Media: Xbox 360 arcade game
Release Date: July 2011
I did not intend on incorporating any horror related games to my 31 Days of Horror list but last night my brother introduced me to Limbo and I was instantly hooked to the spooky, atmospheric and minimalist horror-isque game.
I love gaming and used to consider myself quite the gamer back in college. Unfortunately, I haven’t played many games this past year (aside from Life is Strange) and while horror survival games is my absolute favorite genre there hasn’t been anything recently that I am willing to pay full price for and commit time to.
Last year I made the mistake of downloading the Slender game on my Xbox in honor of Halloween. The game was pretty much an elongated and muddled version of the original and while it was still creepy and scary (mofo popped up everywhere!), the scares were often cheap, predictable and fleeting and the game was a big let down.
But I’ve been craving a really good horror survival game for some time and last night as I was preparing to settle down and watch the newest episode of Scream Queens, I got a cryptic and almost frantic text from my brother as if he’d read my mind “Yo, you need to play this game called Limbo.it’s creepy, beautiful and scary’.
Because I acquired my love of video games from my older bro, I trust his instincts above all others and naturally he did not let me down with this recommendation. I immediately paused Scream Queens, downloaded Limbo (which is currently only $10 on Xbox) and spent the next few hours playing this deliriously creepy, atmospheric and beautiful game.
Limbo is basically Tim Burton meets Where the Wild Things are.The premise is both simple and complex. A young nameless boy wakes up disoriented in a desolate and terrifying forest.
Guided only by an illuminated gaze and clumsy limbs, the characters only objective (so far) is to survive the bleak purgatorial surroundings by solving a series of puzzles and objectives in his way.
Of course these puzzles are not easy, each level presenting it’s own unique challenges. Not only are the puzzles frustratingly hard but there are monsters (some human, many inhuman) that hide in the shadows and threaten his safety and ability to survive (at the moment this creature is a big, fast spider who’s mechanical moments had me sobbing all night) .His path, journey, trajectory forward to what I can only hope is heaven, is cryptic, multi layered and jarring but also very difficult as the character is only a child with limited skills and a prosperity towards dying.
What makes the game terrifying are the quiet moments of silence as the Boy runs and jumps from one location to another encountering shocking images of death in a shadow of a world on the fringe. This alone creates a sense of urgency in the doom that could lay ahead for him. I found myself holding my breathe throughout much of my time playing worried for his plight (and my inability to keep him alive very long) and because his trek appears endless while the puzzles become more demanding and challenging and bleak.
Games in this genre generally do not affect me as much as Limbo has. But my brother was spot on in his description and recommendation. It is a beautiful, simplistic and ‘creepy’ because it touches on themes of isolation, purgatory, loss and atonement which prove to be as adversarial for this character as the monsters do.
I have found myself in the last few hours more afraid of what I do not see rather than what is in front of me. I get a sense that the character is fighting against a world he is now as much a part of as he is against. We do not know how he got there. Or if he will ever truly find freedom from this place. Perhaps his path towards redemption is moot and fruitless but nonetheless one worth partaking in if there is any semblance of hope and solace at the end of his journey.