Fer and I stayed up way too late last night playing Limbo.
When you turn on an Xbox you can immediately see what games your friends are playing. I checked in and was informed that Big Poppy 76 was “teetering on boulders in Limbo.” I plugged in my headset and sent Poppy a chat invite. Word from Poppy was the game was sick so I started the download.
It’s a small game from an independent developer so the download only took ten minutes. The big studios like Activision invest years and over a hundred million dollars in a game and hope to get 5 million kids and/or 30-somethings to put down 60 bucks for the latest gaming blockbuster. Independent studios also need years to create a much simpler game with a smaller staff that can be downloaded for around ten bucks. Limbo’s the best ten bucks I ever spent in interweb commerce.
The game starts with no intro, no music, to title. Just a dark and gloomy forest in which a little boy with glowing eyes gets up off the ground. Game on. I immediately paused the game and yelled for Fer to get her butt up into a chair at my side. We started working through this dark world.
Games usually have a tutorial session in which they lead the player around by the nose and teach you how to walk or crawl or throw grenades or alter time. The controls on modern games are so complicated that without the tutorial you could play all the way through without realizing the tertiary left index bumper makes you fart or walk through walls. Limbo’s old school like Mario Bros. Walk-jump-climb. Figuring things out is just part of the play. Staying alive and moving forward is the goal.
Some alternative titles Fer and I came up with: Corpse. You Die a Thousand Times (Fer). Evil Mario. Not For Children.
I was slain almost immediately by a giant bear trap barely (hah!) visible in the grass. Fer’s turn. Soon giant spiders and blow dart wielding children were after us with murderous intent and we were handing the controller back and forth constantly. The figures are so sweet and innocent looking but then you’re dragging corpses to use as shields, rafts, and bear trap springers. Maybe that’s over-sharing to the non-gaming crowd, which includes everyone reading this except Big Poppy. I was so happy, though, because a good horror game is the rarest of games. Usually you mow your way through the video game body count and it eventually just feels like work, like stripping paint or bashing the little pop-up heads at Chuck-e-Cheese. This game had me in a constant state of cringe or amazement. Fer and I kept shouting, whoahh, NoooooH, and YUUUCK, depending on whether we had just survived something terrible with our awesome reflexes and perceptiveness or had been shredded into kibble yet again by the giant sawblade.
My favorite part so far was taking 5 minutes to figure out how to sneak up on a giant flying insect to hop a ride on its leg. The trick was to move slowly and continuously. No sudden movements, followed by a perfectly timed leap and grab.
Almost forgot to mention the burning tire swings. Check!
Are you ready?