What I’m Playing: Late July

31 Jul

Screenshot courtesy of http://limbogame.org/media/

Year after year, the summer is a dry season for new games (or at least quality ones worth playing).  It still boggles my mind that these companies continue to release the majority of their games, right along side everyone else, in the fall & winter.  It does make sense on paper to release a game just before the holidays, during the busiest shopping time of the year, but unless you’re releasing “Call of Battle: Modern SpecWar Ops 9”, you’re going to get lost in the mix.  It’s really sad that some hidden gems from lesser known game companies, with limited marketing budgets, don’t get the attention they deserve.  Releasing even a half-decent game during these dry summer months would equate to a windfall!  Then again, I always find something to play, and July came through with a gem that has finally managed to escape from Microsoft’s paid exclusive fortress — ‘Limbo’.

Limbo released last summer, exclusively on Xbox Live.  As Microsoft likes to do, they whipped out their checkbook and locked it down as a timed exclusive.  Well, it’s now a year later, the “exclusivity checks” have stopped coming, and Limbo has released on the PlayStation Network.  I don’t blame Playdead (the independent developers of Limbo), as I’m sure this was the best way for them to get their small game off the ground, and the attention it deserves.  I just despise the way Microsoft throws their over-inflated weight around, and do nothing more than hinder the game industry.  (I just don’t see how cutting seven figure checks, for a month head-start on Call of Duty map packs, actually profits for them.  All it does is annoy PS3 users, not cause them to run out and buy an Xbox 360.)  I could banter on and on about the business practices of the game industry all day, but let’s get back to topic at hand: Limbo!

Looking at Limbo as a game, it’s a simple side-scrolling platformer, with some brilliantly devious puzzles; but it’s much more than that.  The atmosphere, the soundtrack, the black and white color pallet — Limbo nailed “noire”, before we’d ever put our hands on L.A. Noire (and probably bests it).  The game starts up with the leanest menu system I’ve ever seen, and throws you right into gameplay without the slightest hint of direction.  No narrator; no tutorial; nothing!  Wanna jump? Figure out the button yourself!  Can you grab things? Who knows! Walk up to an object, and try a gauntlet of buttons.  Can you jump this gap? Take a run at it, cross your fingers, and JUMP!  All of this just adds to the palpable feel of the game.  And I haven’t even mentioned the character you control yet!  Oh, that poor little kid.  I haven’t finished it (as of this writing), so I don’t know if there is a deeper meaning playing as this kid, in this treacherous land of noir (inner child, dealing with life?); but playing as the silhouette of a young boy who grunts, and breaths deep, and gives the subtlest of head tilts to alert you of an object of interest — again, just adds to the truly original feel of the game.  I’ll tell you this: dying a gruesome death (and it will happen A LOT) as this little guy, hits you much more than it ever did as Mario or Sonic.  It actually motivates you to think through your upcoming actions BEFORE you do them, just to prevent having to watch him eat it, one more time!

As I mentioned, I have not finished the game yet.  It’s a short PSN game ($14.99, or $11.99 w/ PS+), that will only take 3-6 hours to complete, but I just haven’t had a stretch of time to put in longer than a 30-45 minutes session at a time.  I will certainly update this post when I do finish it, with my final thoughts.  However, one thing will not change, and that is my recommendation:  I strongly recommend picking this one up.  It’s not an easy game (bring your brain cells), but it is rewarding.  The atmosphere of the game alone, is worth the price of admission.  Available on PlayStation Network, Xbox Live, & Steam (PC).

UPDATE: I finished it!  I was closer to the end than I thought, but the short length didn’t take anything away from the experience.  Limbo was a great ride, that I plan to play through again in the future. (and not just for the missed Trophies!)  If you haven’t already tried it, there is a demo available on the PS Store.  I don’t know what the demo covers, but I hope it is enough to convince you this is one worth your time; because it is.  And as far as finding some sort of deeper meaning resolution?   Don’t expect any shiny bows wrapping this one up… There’s quite the vague cliffhanger at the end!

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