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Games of the Year: Limbo

Games of the Year: Limbo

Trapped between worlds

Leena van Deventer’s journey into a monochromatic world was one that left an indelible impression. Given a 9/10 here at Resolution she wasn’t the only one mesmerized by a tiny boy lost in a big world in Limbo.

Limbo sticks in my mind in a way not many games have in recent years. When people ask me if I’ve played something and I’ve enjoyed it, I’ll normally say “Yeah it was good” or something equally as unadorned and matter-of-fact. When people ask if I’ve played Limbo it’s met with much squeeing and noises normally reserved for finding out a close friend’s wonderful news. I adored my time in Limbo, and was thrilled to bits to see it getting the critical acclaim it deserved. It sends my indie-loving heart a-flutter that a flagship title from an unknown indie developer could see such success on the XBLA, with over 200,000 gamertags on the leaderboards within the first 8 days of sale, and oodles of awards. It’s the stuff inspiration is made of.

No tutorial, no little flashy button on the screen saying “Press A now!” you’re left on your own – as is our tiny protagonist. Aside from a description in the XLBA explaining that he has to find his lost sister, you’re presented with no backstory. He wakes up in the forest, no idea how he got there, what he’s doing or where he’s supposed to go, you’re left with no choice but to start walking. Soon you realise this big scary world is intent on killing you; Over and over again. The developer PlayDead describes it as “trial and death” instead of trial and error, and they’re not kidding – you will die a lot. Half the time you don’t know something can kill you until it already has, yet it never feels unfair or frustrating through instant respawns and closely placed checkpoints.

I believe it’s called Limbo because you never really feel in one world or another, you’re constantly trapped between two of them. The environment of Limbo is menacing and dark, downright spooky and there seems to be a putrid grit on everything – yet there’s a comforting warmth to it. Unlike other games set in unwelcoming places, your main aim isn’t to just get the hell out as soon as possible so you don’t soil your pants. It’s a comfortable world to be in. The sheer contradiction of everything in this game is what made me sit up and take notice. Each dark had a light. The lonely dark forest sees flickering white butterflies representing hope and innocence. Limbo isn’t a game about black and white, it’s a game about grey. The grey areas between life, death, happiness, sadness, familiarity and the obscenely foreign. I loved that Limbo had me thinking twice, and three times, about what the hell was going on. I loved the emphasis on taking from it what you will, and it’s hands down my game of the year.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

//Costume Quest (Review – 7/10)

Costume Quest was a barrel of fun; in fact, I’ll go further than that, it was at least 3 barrels of super fun awesomeness. The gameplay was exciting, the art style adorable, and the writing magnificent. But what made it really stand out – was the fact it stood out. Original IPs in this – the Year of the Remake were few and far between. Double Fine had some spare time while working on Brutal Legend when the project was temporarily stalled, and began what they called “Amnesia Fortnights”, where the team was split into four separate groups to work on new projects. The projects (one of them being Costume Quest) were well received by the team but put aside until Brutal Legend had finished development. Upon completion of Brutal Legend, work began on Costume Quest and it was later published by THQ. The fact that Double Fine decided to mess around with an idea and see what came of it when it feels like no one else is doing that is worth a tip of the hat. Developers need to do this more!

//Pac-Man: Championship Edition DX (Review - 9/10)

When you take a much-loved idea and tweak it to make it better, otherwise known as Better-Than-Nostalgia, is a hard thing to achieve. PacMan was loved by millions, and to celebrate its 30th birthday, a reboot was made to defibrillate the aging franchise. The slight changes made have ensured it stands proud in a modern gaming context. The bullet time is exquisite and the fact you can send those wanker ghosts right back to the centre makes for hours of fun.

What I really enjoy about PacMan CE DX is the slightly tweaked AI. Instead of the ghosts being really smart and darting about, ducking and weaving through the maze to get to you, they normally stay in a line and follow you, setting it up for an epic ghost-munch when you get your hands on a pellet, turn around and eat the massive line of spectral chow that were just following you. In terms of “just one more game”, PacMan CE DX can waste hours upon hours of your evening, with leaderboards, time trials and other achievements meaning your competitive urges can be tapped into with disgusting ease. It all results in the fusing of the controller to your hand because you simply can’t put the bugger down.

//Colorbind (No review)
Daniel Lutz has created a gorgeous puzzler for iOS called Colorbind that really challenges the brain. You have many different coloured paper ribbons, and the aim is to cross off all the corresponding coloured circles. Sounds simple, but it gets tricky when you realise you can’t turn a corner on a circle, because it leaves it half crossed. About 80 levels of frustration await, with many a rage-quit to be found. But with that level of frustration comes immense satisfaction upon completion of a level you’ve been stuck on. Colorbind has been severely underrated for its tiny price tag and is something every iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch owner should be proud to call their own. No matter what I’ve had on my phone, my Xbox, my PlayStation or my PC, I find myself constantly going back to Colorbind for that certain something.

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