is a puzzle-platform video game, the first title by independent Danish game developer Playdead. The game was released in July 2010 as a platform exclusive title on Xbox... read more
is a puzzle-platform video game, the first title by independent Danish game developer Playdead. The game was released in July 2010 as a platform exclusive title on Xbox Live Arcade, and was later re-released as part of a retail game pack along with Trials HD and 'Splosion Man in April 2011.
Ports of the game to the PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Windows were created by Playdead, released after the year-long Xbox 360 exclusivity period was completed. An OS X version was released in December 2011, while a Linux port was available in May 2012. Ports for PlayStation Vita and iOS were released in June and July 2013, respectively. An Xbox One port was given away for free on November 23, 2014 to customers who purchased an Xbox One on its original launch day.
Limbo is a 2D sidescroller, incorporating the physics system Box2D to govern environmental objects and the player character. The player guides an unnamed boy through dangerous environments and traps as he searches for his sister. The developer built the game's puzzles expecting the player to fail before finding the correct solution. Playdead called the style of play "trial and death", and used gruesome imagery for the boy's deaths to steer the player from unworkable solutions.
The game is presented in black-and-white tones, using lighting, film grain effects and minimal ambient sounds to create an eerie atmosphere often associated with the horror genre. Journalists praised the dark presentation, describing the work as comparable tofilm noir and German Expressionism. Based on its aesthetics, reviewers classified Limbo as an example of video games as art. Limboreceived positive reviews, but its minimal story polarised critics; some critics found the open-ended work to have deeper meaning that tied well with the game's mechanics, while others believed the lack of significant plot and abrupt ending detracted from the game. A common point of criticism from reviewers was that the high cost of the game relative to its short length might deter players from purchasing the title, but some reviews proposed that Limbo had an ideal length. The title was the third-highest selling game on the Xbox Live Arcade service in 2010, generating around $7.5 million in revenue. The title won several awards from industry groups after its release, and was named as one of the top games for 2010 by several publications.
The primary character in Limbo is a nameless boy, who awakens in the middle of a forest on the "edge of hell" (the game's title is taken from the Latin limbus, meaning "edge"). While seeking his missing sister, he encounters only a few human characters, who either attack him, run away, or are dead. At one point during his journey, he encounters a female character, who abruptly vanishes before he can reach her. The forest eventually gives way to a crumbling city environment. On completion of the final puzzle, the boy is thrown through a pane of glass and back into the forest. He walks a short distance until he again encounters a girl, who, upon his approach, stands up, startled. At this point, the game abruptly ends.
The player controls the boy throughout the game. As is typical of most two-dimensional platform games, the boy can run left or right, jump, climb onto short ledges or up and down ladders and ropes, and push or pull objects. Limbo is presented through dark, greyscale graphics and with minimalist ambient sounds, creating an eerie, haunting environment. The dark visuals also hide numerous environmental and physical hazards, such as deadly bear traps on the forest floor, or lethal monsters hiding in the shadows, such as a giant spider. Among the hazards are glowing worms, which attach themselves to the boy's head and force him to travel in only one direction unless bright light comes in contact with it, which changes the direction of the player until it is removed by static NPCs.
The game's second half features mechanical puzzles and traps using machinery, electromagnets, and gravity. Many of these traps are not apparent until triggered, often with deadly consequences. The player is able to restart at the last encountered checkpoint, with no limits placed on how many times this can occur. Some traps can be avoided and used later in the game; one bear trap is used to clamp onto an animal's carcass, hung from the end of a rope, tearing the carcass off the rope and allowing the branch and rope to retract upwards and allow the boy to climb onto a ledge otherwise out of reach. As the player will likely encounter numerous deaths before they solve each puzzle and complete the game, the developers call Limbo a "trial and death" game. Some deaths are animated with images of the boy's dismemberment or beheading, although an optional gore filter blacks out the screen instead of showing these deaths. Game achievements (optional in-game goals) include finding hidden insect eggs and completing the game with five or fewer deaths.
According to Playdead partner Dino Patti and lead designer Jeppe Carlsen, Playdead's game director, Arnt Jensen, conceived Limbo around 2004. At that time, as a concept artist at IO Interactive, Jensen became dissatisfied with the increasingly corporate nature of the company. He had sketched a "mood image" of a "secret place" to get ideas, and the result, similar to the backgrounds of the final game, inspired Jensen to expand on it. Jensen initially tried on his own to program the game in Visual Basic around 2004, but found he needed more help and proceeded to create an art style trailer by 2006. He had only intended to use the trailer as a means to recruit a programmer to help him, but the video attracted substantial interest in the project from across the Internet, eventually leading him to meet with Patti, who was also dissatisfied with his job. Their collaboration led to the founding of Playdead. Although Patti helped in the first few months with programming, he realised that the project was much larger than the two of them could handle, and Patti developed the business around the game's expanded development.
