Tag Archives: Limbo

Limbo and Its Elegant Pace

For as much as I love a game that challenges and intrigues me, there are a lot of great ones I haven’t played.  One of them was Limbo, which I played in one sitting with a friend late at night.  It was a real shock to the system, because although Limbo is considered an indie smash hit, I’d seen very little about it.  Everything I encountered was essentially new to me.  All the puzzles, environments, and mechanics flowed together into a tight little package with a ribbon on top, waiting for me to open.

I found myself lost in it all very quickly.  And that’s a good thing.

Hanging cages and a crow
A crow and cages. (Photo: mr. hasgaha via Flickr)

As games get more complex, realistic, and creative, we both gain and lose a lot.  One thing we often lose is a sense of pacing.  Sometimes we’re introduced to a new tool in the middle of a game, and it gives us a controller cue to teach us how to use it.  Other times it takes a slow hour or two for a game to get really good.  There are plenty of moments in games where they do something…inconsistent.  And by this I don’t mean they do something different, or fresh, but something that takes us out of the experience.

To be fair, making a game that doesn’t run into these problems at some point is extremely hard.  They don’t necessarily make a game bad.  The reason I mention them is, Limbo is the closest I’ve seen a game come to having a perfect pace.

Limbo's dark landscape
Art of Limbo’s eerie dark landscape. (Photo: Angel Barreiros via Flickr)

There’s a lot of debate surrounding Limbo‘s meaning and message.  It has no dialogue, no clear-cut cast of characters.  Some suggest that it’s the story of a murderer, of the afterlife, of the struggle between light and darkness.  The very name of Limbo suggests the theme of purgatory, a merging of all things into one silent world.  In this world, conflict has no clear meaning; characters have no faces, and death is only temporary (a truth you learn over and over again).  As I wandered through the grayscale landscape solving one brilliant puzzle after another, there was no obvious transition between places.  I remember being in the forest, in a mine, and in a factory, but not the order in which I found them.  It’s as though Limbo doesn’t have a beginning, middle, or end, and that feels appropriate.

Hangman
The nameless child stands surrounded by countless dead. (Photo: mr. hasgaha via Flickr)

The endless stream of symbols, solving puzzle after puzzle to reach an unknown goal, almost put me in the mind of the little silhouetted child I was controlling.  The only difference was the immense satisfaction I felt, conquering increasingly tougher, more mind-bending challenges.  When it all finally ended, it took me a while to come back into the real world.  It felt like I’d ended where I’d started, and even in the moments when I was stuck on a puzzle, I never felt fully conscious of everything outside the game.

The rain machine puzzle
The great rain machine. (Photo: mr. hasgaha via Flickr)

Instead, my full attention was on how to get a floating box in exactly the right place for me to reach a high ledge, or how to time my rope swing to get away from a giant saw blade.  Limbo is a master class in doing a whole lot with a clever approach and a creative vision.  It’s so simple, it doesn’t need to follow traditional rules.  It challenges not only the structure of puzzle games, but also our preconceptions of what games can say narratively, using the themes of death, darkness, and the afterlife as its tools.  To whoever reads this, go experience this game for yourself, and make sure it’s late at night.

Its creators, Playdead, repeated their brilliance with their latest game Inside, and I’d say check it out.

My Thoughts on E3 2016, Part 1: Microsoft

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E3 2016 was an incredible showing from every major company!

Going into E3 2016, I had no idea what to expect.  So little information had come out prior to Day 1 on June 13 from any major company.  But the expo was absolutely incredible this year – from advances in community and technology to reveals of extremely impressive new games, a lot has come to the surface.  Just about every company has brought interesting stuff to bear, so let’s break it down by presentation, starting with Microsoft!

Microsoft @ E3 2016 saw some huge announcements in tech and games from Xbox!
Microsoft @ E3 2016 saw some huge announcements in tech and games from Xbox!

A lot of what Microsoft turned heads with was the information it gave about its future plans during its press conference.

For one thing, it announced the implementation of Xbox Play Anywhere, which promises seamless integration of saves and data, not to mention  more cross-play, between Xbox One and Windows 10 PC.  Paying for an Xbox One digital game gives access to the PC platform.  This feels like a massive step forward for Microsoft in a market where more people are tending toward PC play than ever before, and it should put games in the hands of fans more often for no extra cost.  This is an idea I completely approve of, provided it doesn’t get bogged down to be more complicated than it has to be.

But Xbox also came out swinging in terms of hardware – it announced a new design program for custom controller color palettes as well as the Xbox One Slim.  But the big news was the first official announcement of Project Scorpio, the next console generation for Microsoft, which promises no-compromise 60 frames-per-second gameplay in 4K resolution.  How they will deliver on that promise without making the thing the size of a portable generator I don’t know, but we’ll see!

As far as games go, the press conference felt to me like most other Microsoft conferences: there was a lot of stuff that got me excited and a lot I don’t care about one bit, like Forza Horizon 3 and Dead Rising 4.  Other games like State of Decay 2, ReCore, and Tekken 7 all have me really intrigued – they look like they could be bringing a lot of beauty, innovation, and variety to a console that, for a long time now, hasn’t sparked my interest that much.

If I had to pick my favorite games on display at the conference, they would have to be Sea of Thieves, Inside, and Scalebound.  As someone who loves a good pirate battle in a video game, Sea of Thieves for me carries the promise of creating a unique online experience, and I hope it becomes the game to bring my boys at Rare back into the light.  Inside, the spiritual successor to Limbo, promises to do what its predecessor did – use the interactive medium to pose interesting questions and offer interesting yet simplistic gameplay.  Scalebound, meanwhile, just looks like PlatinumGames (the team behind Bayonetta, Wonderful 101, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, and Star Fox Zero) is doing what it does best: creating some over-the-top, intense, awe-inspiring boss fight carnage.  It looks like it has a ton of personality and I hope to get some time with it soon enough.

In all, I think Microsoft put on a great presentation and looks to be offering a lot of variety and opportunity to its fans that we haven’t seen in previous years.  Now feels like a better time than ever to keep an eye on these guys, especially if the Scorpio breaks the current bounds of gaming technology.