I’ve restarted Limbo about three times now. Each time I sit down to play it, I get about 15 or 20 minutes into it, and then stop. It’s not because it’s too spooky (though it is, plenty!) but somehow I just always seem to have other pressing matters to attend to, and don’t get much further than the first appearance of the spider. This time, though, I stuck with it, and in the space of a few hours spread over the afternoon of January 1st, I ran through the game in its entirety. I think I get what some of the hubbub about this game was all about…kind of.
Let’s talk about that damn spider! Even though it was kind of my major milestone I kept playing up to, its first, sudden appearance freaked me out each and every single time! It still does. The sudden way each of the giant, cruelly pointed legs unfurl out of the shadow, disgorging in a drowsy sort of way, as if it’s been squeezed in tight for a long time and now gets to violently snap out of its hibernation and strike with mind-numbing speed, intent on skewering its prey, is easily the defining moment of the game. It sets the stage for the remainder of the adventure, during which the spider makes a few more unwelcome appearances, never failing to lose its menace. As far as I’m concerned, Limbo could easily have been called That Game About the Boy and the Spider.
Of course, Limbo‘s distinctive visual style – all silhouettes, all the time – is much more well-known than this one antagonist, and rightfully so. The black palette really gets me in a “lost in deep, dark woods” kind of mood, where anything is possible and everything you wouldn’t want to meet is likely lurking just around the next corner. More than that, the limited visibility only serves to highlight the backgrounds, and with the lack of contrast, you’re really forced to squint at your black surroundings, trying to make out the slightest movement of black on black, often your only warning of another impending danger. Perhaps this game should have just been called That Dark Game About the Boy and the Spider.
I won’t pretend I really understood the ramifications of Limbo‘s ending. For that matter, I had to look online to even find out anything about the plot’s setup, period. That didn’t bother me though. I’m not generally geared to digging into metaphorical contexts and catching minute satirical underpinnings (if there are any here). But Limbo doesn’t really need all that; whether I really “got” the ending or not, the game is what it is, and that’s a unique platformer worth experiencing at least once.