It seems that once again I find myself the dissenting voice among the choir.
XBLA's 'Summer of Arcade 2010' continued with the release of this long-in-development indie darling. A game whose specifics were kept under wraps for a long time, and one that maintains a veil of secrecy amongst its players. That spoiler-saving attitude is fairly essential for a game that relies heavily on an element of surprise and mystery.
Unfortunately that element of surprise is what kills it for me.
Limbo is built around a mechanic of unavoidable instant death, a series of puzzles and traps to be overcome by trial and error. Checkpoints are scattered liberally - literally before every event, every new encounter in the landscape. Die, learn, overcome, move on, die, learn, repeat.
The stark black and white visuals and minimalist sound design conjure up an imposing, gloomy atmosphere. It reminds me a lot of Knytt - a mostly empty landscape peppered with incident. Most of all it completely nails the feeling of lonely exploration. If only it were a game more attuned to rewarding rather than punishing the player.
For me, Limbo fails as a gaming experience because it constantly pulls you out of its own carefully constructed atmospheric space. That eerie, prickly feeling is totally undermined by the fact that you're restarting checkpoints over and over again. Any good faith built up by the presentation is utterly destroyed by frustration. Frustration at not even being able to forsee most instances of failure. Most importantly this results in a complete lack of satisfaction or feeling of accomplishment on solving any of its puzzles.
It's beautiful but it's simply not fun.