Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Limbo of the Lost Review

I am no stranger to point and click adventure games.  I played a lot of King’s Quest 5 back in the day, I became a huge fan of The Curse of Monkey Island after getting it from my local library many years later, and in recent years I’ve played the fantastic episodic adventure games from Telltale Games.

Max 4 Prez!

As fun and humorous (intentionally or not) as they are, every adventure game I have ever played has now been put to shame by what is easily the greatest point and click masterpiece ever created: Limbo of the Lost.

Limbo of the Lost is a rare treasure.  It was released back in 2008, but pulled off of shelves due to some sort of copyright claim regarding content within the game.  I imagine we can blame the same copyright Nazis that run Youtube for that unfortunate event.  Because of it, copies of the game are very difficult to find, but should you happen to have the luck and money for it, you will be able to experience one of the best written, best executed, and most original games ever made.

Limbo of the Lost follows Benjamin Briggs, a real person in history, believe it or not.  Briggs was as a famous mariner who disappeared while his boat, the Mary Celeste, was found abandoned.
The game follows Benjamin in his journey through the dark, murky depths of Limbo, essentially a purgatory for lost souls such as himself, all while being guided by you, his “earthly guide.”  It starts out as a simple escape plot through the veritable hell, but as the game goes on, Benjamin finds himself helping many people, solving a murder mystery and learns that he is entangled in a cosmic plot of existential proportions revolving around destiny and fate.  It all comes together in the most unforgettable finale that absolutely has to be seen to be believed.  Anyone who complains about games having crappy endings clearly hasn’t played Limbo of the Lost!

Benjamin makes for an excellent protagonist.  Limbo is filled with grotesque humanoids and hostile monsters, and the entire way you can tell Benjamin copes with the situation by hiding his emotions and using humor as a veil to maintain his sanity, all while retaining his morality.  Throughout the game, Benjamin does only what is necessary to stay alive, like drug a prison guard and put a steel trap on a local in order to distract him long enough to take his equipment.  Benjamin’s ability to act human in the face of such an inhuman world is the fulcrum of Limbo of the Losts’ story dynamic as he goes deeper and deeper into the abyss.
It's not afraid to ask some of the most controversial of questions, like what happens to those meat pies put outside every day?  And why does that giant troll selectively shake your inventory out of your pockets?  There’s a lot to ponder and you come out of the game feeling like your brain has done 100 pull-ups.

The presentation is what really brings Limbo to life (or rather, death).  Limbo of the Lost harkens back to the early days of adventuring by having animated images of characters over pre-made backgrounds, giving it that Resident Evil feeling of nostalgia and allowing for the detailed Disney-quality animations to play at an incredibly smooth 4 frames per second.  The environments themselves match the animation quality, taking inspiration from the likes of games like Thief, Return to Castle Wolfenstein, and Painkiller for the look of drudgery and gloom a place like Limbo is meant to invoke.  Because the game paces itself, you’ll spend a lot of the game walking through these environments to really take in the atmosphere.  It’s as if you’re really there!

The aesthetical design is further backed up by LOTL’s voice acting, with only the best, most versatile actors you can think of.
To my shock, only two actors were needed for the stellar acting chops on display, one of whom was none other than Tim Croucher, best known for his role as the co-designer of Limbo of the Lost.  It makes sense that Croucher would know his own game better than anyone, but I doubt anyone expected the vocal range he has.  From grumbling guardians and screeching zombies to little girls and straight-man Briggs himself, Croucher can do it all.  It’s truly something to behold.

But all of that only cements the story as the masterpiece it is.  It’s the puzzles the game revolves around, and the puzzles presented would make Professor Layton take off his hat in respect.
Each one is the perfect balance of challenging and sensible, not making sense at first glance, but when thinking about it on a deeper level, there could have only been one possible solution.

A great example happens early on when Ben is faced with an elevated wooden floor so weathered and broken he can’t walk across it.  The solution is that you have to place a coffin lid over the floor so that you can walk on the coffin and across it.  At first you think that’s one of the stupidest things you’ve ever heard because the lid should add more weight, but then you remember that Dracula slept in a coffin, Dracula could turn into a bat, bats fly, and therefore, a coffin that holds one flies.  This game requires deeper thinking than your average point and click.

Wait a minute... He stepped off it.

In another ingenious bout of forward thinking, Benjamin comes across a cloak that he cannot carry because he does not have something to carry it in.  That seems strange at first, since by that point he has 26 items in his inventory, but it only further establishes Brigg’s character by showing that he is a very sanitary man when it comes to cloaks (not like the severed finger he carries at the time).  Therefore he must put it in a bag first.

The adventure game trappings of Limbo of the Lost are perfect enough on their own, but an extra layer of depth is added by implementing the gameplay of I Spy.  In order to get the items you need to continue, you first need to find them.  The game starts out putting its items in plain sight, but as it goes on it ramps up the difficulty and hides its items in clever places like in darkness and behind the user interface, once again requiring the player to think outside the box.  This game blends game styles in a way I never thought possible, giving it even further diversity and fun.

"I mean, there's a reason the expression 'needle in a haystack' is used for a hopeless task no one in their right minds would undertake unless they had hours to while away in mindless drudgery. An excellent adventure game has no haystacks. A good adventure game probably gives you a magnet. A bad one makes you look at straw for seven hours. This game is nothing but haystacks, and sometimes the needles are made of straw."- A satisfied player

It’s astounding how well Limbo of the Lost outdoes every leader of every genre all at once.  Phoenix Wright, Monkey Island, Where’s Waldo, and the Elder Scrolls games are put to shame by the game’s writing, puzzles, search gameplay and visual design.  It is by far the greatest game of our generation; the ultimate masterpiece of undiluted gaming perfection!

I give Limbo of the Lost a 10 out of 10!

But it gets better…

There’s going to be a sequel!  Mere words cannot describe my anticipation!

No comments:

Post a Comment