At Research Through Gaming, we’re huge fans of Limbo. Close the curtains, turn off the lights, or in this case now you can just squint a bit anywhere you like because this month the dark and atmospheric Limbo game was launched on iOS. It’s been a fantastic journey for a game that was first released back in 2010 on XBox Live, having claimed a sackful of awards along the way. Will it now prove more popular than Angry Birds? Well, I’m not sure it’s going to adorn countless kiddy t-shirts – it’s more likely to to keep a few children up at night with its shadowy bear-traps and giant spiders, all waiting to sneak out of nowhere and claim the life of our game character rather bluntly.
Still, the fact that this game has a fan base that continues to grow three years after its initial release shows it has something that 90% of the games market wish it had; an ongoing addictive nature.
What makes Limbo stick out from the crowded game landscape is… well, nearly everything about it. It’s hauntingly vague graphics, it’s mood, it’s puzzles and its soundscape all rely on the beauty of simplicity. And in setting itself out in this way it acquired a unique identity which has seen it become a massive favourite amongst gamers. The never-knowing of what lies ahead, combined with those eerie sounds, leaves the gamer constantly fearful of the fragile nature of the character. One false move and you’re dead – it really is that simple.
Limbo really sticks out as a game to inspire. Especially those, like us in the field of applying games to non-game activities. It offers a real insight into the stripped back and refined elements of what makes a game worth playing, and worth playing over and over again. From the wonderfully blocked-out graphics, to the haunting and obscure backdrops, here we can learn so much about how identity and uniqueness can play such a vital role in immersing the user. Narrative too, needn’t be convoluted. As we see in Limbo, we’re just a lost boy with no rhyme or reason as to why we got here – a game just has to explain the rules clearly and quickly – in Limbo’s instance, solve the puzzle or die trying… then try again. Part of my role at Research Through Gaming is coming up with narratives which effectively and simply support our clients research objectives and as we see from Limbo, sometimes, a back-story isn’t even needed. The game just has to be engaging from the start button. Many games companies and Gamification companies can learn a huge amount from a game like Limbo and as our CEO Betty always says “Games are NOT about bright colours!” – in Limbo we can definitely see great gameplay isn’t about that.