LIMBO, Playdead’s atmospheric puzzle-platformer, is now available from the app store. The popular indie hit makes a flawless translation to the iDevice, retaining all of the creepiness, surprise, and gruesome deaths of its console brethren.
- Gorgeous monochromatic environments with terrific lighting and focus effects
- Sound effects add a level of creepiness and tension to the game
- Controls are invisible and easy to use
- Fantastic puzzle design that doesn’t reveal elements without first killing you
- GameCenter integration for achievements to earn
- Controls take a little getting used to
The most striking aspect of LIMBO is its graphic style. The entire world is presented in grayscale, with our main character little more than a silhouette with two glowing white dots for eyes. While searching for his missing sister, the boy traverses monochromatic forests and industrial settings replete with dangers at every stop. Often, the puzzle elements won’t present themselves until the boy is killed in some fashion, resetting his progress to a previous checkpoint. These obstacles aren’t all that evident as bear traps, giant spiders, watery bogs, and the like blend in to the environments or are hidden from view. Terrific lighting and focus effects serve to highlight important objects, though their application can take some time to suss out. Film grain and dynamic sound effects serve to round out the package and really enhance the overall look and feel of the game. There is no real soundtrack, which makes echoing footfalls, creaking pipes, rustling grass, and all of the other great sounds considerably spookier. Be prepared to watch the young boy die in spectacular fashion, too. Bear traps will sever his head from his body, spider legs will skewer him like a cube of meat on a shish kabob, and his inability to hold his breath underwater will cause his body to go limp and lifeless when overcome by liquids. The animated blood and gore is masked by the dark color scheme, but it’s a bit jarring all the same for those who are ill prepared.
The controls remain as the biggest bugaboo and the point where some gamers may get frustrated. First, there is no tutorial or explanation to describe what you are supposed to do. It’s up to you to poke around the screen and figure everything out, which can frustrate some players who prefer a little hand-holding up front. Second, there are no on-screen buttons, which is a great artistic choice to prevent marring the gorgeous visuals with ugly overlays, but it can further frustrate players who are already confused by the lack of gameplay info. Third, while you move the boy around via an “invisible” joypad on the screen’s lower left side, your actions are controlled by taps and swipes in the lower right corner that don’t always register as you might expect. If you make explicit and deliberate swipes, you should be fine. However, there is the tendency for some perceived non-responsiveness due to using short, quick swipes. To jump, you need to use an upward swipe. Grabbing onto an object requires you to tap and hold the screen when in close proximity to an object. You’ll see his arms grasp the item in question. Then, you can move forward or backward to push or pull the object. The other confusing aspect is that the game doesn’t seem to hold strictly to the left-side/right-side actions, as you can make the boy move by dragging around the right side of the screen, as well. If you are patient and willing to put in the time t learn, you shouldn’t have much trouble with the controls.
Replay value comes mainly from the desire to relive a fantastic mobile experience. The entire game wouldn’t be considered lengthy, especially once you know the solutions to the puzzles. Puzzle design is outstanding, with many later instances requiring extremely tight timing to escape certain doom. A dozen GameCenter achievements are available for a bit of replay value, and there is even an achievement for completing the game in one sitting with 5 or fewer deaths, which can be a pretty daunting challenge. This was our first experience with LIMBO and we were pretty blown away. Check device compatibility as you’ll need late-gen devices to play. A universal app for $4.99, LIMBO is a 5-Dimple triumph.