I can’t believe that eight years after its release, Limbo still holds up as well as it does. Ported to the Nintendo Switch alongside its Playdead stablemate Inside, the game makes the system its home with ease. Given its straightforward mechanics and stripped back, atmospheric presentation, this does not come as a surprise.
Limbo originally released on the Xbox 360 back in 2010, part of what was then called Xbox Live Arcade, a digital storefront for downloadable and independent games on the platform. Limbo made an impression because it did a lot with very little. There is little sound or music, and there is little movement on the screen beyond the little boy you control and the objects he interacts with. Its the absence of things common to the video game experience that really set Limbo apart then, and still today. From all this, a pervasive, smothering sense of dread emerges.
The game follows a small boy who wakes up in the woods. Who this boy is and how he got there are not important. The world around him is a grainy black, white and grey reminiscent of Japanese shadow puppetry. The boy himself is permanently cast in shadow, but for a pair of white eyes. The only thing he can do initially is move, and so move he does, pressing ever onward through a world full of giant spiders and murderous traps designed to kill him instantly.
Limbo takes its time introducing its basic puzzle solving concepts but, once introduced, it starts finding as many ways to play with these concepts as it can. It’s not a long game and you can likely knock it over in an afternoon of solid play, but what it does with those few hours is as creative as it is deeply unsettling.
Given its age, its not a surprise that Limbo runs smoothly on the Switch. The controls remain as carefully crafted as ever, the game’s look is still as moody as it was on release and its still a great example of how effective simple, clear design can be. The added portability factor means that if the game’s sense of creeping dread is a bit much for you, you can put it down and pick it back up any time you like. If you haven’t played Limbo before and you own a Switch, there’s no reason not to be playing it here.
Score: 9.0 out of 10
Highlights: Creepy; Creative; Contained
Lowlights: Black and white palette can impact readability at times making some puzzles unclear
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Review conducted on Nintendo Switch using a retail code provided by the publisher.