Initial development was funded personally by Jensen and Patti along with Danish government grants, including funding from the Nordic Game Program, while large investors were sought later in the development cycle. Jensen and Patti did not want to commit to major publishers, preferring to retain full creative control in developing the title. Jensen originally planned to release Limbo as a free Microsoft Windows title, but by this point, Jensen and Patti decided to make the game a retail title.
Playdead chose to ignore outside advice from investors and critics during development, such as to add multiplayer play and adjustable difficulty levels, and to extend the game's length. According to Patti, Playdead felt these changes would break the integrity of Jensen's original vision. Numerous iterations of the game took place during a two-and-a-half year development cycle, including changes Jensen had demanded to polish the title, some elements being added two months prior to the game's release. Patti stated that they "trashed 70%" of the content they had developed, due to it not fitting in well with the context of the game. The core development team size was about 8 developers, expanding to 16 at various stages with freelancers. Playdead developed the design tools for Limbo in Visual Studio; Patti commented they would likely seek third-party applications for their next project given the challenges in creating their own technology. Patti later revealed they had opted to use the Unity engine for their next project, citing the development of their custom engine for Limbo as a "double product, doing both engine and game", and that their Limbo engine is limited to monochromatic visuals.
Limbo was released on 21 July 2010 on the Xbox Live Arcade service, as the first title in the yearly "Summer of Arcade" promotion. Although the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) had listed entries for Limbo for the PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Windows platforms, Playdead confirmed that this was a mistake on ESRB's part, and that they had no plans for the game on these systems. Patti later clarified that they had planned on Windows and PlayStation 3 versions alongside the Xbox 360 version initially, but after reviewing their options, decided to go with Xbox 360 exclusivity, in part that "Microsoft provided us with an excellent opportunity, which included a lot of support for the title which in the end would mean a better visibility for Limbo". According to producer Mads Wibroe, part of their decision not to release for the Windows platform was to avoid issues with software piracy, something they could control on the Xbox 360. Patti stated that staying exclusive with the Xbox platform was an assurance that they would be able to recoup their investment in the game's development. Sony Computer Entertainment executive Pete Smith stated later that while they had tried to vie with Microsoft for exclusivity for Limbo, but Playdead refused to relinquish its intellectual property to Sony as part of the deal. Patti affirmed that Limbo would not be released for another console, but that their next game, already in development as of October 2010, may see wider release.
However, in June 2011, users found that a trailer for Limbo appeared on the Steam software service, which journalists such as PC Gamer took as a preliminary sign that a Microsoft Windows version would be released. Similarly, a possible PlayStation 3 version was projected based on the title appearing on the Korea Media Rating Board in June 2011. On 30 June 2011, Playdead announced that their ports of the game to the PlayStation 3 via the PlayStation Network, and to Microsoft Windows via Steam, later set for 19 July and 2 August 2011, respectively. Patti clarified that their change of mind from their earlier Xbox 360-exclusive approach was because "we want as many people to play our games as possible". The release was set for nearly a year after the original availability of the Xbox 360 version, after the expiration of the Xbox 360 exclusivity rights for the game. Both the PlayStation 3 and Windows version of the game have additional secret content, according to Patti; it is unknown if this content will be added in a patch to the Xbox 360 version. Playdead has since published a Mac OS X version of the game through the Mac App Store in December 2011, fulfilling their promise to release the title before the end of 2011; though they had wanted to also release the Mac Steam version by then, this version was ultimately delayed to mid January 2012. A Linux version of the game, based on a Wine-encapsulated package prepared by CodeWeavers, premiered in the Humble Indie Bundle V charitable sales event in May 2012. The PlayStation Vita version of the game was developed by Playdead with assistance of the UK studio Double Eleven, and was released in June 2013. The Vita version does not use the handheld's touchpad features; Patti stated that they "didn't feel it would suit Limbo at all" and wanted to provide the "original experience" of the game to Vita players. The Vita version has Cross-play support with the PlayStation 3 version, allowing the user to buy the game once to play on either platform. The iOS version of the game was announced shortly before its release in July 2013, and was designed to optimize the game for use on the touchscreen devices.
In April 2011, an Xbox 360 retail distribution of Limbo alongside other indie games Trials HD and 'Splosion Man was released. Playdead began selling a "Special Edition" physical copy of Limbo for Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X, which included art cards, the game's soundtrack, and anaglyph stereoscopic glasses that work with a special version of the game to simulate three dimensions.
This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Limbo, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.