I’m just like you… no more, no less. Just a jaded nerd carried down the media stream. Drowning in the waters of countless shows, podcasts, games and books – never shocked and even barely touched by anything anymore. But it all came to an end when I finally picked up Limbo.
A 2D, black and white game managed to do something that nothing has been able to do in a very long while – to evoke real emotion. I think that desensitization is a rather major part of us all as consumers. It’s quite normal considering how intensely we are bombarded with violence; in fact it would be strange if we kept shutting our eyes, like we did when we were small, every time there’s blood on the screen. But years into the unfeelingness Limbo broke the pattern and gave me my first fright in a very long time.
Carelessly skipping down the path, jumping about, solving elementary puzzles – I thought the game was needlessly eerie, at first – after all there’s nothing that would need this kind of atmosphere… I thought. After solving another small puzzle I was hipping down a hill until I eventually saw a tree which had some unidentified extremities sticking out of it – not knowing what was coming I just continued on forward. As the aforementioned extremities extended I figured that it was just something in the background, nothing that would require me stopping and giving attention to. And then I got stabbed through my head. I was essentially impaled on the giant spider leg for a brief moment before it shook me off and carelessly tossed me on the floor. I should mention that the majority of the game’s audio accompaniment is silence and the quite footsteps of your character; needless to say I turned the sound up a bit to hear it all better. When the spider incident happened my subwoofer pounded as I witnessed my cutesy character get impaled with a juicy sound of tearing flesh and blood set free of the captivity of its vessels. I jumped ever so slightly in my seat.
The juxtaposition of the silence and overall tranquility of the game before this moment and the excellently realized gruesomeness of this scene shocked me quite a bit. Upon respawning I ran up to the tree again, but seeing movement in the tree I ran back to witness the leg try to go for me again, but fail this time. I decided that perhaps now that I’ve avoided two attacks I could finally run past what I thought was an opening under the spider’s body. Of course I was wrong. I made a run for it and as the moment came when I expected to run behind the three that’s in the foreground another spider leg emerged from the tree and rather gently knocked me onto the floor. As I was LEISURELY getting off the floor, unable to speed up the process I could witness the coming doom – the other leg hovered above me, carefully aiming at me to shred apart my insides as soon as I got up. This time I let out an f-bomb.
It was not your average exasperated or even angry f-bomb that one would usually drop while gaming when things aren’t going their way. It was the kind of “fuck” that you whisper to yourself when witnessing something horrible happen and having no control over it – the most helpless and scared amongst all the variation fucks in the world. OH MY! EMOTIONS! Yupp, it was rather astounding.
I attempted it again, thinking that regardless of what I just clearly saw I could run through. When that obviously failed and I was on the floor again I shielded my eyes with my hands as soon as I saw the impaling device hovering above me again. I acted like a goddamn child. Why? Because fuck you – a surprising run-in with emotions, that’s why.
This is just a minor portion of the game, in fact it is only the first creepy thing that happens in it, but I won’t go into it any further as to avoid spoilers. As far as I’m concerned this game perfectly achieved what it was going for: an excellent atmosphere and, ultimately, a scare. I would even go as far as to say that it did it better than the majority of its rivals just because it’s so simple and does not rely on any extravagant plot devices, mechanics or visuals to achieve it. It is genius in its simplicity and one can’t help but marvel at the talent that managed to achieve so much with so little. I’m sure that anyone with a real interest in games has heard of Limbo, but I know that some have yet to play it. So if you think that an excellently paced, beautiful game with the best hopping physics up to date and genuine emotions might interest you – Limbo it up right now.