Monday 17 June 2013

Limbo Review (PS Vita)

Limbo first burst onto the console scene around three years ago in the Xbox Live Summer of arcade vent. It then took a while to make its way over to the PS3 and now we finally have a portable version to enjoy on the Vita. It’s been a long time coming but is Limbo still worth your attention?

For those who haven’t had the chance to experience Limbo yet what awaits is a platformer with a style unlike any other. The game follows the journey of a small boy as he makes his way through a dark and nightmarish world. The colour palette is almost exclusively monochrome and you are going to die gruesomely over and over again.

The visual style and tone is the main thing that sets Limbo apart from other platform games. The somewhat abstract approach helps to build a stunning atmosphere which envelops the player in dread and gives a constant warning of dangers to come. As you progress you will see different types of environment given the nightmare treatment. What starts out as a forest will soon give way to gloomy industrial areas and platforms buzzing with sparks and spinning saws.

The visuals look incredible on the Vita screen and the sprite size and landscape has been scaled well. The only thing which doesn’t quite work as well is the flickering darkness around the edges of the play area when the game focuses you through a vignette. On the smaller Vita screen this can often be off putting and distracting, whereas before it was a subtle mood building effect.

The gameplay itself is fairly simple. Your character can jump a small distance, move objects and climb. Most of the gameplay is about creating make-shift bridges and things to stand on in order to reach the next area. There are also quote a few areas that require quick and precise timing in order to progress. Sometimes you may need to get two boxes to drop at the right moment and use them before a saw cuts through them while at others you’ll be out rising water. Everything is used well and Limbo never over uses any of its ideas, always moving the player onto something new in terms of level design and threat.

One of the more unique obstacles to overcome is the brain bugs. Every now and then a bug will drop on our hero and cause him to walk continuously in the direction he is facing. The only way to turn him around is to move into one of the rare patches of sunlight that pierces the gloom. This creates a new kind of threat as you have to move objects and overcome traps at the pace the game sets rather than on your own terms. The sections work well and the gimmick never becomes over used.

Speaking of threats, this is a game that takes great pleasure in killing you. Bear traps adorn forest flaws and electricity always seems to be coming right at you. Giant spiders and shadowy humans are on hand to chase you and if that isn’t enough there is always the risk of simply drowning or falling into a pit. Though you will die, the frustration is eased by the near constant auto saving. This means that you will always reappear near to were you die without the need to cover ground you have already been over.

Limbo always has been a special game and that certainly hasn’t changed in the years since its release. The main issue facing the Vita version is that many gamers may well have experienced it already.  The lack of any new additions to draw people in may also be a problem. This aside, Limbo remains an essential title and its move to Vita has been realised well. If you haven’t played it yet then this is an essential purchase as it offers a unique experience not found anywhere else.

Overall 8/10

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