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Ever since I devoured Superbrothers: Swords & Sorcery on iOS, I’ve been on the look out for games that not only feel amazing on mobile devices in terms of playability, but also stick with me long after my phone has returned to my pocket. I’ll be honest and say that before I stumbled onto Badland by Frogmind, nothing really stuck with me and the games folders on both my iOS devices were empty for a long time. After finishing Badland, I was hungry, I needed more of that addictive gameplay, and so I searched.
The first thing that struck me about LIMBO was the icon; a simple grayscale silhouette of a child’s head looking curiously back at me from the safety of the pristine App Store. After a quick read through the description, the awards and the eerily captivating screenshots I tapped buy and waited anxiously for the 103MB masterpiece to manifest itself on my iPad. Before I knew it, the little boy was staring at me again and, after resigning myself to the fact that I would not be able to do anything else for the rest of the day, I jumped straight in.
Before I get into it, let me just state that before my editor informed me of how old LIMBO actually is (it’s been out on consoles for two to three years already), I was under the impression that it was a brand new game. Man, I really need to get hold of a console soon.
The first thing that you realise about LIMBO is that you start with nothing, you’re just a little boy who’s woken up in a forest. There’s no indication of who you are, why you got there and what you need to do. There’s also no explanation as to how you control this little character, but this becomes apparent after about two minutes of playing around. In saying that though, Playdead have done a wonderful job of keeping the controls simple and easy to understand. There is no virtual D-pad or buttons that pop up on the bottom right of the screen; you simply swipe and tap anywhere on the screen to move your character around. Of course, this makes it incredibly simple to play, as you’re not continually looking at your fingers while playing. It also means that the screen is uncluttered and free of anything else other than the strange landscape that is secretly planning to kill you in the most gruesome way.
So back to the gameplay. As I mentioned earlier, you’re a little silhouette of a child that has woken up in a mysterious forest. You need to navigate your way throughout the landscape, which continually shifts between forest and industrial, solving puzzles and avoiding the devious deathtraps littered throughout. These traps very well hidden and you’ll see your character come to a very gruesome (yet far from comical) death more than once as you work out how to get past each area. Whether you’re dodging bear traps or running away from other children armed with poisonous darts, every single trap is terrifyingly simple in execution but ingenious in terms of placement.
Other than the traps, there are a number of puzzles that need to be solved in order to progress to the next area of the landscape. What I like most about the puzzles is that everything you need to solve each puzzle is right in front of you. In other words, there are no power-ups or special tricks to getting through the game, it all based on logic, physics and common sense. I’ve not yet finished the game yet but I can tell you that the puzzles become increasingly harder as you progress and I’ve had a couple of instances where I wanted to toss my iPad out of a window in pure frustration, but in saying that, I keep coming back for more and more after I’ve cooled down.
Verdict: Graphically, LIMBO is deceptively simple looking at first glance. It is literally a 2D side scrolling platformer, but upon further inspection you’ll see that the landscape has incredible depth and objects like tree branches seem to pass right by your face sometimes, while other small animations take place in the distance, hinting at what is to come. Add to this the ominous soundtrack and you’ve got an addictive, highly entertaining title that is impossible to put down and difficult to get out of your head.
Download LIMBO from iTunes for US$4.99