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By Jeff Buckland, 8/2/2011

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Sometimes, delayed game releases are worth the wait. Such is the case with LIMBO, a side-scrolling puzzle/action game released last year exclusively for Xbox Live Arcade, but now available for PS3 and PC via Steam. What sets LIMBO apart from other indie games, at least at the start, is its entirely unique art style - but after an hour of playing, you'll start to see that this game has a lot going on under the surface, too.

It's a difficult tightrope to balance on: developers want to innovate and use their independent status to differentiate their game from the mainstream AAA titles out there, but we've started to see developers get a reputation for pretentiousness that many indie titles often accidentally flirt with. With almost no written words and nothing spoken, LIMBO pulls together an unassuming style and slick gameplay to avoid these pitfalls. Xbox players have had plenty of chances to talk about the game's plot and its characters and ending, but I suggest you avoid any end-game discussions and just play in order to develop your own ideas about what's really going on in the game.

Your setup, delivered by indie studio Playdead, is simple: "Uncertain of his sister's fate, a boy enters LIMBO." You play as this little boy and your general goal is simply to get from the left side of the screen to the right, but you'll find physics-based puzzles and a few nasty creatures in the way. While this is most certainly a thought-provoking game that will have you asking questions and developing theories after it's done, in the meantime you'll have to deal with the frail boy's physical limitations and avoid or outsmart the obstacles put in the way.

He doesn't have any magical powers, and the many ways he can die - gruesomely, but also entirely hidden in the silhouette style - can sometimes really hit home. The first villain you'll come across is a massive spider that's many times the boy's size, but before he's even done dealing with that, he starts noticing signs of other people in this place with him, and then the atmosphere and setting starts to change...

Going beyond that amount of detail would start to spoil the best parts of the game, so let's talk about some tech stuff. The Steam-exclusive PC port is barebones but entirely functional, and it does include Cloud support as well as Steam achievements. The game seems to start up at whatever your desktop resolution is set at, and controls are either a simple keyboard setup, or a 360 gamepad - and I believe you'll need 360 controller emulation software to use other types of gamepads. Beyond that, you won't find much in the way of configuration options beyond a simple brightness setting. Still, the game ran flawlessly and at 60fps for me on a dedicated gaming PC at 1920x1080 resolution, and while we often see features like increased texture resolution on enhanced PC ports, that'd be pretty much irrelevant here with how the art style is set up. The edges of the silhouette-based art style are just a tiny bit sharper at high resolution, but it's not a huge difference. Still, the quality of the art and animation vastly overshadow anything technical here, and while LIMBO is a simple game on the surface, the art does tell a story, so I don't think any kind of adjustments to its visuals are appropriate.

When LIMBO was released on XBLA, the price tag turned off some gamers; indie side-scrollers, with or without wonderful art, are just a bit steep at fifteen bucks, especially when LIMBO offers an entirely linear experience that will last you only a few hours assuming you're never stuck on a puzzle for too long. I'm happy to say that the price on Steam is a more reasonable $9.99, and for that you get a gaming experience that will probably linger with you for a while if you really get into it like I did, and for us that makes LIMBO easily worth its price tag. For anyone who isn't immediately enchanted by its look and style, even ten bucks might be a bit of a stretch, but I still find it exceedingly difficult not to wholeheartedly recommend LIMBO to fans of indie games.

Overall: 9 out of 10



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