film effect. The game has no background music at all, there only is a minimal ambient sound to recreate the perfect horror genre.
LIMBO got many positive reviews due to its design, but also aroused a few doubts regarding the abrupt ending and the lack of significant plot. Playdead, however, intentionally made an open ending in order to give the players the chance to find their own interpretation and make up theories, just like many other video games and books. Once the boy reaches the end of his journey, he will find himself into the same forest area he was in at the very beginning and this made up some ideas about the religious nature of Limbo/Purgatory. Other people thought this journey simply gave the boy the chance to find a closure for his sister’s death (like a tagline suggests, “Uncertain of his sister’s fate, a boy enters Limbo.”), or they are both dead and trying to find the road to Heaven from Hell.
Reviewers also considered LIMBO like a metaphorical experience, with different kind of settings and nice representations.
The giant spiders were based on the art director (Arnt Jensen)’s arachnophobia, but generally spiders and bugs have a specific psychological meaning in dreams.
They usually represent specific fears hidden behind unclear apparitions and considering how ‘dreamy’ and surreal this in-game world is, I wouldn’t really exclude the possibility of an illusion created by the boy’s mind after the passing of his sister.
For a simple 2D sidescroller I think LIMBO is really beautiful and suggestive. Maybe a bit too grisly sometimes for the boy’s deaths (if you make him step accidentally into a toothed trap he will be decapitated in an instant), which I found quite disturbing considering the main character is just a kid. I suppose, however, that they intentionally made this kind of scenes for a specific reason and there might be a secret meaning behind those as well.
Overall, LIMBO got quite a high score from different gaming reviewers with a nice 9/10.