With its morose and foreboding atmosphere, Limbo immediately seizes your attention and only tightens its grip throughout its short but impactful adventure. An indie darling originally released in 2010, Limbo now makes its way onto Nintendo Switch with an expectedly stellar port. If you have played Limbo before, this is yet another wonderful version that you can take part in. If you have not played Limbo, well, you really, really should.
The best part of this game is the atmosphere, and what a fantastic atmosphere it is. The game begins with your character, a young boy, waking up deep in a forest. You are given no indication towards who you are, where you are, and why you are there. Do not expect any quick answers or even hints for these questions. All there is for you to do is start your quest, whatever it may be. The ensuing adventure through dark forests, unwelcoming lakes, and a lonely industrial zone will grip you from the beginning all the way to, and possibly well after, its stunning conclusion.
The graphics and sound design play a large part in establishing Limbo‘s eerie tone. Visuals are black and white, and there is a static-filled, blurry lens that puts the background barely out of focus. Characters are almost exclusively silhouettes. The sound design, meanwhile, calls on various eerie noises–creaking metal, muffled footsteps, or the occasional animal cry–to constantly break the game’s near-silence. The audio-visual combination accentuates what is already an impeccable atmosphere.
While Limbo is first and foremost about atmosphere, its puzzles rescue it from the empty gameplay that many see as a pitfall in other atmosphere-intensive indies. The puzzles actually serve to enhance your immersion by forcing you to confront and interact with the environment’s many dangerous, seedy, and terrifying aspects that you otherwise would have walked past. Limbo is not just pushing the control stick right for two hours. Puzzles force you to think and act meticulously, to process every little detail surrounding you. The solution to crossing a wide gap might be a box almost perfectly hidden in the black and white background, or that small but definitive edge you see poking out of the ground could be a deadly bear trap begging you to misstep.
Puzzles are meant to be solved through a trial-and-error approach. You sometimes will not notice those sharp, jagged edges until it is too late. Some puzzles can hardly be called puzzles; rather, they are well-hidden traps that you will have to memorize and learn to circumvent. When you do fail, you are subjected to a gruesome death animation (involving dismemberment, clouds of blood, decapitation, you name it) that is sure to make you wince, but it also illustrates just how dangerous this incredibly creepy place can be.
Luckily, death is meant to be a learning tool, not a massive setback. Checkpoints are very frequent through the short and sweet adventure. When you die (which you will, a lot), you figure out what you did wrong, search for clues, and try again until you succeed. Most puzzles have fair solutions, but there is the occasional situation where you have to wonder how a player was supposed to figure it out on their own.
After a few hours of puzzles, disturbing imagery, and horror, Limbo reaches its end. Although short, the length is perfect for this game. Too much of a great thing may have caused Limbo to overstay its welcome, but that is far from the case here. Limbo is a fantastic experience, a top-of-the-line gold standard for indies. It boasts one of the strongest atmospheres in any game, ever. The Switch port does the game justice, especially since you can choose to play huddled close in handheld mode or in a dark room in front of your TV. Both work very well for Limbo.
The game’s powerful double-team of uniqueness and wonderful execution means one thing: Limbo demands to be played. It is more than worth your time.
Reviews Editor at Nintendo Enthusiast. I am a major fan of all consoles and eras. Follow me on Twitter @habitablestorm3 to watch me tweet about the many old games I love to spend time with.