Maybe it’s my interest in black and white movies that originally drew me to the Limbo app, or my love of Tim Burton flicks. In fact, it’s probably more the latter than anything else. If Tim Burton was to design an app, “Limbo” would probably be pretty close to the finished product.
The only colors to be found in this app are black, white, and many shades of grey (no, not THOSE shades of grey). It works in the same way as many games do – where you have a character that you have to constantly move forward, while tackling increasingly complicated obstacles as you go along.
The character in Limbo is what appears to be a young child with no defining features, save an overhang of hair and two bright shining eyes. You move him forward through a landscape rife with foreboding, avoiding nasty traps that sometimes appear without warning. It sounded like my kind of app, so I downloaded it.
How it works
You are really given very little help at the beginning. I can’t decide whether this is the way all apps are going, or if it’s just my recent luck based on what I’ve chosen to download. Regardless, only previous experience with this type of game will give you an edge. It doesn’t even show you how to use the controls – you have to figure it out for yourself. In fact, that’s Limbo’s M.O. the whole way through. You’re given no arrows pointing you in the right direction, or hints or help of any kind, which frankly is what really makes it interesting and fun. Sometimes you get too much assistance with these apps, or you can buy clues through in-app purchases. Not with Limbo. You are literally left in limbo if you can’t figure it out…or until you find a walkthrough somewhere on the Internet.
It all begins with your Frankenweenie-like character skipping merrily through the semi-darkness towards leafless trees, grassy hills, and unexpected ravines. It is in these early stages that you learn how to make him move backwards and forwards, and how to jump. It won’t be long before you come across boats, ropes and some very nasty bear traps. The bear traps give you the first inkling that this is no Dora the Explorer story, as if your character lands in the trap (which is almost inevitable the first time around), he’ll lose his head. Thankfully as the app is in black and white you won’t be witness to any kind of gore, but it will certainly give you pause, and encourage you to work out how to keep him safe PDQ.
There are little puzzles to solve as you go along. You have to work out the physics of some items or use them in the correct order to help you move on. Rather than just performing as a running game, it tests your mental abilities, which will make it very appealing to anyone who enjoys such challenges.
As part of this app’s charm is its complete lack of instruction, I don’t want to ruin the fun for you. All I’ll say is make sure that you look for handles and any other attributes that objects might possess in order to help you conquer them.
One of the great things about Limbo is that if you do go the way of the Dodo, it only takes you back a few feet from the point of your demise so you can try, try again, even if you leave it for hours at a time. This is a refreshing change from some other apps that maddeningly plonk you right back at the beginning.
When I tried it
As I’ve had some experience with this type of game before, I got my character moving forwards almost immediately, that is, once he emerged from the undergrowth. When you first start this game you have to wait a minute before you see him. I saw that he could jump, but I also noticed that he moved at the same pace no matter what I did with him, so there was no point in pulling him back a few inches to try to gather speed before a leap.
I don’t know if it was the bright glow from the fluorescent bulbs above me, or the fact that the app resembled an old black and white movie, but I found myself peering at the screen, trying to see what was in front of my guy lest he meet an unfortunate end. As it turned out, my worries were for naught. When there’s something to see, it’s pretty clear, and really the best way to play Limbo is when you don’t have light glaring off the screen. On the other hand, I’m not sure you’d want to play this in the dark. I’ve only managed to get so far, and already I’ve found it pretty creepy at times.
This is an intriguing app, and it has such a different look compared to all the other bright, colorful, animated games out there. It’s the complete opposite of my previously reviewed “Leo’s Fortune” that prides itself on its beautiful design. Limbo is dark, stark and fascinating. Anybody with a bit of Goth in them, or a private collection of Edward Gorey and Tim Burton works et al, will find this app unputdownable. You have been warned.
Limbo Cost: $4.99 Seller: Playdead Devices: iPod Touch, iPad, iPhone (higher generations) Rating: T for Teen
- No in-app purchases. Dark and different. Autosave feature as you go.
- Glare on the screen from surrounding lights significantly affects visibility.