Stuck in LIMBO.
No, I’m not talking about the popular dancing game. (Is it still popular? Is it really dancing? Does anyone besides Hermes Conrad do it anymore?) One sentence in and I’m off topic. That’s a new record. But, oh my god, LIMBO. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s an indie platformer game by the Danish production studio Playdead. It’s been out for a couple of years now, but it was recently released again in the Humble Bundle V, which I plugged mercilessly a week or so ago. If you didn’t buy it, shame on you. So, since I’m doing playthroughs of all these games, I figure I might as well keep with the trend.
First thing’s first: in LIMBO, there exists a near-perfect example of what people mean when they say “video games are art.” It’s black-and-white, wordless, in a very “film noir” kind of style. It’s a conscious break from realism, and it works amazingly! The game is gritty, g rainy, and it envelops you totally in its environment. Speaking of the environment: it’s awesome too. It’s very post-apocalyptic, with baddies and destroyed buildings, abandoned factories and run-down hotels. It gives the game an almost survival-horror feel, or, in all honesty, maybe just a “horror” feel. Because surviving really isn’t the number 1 thing on your to-do list in this game. Or, if it is, you’re generally not going to be doing it very well. (Interesting tidbit: the game’s environment tends to go from more natural to more man-made as you progress. It’s so seamless that when you abruptly transition back to a natural setting at the end, it seems very jarring and surreal. Nifty.)
So this whole “surviving” thing. Overrated, right? LIMBO is, well, really hard. I will readily admit that I’m a whiny gamer who doesn’t like super-hard games, and the consequences of death in LIMBO are not as severe as they are in, say, Megaman. Thank heavens. Because you die a lot. And I don’t mean just falling into a bottomless pit. I have been killed in a rather stupendous number of ways. Impaled on spikes, impaled on giant spider-legs, shot by arrows, shot by machine guns, having your guts sucked out, decapitated by beartraps, smushed by falling objects and by pistons, cut into tiny little pieces by sawblades, electrocution, drowning, drowning, and more drowning. Kid doesn’t like water, I guess. When I looked on the Wikipedia article, they quote the studio as calling this playstyle “trial and death,” and they say they use “gruesome imagery for the boy’s deaths to steer the player from unworkable solutions.” Understatement of the year, folks. No, Mario falling into a pit and saying “Mamma mia!!” is steering me from an unworkable solution. Seeing your protagonist die (without any humor at all) in a large number of disturbing ways falls less under the “deterrent” category, and more under the “DO YOU ENJOY KILLING CHILDREN?? WELL, DO YOU?!?” category. Watch the delightful death montage here:
The game is a little bit tough. There are some moments where you die simply because you couldn’t have known how to survive. You didn’t see the giant boulder coming, or know that the gear you were standing on would eventually grind you to bits. Hence the name, “trial and death.” Has a nice ring to it. In all honesty, however, the game itself, on an intellectual, puzzle-solving level, wasn’t too hard, but was WAY more interesting than most puzzle platformers. I gotta say, there were more creative, elegant puzzles in this game, even using mechanics first introduced a long time ago, than in any platforming game I’ve ever seen. Thank heavens for that.
The last thing I’ll mention is that I beat the game in one day. This implies two things: the game is freakishly addictive! (That’s a good thing). And, that the game is a little short. (That’s not such a good thing). So, looking at it both in its specifics and its overall impressions, I think it’s not a hard conclusion to come to that this video game really is artful: it LOOKS artistic, it was made with artistic intent, and the intellectual stimulation you get from it really provokes thought (as art often does). Hooray for video games!
P.S. Maybe I should just rename the blog “Hooray for Video Games.” Thoughts?
Posted on June 29, 2012, in Miscellaneous and tagged Film Noir, Games, Gaming, Indie, Indie Games, Indie Gaming, Limbo, Megaman, PC Games, PC Gaming, Platformer, PlayDead, Steam, Video Games, Video Gaming. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.