What is there to say about LIMBO that hasn’t been said already? Released almost three years ago on XBLA, Playdead’s debut title struck a chord with gamers and critics alike. The story of a young boy’s journey through a treacherous black and white world has been interpreted differently by everyone who has experienced it, and the open-ended nature of the ending is one of gaming’s most enduring mysteries.
Even before the newly ported Vita version was released this week, LIMBO had already been ported to the PS3, PC and Mac. Of course, the Vita is a much more recently developed console, so the late port can be forgiven. The fact that it’s also a Cross-Buy title, meaning for one price, you get the game for your PS3 and your Vita, only makes the deal sweeter, especially since the price is a bit steep at $14.99.
For those who somehow ignored LIMBO for the past three years, here’s a quick rundown: a young boy awakens in an eerie forest, and he begins a journey to find something or someone, encountering dangerous beasts, locals and machinery all intent on killing him. The game is presented in a beautiful monochromatic way, using the boy’s white eyes as a way to keep track of him in the increasingly dark world. Players must solve platforming-oriented puzzles to continue on, puzzles that are infamous for their gruesome nature. Death is a natural occurrence in this game, so if watching a little boy die in every sickening way doesn’t sit right with you, LIMBO might not be up your alley.
My first experience with this game was with the PS3 port, so playing through the Vita version felt extremely familiar. Seeing as there are only two buttons to work for the whole game, it’s not too complicated of a control scheme to figure out: X or Triangle jumps, Square or Circle interacts. The puzzles all have realistic solutions, more in line with traditional platformers than with point-and-click adventures. This doesn’t mean that the game is a walk through the park, however. Many of the trials later in the game will test your mind extensively. Luckily, Playdead has crafted some of the most memorable and unique puzzles I’ve ever seen, and even three years after the fact, I still find almost all of them enjoyable.
Of course, for every time you have your mind totally blown, there is a puzzle here and there that will drive you insane. Even after having beat LIMBO multiple times, I still get frustrated by a handful of these challenges. Fortunately, the good far outweighs the bad, as running from gigantic, murderous spiders, slipping the world on its head and dragging corpses around to use as platforms stuck with me much longer than the more annoying puzzles.
The graphical presentation is still hauntingly gorgeous on the Vita’s tiny screen, if not as overwhelming as it is on a larger scale. The Vita has already proven it can handle impressive visuals, and LIMBO is no different. Flickering effects, background details and foreground obstacles are all rendered beautifully, and the lack of color creates some great moments within the game. Just as celebrated, the audio for the game is just plain awesome. Eerie sound effects, minimal music and no speaking keep everything simple while still conveying a terrifying sense of environment. The artistic aspirations of the game never get in the way of having fun, making LIMBO one of the go-to examples for game as art.
One of the few setbacks from the console version carries over to this handheld port: the short length. LIMBO is a seriously small game, one you could easily beat in 2-3 hours based on your familiarity with the title. With a price as high as $14.99, it’s hard to reconcile that fact. If you can get past that and dig deeper into the replayability, then it’s easy to justify the purchase. Tiny orbs of light hidden throughout the environment are insanely hard to find, but they do add plenty of replay value to an already exceptional game.
For better and for worse, LIMBO is a straightforward port, meaning no frills were added to the Vita version. There’s no messing around with the touchscreens, gyroscope, microphone or anything else. It’s the console version of the game on a smaller screen. If you’re a Vita owner who has never played the game, then stop reading and go download it right now. It’s one of the best games of the past few years and easily one of the best out of the handful of Vita titles released thus far.
If you’ve already played LIMBO, however, then you can pass on the Vita version and still sleep at night. It’s a fun title to have for bus rides and waits between classes, but the short length means it won’t last for too many of those scenarios.
This review is based on the PS Vita version of the game, which we were provided with.
Vita owners who have never experienced LIMBO will get the same amazing game that console and PC gamers got, but those who already own the title won't be missing out on anything new.