A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Limbo is a very difficult downloadable puzzle platformer for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and Windows PCs. The game has mature themes and a surprising amount of gore, considering it’s rendered completely in greyscale. Though open to interpretation, the general consensus is that the story explores the notion of purgatory. Players don’t engage in combat, but rather try to keep their hero safe from myriad dangers, including huge arachnids and spiky traps. It’s clearly a game designed for older players, though mature teens may be able to extract meaning from the intense imagery.
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What's it about?
A side-scrolling platformer filled with mind-bending physics puzzles, LIMBO is the story of a boy who wakes up alone in a strange and menacing forest filled with perils including giant spiders, claw traps, and rickety structures. Everything's presented in grayscale silhouettes and has a graininess that recalls old films. The only sounds heard throughout most of the game are the boy’s footsteps, quiet ambient noises, and the occasional startlingly loud drone. It's in turn lonely, scary, beautiful, and arresting. The title suggests the setting is purgatory, though the world’s intense isolation and manifold dangers makes it at times frightening enough to be confused with Hell.
Is it any good?
This brilliant and occasionally scary puzzler manages to bring players in on a mysterious journey across a surprising, and dangerous world. In Limbo, players need to use objects governed by realistic physics to create avenues of progress. You’ll push logs, cause platforms to swing by running from one end to another, and even alter gravity. The conundrums are often bedeviling, but they always make sense.
Even more interesting than the brilliant puzzles, though, is the game’s wordless narrative. Setting, journey, objectives; everything about Limbo is open to interpretation. To discuss its vagaries here would taint the impressions of those who have yet to play, which would be a shame. But you may want to keep these questions in mind as you head in: How did the boy arrive here? What is his purpose? What do his enemies represent? The game’s makers seem to have spent as much time contemplating the meaning of the experience as they have programming it. The result is a game that is thought-provoking, timeless, and evidence that interactive entertainment can be used as a means of smart artistic expression.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about screen time. What's the best way to break up a game that doesn't have clear chapters or intermissions between levels? Should you play until you become stuck on a puzzle and then take a break? Set specific time limits for each session?
Are games a suitable medium for communicating ideas? Does their reliance on rules restrict creative thinking?
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