Limbo review (Switch): A Calm, Forgotten Nightmare

Review by Dylan Bishop

Ports are a curious thing, as some games seem to hit new consoles a mere year or so after their original release. They never ripen or mature in the minds of their audience, but instead demand attention shortly after they’re left alone. Thankfully, Playdead’s original title, Limbo, does not fall into this category. The dark, puzzling experience has simmered in the back of society’s mind for years. It’s about time it came back to the spotlight—now on the Nintendo Switch.

Limbo tells no outright story, other than the simple line given in promotional materials: “Uncertain of his sister’s fate, a boy enters LIMBO.” Through the power of presumption, the audience can tell that the boy is likely dead, searching for his sister in a haunting region between heaven and hell. It’s here that Limbo begins, unraveling its short tale in the form of a puzzle platformer.

As the boy searches deeper and deeper into this sort of purgatory, each new situation becomes slightly more intricate and complex. Early puzzles involve scooting around shard bear traps to injure a spider, or simply finding a way across a deep puddle. Later ones, however, call for the manipulation of gravity and tricky environmental exploration. These never become too challenging, nor do they overstay their welcome. Each mechanic tends to show up just as the previous one is about to turn boring, then flutters into the darkness before it’s overdone.

Related reading: Playdead’s newest game, Inside, also got a Switch port recently. Check out Jeffers’ review.

Though the puzzle pacing is close to perfection, there could stand to be more of them. Limbo can be finished in four hours or so, depending on how much its environmental brain-teasers trip you up. Truthfully, the puzzles are so entertaining that this feels much quicker. And in this sense, the experience could feel overpriced to some.

Yet Limbo’s beauty lies in the somber balance that these puzzles strike with the grotesque world in which they’re contained. I played Limbo just after its initial PC launch, yet even on the Switch, there were still scenes that caught me off guard. Children hang from cages or float in ponds, presumably lifeless. Dangerous sawblades and electrical plates inhabit many platforming sections. And beyond that, should you fall victim to these (or any) precarious obstacles, the young protagonist dies in murderously terrifying ways.

Despite the fun puzzles and the fact that you play as a child, Limbo is a game about death, loss, and fear. It wears this ambiance on its sleeve unapologetically, leading your innocent hand through monochromatic forests, towns, and factories. Death and its family reside in every corner of its world, and this unwavering atmosphere is part of the charm. It’s a calm nightmare, content to let you sit in your own dread while you uncover what it has to offer.

It may not look like Limbo has much else to offer, but I can’t overstate how refreshingly this absolute unease mixes with its puzzle platforming. It’s an intriguing cocktail that most games today still won’t dare to try, save Playdead’s other title, Inside. For those that remember Limbo in its original glory, there’s not much new here—no new endings, extra collectibles, or anything of the sort. But for everyone else, anyone who’s never played or who’s forgotten why they loved the title in the first place, Limbo’s Switch release is worth it.

Essential


Limbo is developed and published by Playdead. It’s available now for Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One, Xbox 360,  PC, Android, and iOS.

A copy of the game was supplied by the publisher for this review.

Dylan Bishop

Dylan lives in rural USA, and spends his days squealing over cute indie games and stylish anime. Follow him on Twitter: @dyl_byl