Game Backlog Update #8
Here are some quickfire platform games that I can now cross off my neverending list.
I think it’s safe to say that, despite all of its critical praise, nobody actually enjoyed Limbo. Don’t get me wrong, it is a brilliant platformer. The controls are precise and the puzzles are challenging, but it’s all so bloody grim. There’s simply no respite from it.
You take control of a young boy looking for his sister in a strange shadowy world. Along the way you’ll encounter giant spiders, strange tribal children and puzzles. Lots and lots of puzzles. Some straightforward, some not, but all challenging.
The most impressive thing about Limbo is its commitment to a theme. It maintains its monochrome appearance throughout, but there’s a dark beauty in the haunting visuals. The whole game drips with a foreboding atmosphere, perhaps unsurprising for a game that seems to enjoy killing off its child protagonist in a number of horrific ways. Death can come from anywhere at any time.
The only negative I can think of is that, due to the nature of the dark visuals, it’s sometimes difficult to spot hazards. This doesn’t detract too much from the game though as there’s no real penalty for dying, unless you consider staring in horror at a child’s corpse after a sudden, grisly death a penalty.
Did I mention that it’s bloody grim?
Limbo is not a game that you can enjoy, but it’s an experience that you shouldn’t miss.
After surviving the harrowing experience of Limbo, I turned to The Cave to lighten the mood.
The idea behind The Cave is simple but brilliant. A sprawling, sentient cavern provides witty narration as you guide three characters through its environmental puzzles. There are seven characters in all, each with their own darkly comic backstory and unique level. The characters range from a clumsy knight to a vengeful monk, and they all have unique abilities that you’ll need to use to solve the many puzzles.
Having so many characters to choose from and limiting how many you can take is an inventive way of promoting multiple playthroughs. This does mean, however, that you’ll be repeating a number of levels which can get tedious, but the character-specific levels are worth it.
Controlling three people at once does create a couple of issues. Firstly, the framerate inexplicably stutters when switching between them. Secondly, moving three characters around the same hollow means that you’ll spend a lot of time backtracking. Fortunately, the platform elements are simple enough that traversing the cave is easy, and there are no penalties for dying.
The puzzles are fairly straightforward once you understand the logic of the game. Each character can hold only one item and puzzles are usually solved by using those items on certain parts of the environment. Each puzzle is brilliantly tied-in with each character’s story.
The Cave boasts excellent writing, a hilariously cynical narrator and amusingly dark stories. It’s a charming little game that will appeal to those with a wry sense of humour.
Plus it looks bloody lovely too.
Despite the striking presentation and a clever colour-based mechanic, Outland is an unfortunately generic platformer.
Mechanically it’s fine. The controls, the puzzles and the combat are serviceable and are what you would expect from a platform game. It’s designed in the Metroidvania style where you gradually acquire new skills that enable you to open up different areas.
The way that puzzles are implemented is perhaps the only remarkable aspect of Outland. You eventually gain the ability to alternate your character’s colour between blue and red. Hazards that match your colour won’t harm you, but some enemies require you to be the opposite colour in order to attack them. It’s a well-implemented mechanic that adds a layer of skill to the gameplay, more so when you encounter multiple hazards and enemies of different colours at once.
It’s unfortunate that the only gripe I have with Outland is one that negatively effects everything. It’s built around a really dull story that did nothing to entice me to continue playing. I felt like I was just going through the motions and at no point did I feel particularly compelled to experience more of the story.
There’s a baseline quality to Outland that makes it worth playing if you’re a fan of the genre. It looks pleasant enough and the gameplay is sound but I need a more engaging story in order to keep me interested.
So that’s another three games down. I’m getting there!