PAX East 2010 Hands-On: Limbo

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A lot of people were talking about Playdead Games' Limbo at PAX East, and one look at a screenshot will tell you why.  It looks like A Boy and His Blob's insane cousin — the one who used to pull the legs off of crickets, and who is the reason that the neighbors started bringing their dogs and cats inside at night.

Limbo is a 2-D sidescrolling puzzle platformer. Limbo is also a creepy journey through a hellish, black-and-white nightmare world in which everything wants to kill you. I joked that a better title would be "A Boy and the Thousand Natural Shocks That Flesh Is Heir To," because in all the time I was either watching or playing the game that kid must have died fifty times, all of them horrible.

Whether caught in a giant bear trap, impaled on the hairy leg of a giant spider monster, or just falling out of a tree, Limbo's tiny hero will die a lot. The deaths, like the rest of the game, occur in silhouette; blood and dismemberment are mostly implied. My imagination filled in the rest, which made Limbo simultaneously unsettling and morbidly fun.

In one section, I encountered a large pit containing an obvious tripwire, with a giant stone block hanging over it. I looked back over my shoulder to the people waiting in line for the demo.

"I know what's going to happen," I told them, "but I want to see it."

Nobody offered any objections, and I jumped into the hole. Death followed almost instantly. It was awesome.

Incidentally, if you want to get past that trip wire, you have to go back the way you came, fish a corpse out of a lake, and shove it into the hole to spring the trap. I didn't solve that puzzle myself; I saw someone do it the next day, and when that happened I went "Of course!" so loudly that I embarrassed myself. And that exact moment is when I decided that I will be buying this game.

Limbo will unleash its sick-ass, terrifying puzzles upon Xbox Live Arcade this summer.

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