While your head might be screaming ‘Limbo, Limbo, Limbo!’ you’d be setting yourself up for disappointment, and elation simultaneously. Portuguese, Flying Turtle Software, have endeavoured to make a dark yet beautiful and simple little platformer, and they have succeeded with flying colours.
The story centres around a girl named Arielle, and her cat Bast. Bast is trying to catch a strange bug, but unleashes a terrifying demon that takes away his owner. As you do. While the story itself isn’t engaging, or even relevant to your own interests as you’re playing, its presence can still be felt in the background if nothing else. The real star of the show is the gameplay, and the variety of styles it demonstrates. Early on you play as Bast, and it couldn’t be simpler platforming. Jump, dodge, time the jump, and head for the goal. As you beat the stages, you start to see more and more obstacles come in, but the biggest game changer is when the physics start shifting, super Mario style. You’ll be on a track as it were, as you quickly try to time your jumps as each jump swaps you from being on the ceiling, to being on the floor. Timing will be critical, and Bast’s lightning fast response and reflexes really help in these situations. There are spikes. Lots, and lots of spikes.
Eventually you’ll also play as Arielle. Her style is significantly different. She uses a similar style to when gravity shifts for Bast, but her moves are floaty, and she moves a bit like a controllable cloud. The Arielle sections prove far more challenging, as you often have to solve mini head puzzles about when to jump, and when to trust yourself to float across naturally. Its delightfully quirky gameplay for both characters, and it keeps you engaged for the relatively short time t will take to beat the game. I conservatively estimate that a skilled platformer will be able to beat the stages in just under an hour. For such a modest price however, it seems fair. Most of us will need at least an hour, as the difficulty does ram very competently.
All of this gameplay is enjoyed with wonderful artwork, and a shading style of shadow animation that lends to the whimsical sense the game is trying to convey. The backdrops are delightful, and when you die (which will happen hundreds of times) rather than a cheap death animation, or something horrific, you simply dissolve into a wisp of smoke, and immediately try again. The sense of darkness to the game is overshadowed by its array of different colour schemes, and themes. There are numerous coloured backgrounds to play on, and each of them adds a new feel to the stage. Colour is important to a gamer, and this game not only understands that, but demonstrates how well it understands that.
Another strong point has to go towards its music. While a bit repetitive, it’s not in poor taste. Clearly a simple score is what the developers had in mind, but when dealing with a stage that could kill you a thousand times, it can be nice to have such peaceful chimes spurring you on. Of course the music varies from stage to stage, but there is always an underlying theme to the composition’s structure.
And that’s about it. There really isn’t much to delve into with this one. Some stages can feel a bit samey, and occasionally you’ll follow up a really hard one with a really easy one by comparison, but you’ll definitely have fun. If you liked Limbo, or you like platformers in general, I think this is an easy recommendation. It’s big fun for a small price. Well worth your time.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.