John And Kieron Argue About Limbo

By John Walker on August 4th, 2011 at 4:55 pm.

Kieron sneaking up on John.

Having played and reviewed Limbo yesterday, John found himself at the end of Kieron’s (particularly sweary) disagreement gun, and as is always the case the two of them argued about it. An argument that can only be shared with the world. Whose side are you on? FIGHT! (This contains significant spoilers, folks.)

Kieron: I should finish playing Limbo and do my evisceration of it.

John: Do you hate it?

Kieron: Moderately famously so.

John: Oh. Well, you’re wrong, cos it’s great.

Kieron: Rick Dangerous for Goths.

John: Except nothing like that.

Kieron: Total trial and error game with a dark, edgy aesthetic. It’s incredibly mean spirited.

John: Have you read my review?

Kieron: Yes.

John: I’m fairly sure that’s the point.

Kieron: You’re forgiving it. I’m not.

John: I’m not forgiving. I’m recognising that it’s deliberately forcing trial and error to change the atmosphere.

Kieron: It’s a tosser of a designer laughing at you, every step of the way for being a fool. It’s the world’s most dickish DM.

John: It only comes in after you’ve started using dead bodies to walk on, caused people to be hanged to progress, etc.

Kieron: Edgy!

John: You’re aware that’s not an argument?

Kieron: I sort of suspected I’d hate it from the second I jumped off the first log and it kills you for it. “Prick” I think at the designer.

John: I’m not aware of a point where you die in that way.

Kieron: Go to the first log and jump off it. If you fall, you’re fine. If you jump off it, you die, because you fall just too far. It’s a designer who finds that kind of thing funny.

John: This does seem to be your issue rather than the game’s. If a game is deliberately designed to have the design be mocking you, that’s a clever experience. It’s when it’s because it’s poorly thought through or badly made that it’s an issue. You don’t like being laughed at. Tough shit – get over yourself.

Kieron: Clever, but cuntish. And all about the designer. It’s just Rick Dangerous with a different aesthetic. That’s exactly how the game works.

John: No – all about the experience you’re having. The designer isn’t there.

Kieron: The designer is there. They created it.

John: Don’t make me hit you with Barthes.

John: I’m amazed that a game fucking with you bothers you this much. Rick Dangerous was just badly made. Limbo is deliberate, and carefully timed.

Kieron: Firstly, It’s your problem not the game’s,” is a silly argument. Of course it is. It’s like me saying you giving Magna Cum Laude 3% for its outrageous sexism was your problem, not the game’s. Something can be completely accomplished in what it’s trying to do and still be rejected, because the philosophy the object expresses is vile. And you’re deeply underestimating Rick Dangerous – it wasn’t incompetent. It was how the designers thought games should be. They thought that killing you without warning was funny and did so with all the craft they could muster. Which sounds kinda familiar, doesn’t it?

John: I think you’re being a priss. The game one-ups you, and so you’re trying to get it back.

Kieron: For a man who hates April Fools so much, it’s an interesting argument to take.

John: Because there’s no embarrassment or humiliation here. You go, “Oh, you fucker!” And then you adapt.

Kieron: As an aside, I’ll admit that Limbo does its best to sell the joke – that its deaths are so well done tries to transfer death to a moment of joy.

John: Yes. Especially when you see entrails.

Kieron: But even then, I’m left rolling my eyes and thinking “Well done – you have complete control of reality and have managed to make me do something stupid. You must be a fucking genius! I’m so impressed. And with a dark and edgy aesthetic too!”

John: But that’s the point! The whole game is about being controlled, about the mindlessness of going from left to right at any cost, for no purpose.

Kieron: So what?

John: The fact that you’re dragging dead bodies to use as platforms in water before you reach any of the trial and error stuff – it’s a really interesting statement on what we’ll do to go from left to right.

Kieron: Or just gothic nonsense, seemingly powered and inspired by the same emotions which make kids tear legs off spiders.

John: See, it’s too easy to say that. To sneer at the aesthetic because you don’t like it messing with you just looks weak.

Kieron: I’ve written positively about sadistic games. And I’ve written about incredibly hard games.

John: If the game didn’t mess with you this way, of COURSE you’d be praising how lovely the presentation is.

Kieron: I’d probably praise it anyway. But since I hate the game as a whole, I can use it as a symptom of a wider malaise in the developer’s thinking. It’s a coherent statement, sure – but it’s a coherent statement I disagree with absolutely. Thinking this is a good idea is a terrible idea.

John: But you look like you’re desperately clutching. “And… and… you’ve got a stupid hat!” Especially since it’s not flipping gothic. It’s just black and white. There’s nothing gothic about it. It’s noir, if anything.

Kieron: Nah, it’s forming a coherent argument rejecting the whole thing.

John: It’s not coherent to say, “And you’ve got a stupid face!” because someone annoyed you. It’s silly.

Kieron: I may have read more pop gothic-aligned culture stuff than you, but the mixture of gore and death and sadism as comedy is pretty much how it’s done. I mean, you read Johnny the Homicidal Maniac? This files next to that. Thinking about it, I’d do a compare and contrast with VVVVVV. As the “man can withstand anything but unfairness” line I came up in that does leap to mind. That the payoff of the “punchline” in Limbo is having to traipse through a bunch of stuff to try again. It’s a waste of my time, because I’m only having to traipse through it again because the developer has forced me to do me so. And life’s too short.

John: There are only two points in the game where it makes you traipse. Otherwise the checkpointing is perfect.

Kieron: Traipsing even across a screen when it’s not my fault is a “fuck you”. Don’t waste my time.

John: Have you considered that the problem might be that you’re just a big wuss baby?

Kieron: Says the man who doesn’t like hard games. I do.

John: That’s penises you’re thinking of.

Kieron: I do like hard penises. This is also true. I just can’t stand unfairness. It’s a waste of my fucking time. And a developer who thinks wasting anyone’s fucking time for (primarily) his own sadistic amusement? Fuck him.

John: Well, we’re back at the start of the argument again.

Kieron: RICK DANGEROUS FOR GOTHS.

__________________

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267 Comments »

  1. delialli says:

    Surely the sugar in the pill here is that it’s checkpointed pretty heavily and there’s no loading or owt when you die. It’s almost Super Meat Boy, how quickly it resets.

  2. Drake Sigar says:

    “Rick Dangerous for Goths.”

    He says that like it’s a bad thing.

  3. D3xter says:

    I don’t know about you fellas, but I get the feeling that this Kieron guy likes this game a lot.
    I’m going to go buy it right now.

  4. The Innocent says:

    SPOILERY:
    As I said in the other Limbo article, the first two-thirds of the game completely sucked me in. The emotions that I felt while being relentlessly pursued by the spider or during my time in the Village of Awful Children or when making my way through the brainmaggot caves were tangible: I was watched, spied upon, stalked, hunted. I was an unnatural interjection into this world — after all, the spider was just sitting in a tree until I came along and chopped off its legs, and the Awful Children seemed as afraid of me as I was of them (and my arrival heralded the brutal destruction of their home!). The game succeeded in saturating me with the feeling that I was some plaguebearing interloper, simultaneously being oppressed and bringing death. The emotion persisted during the early city exploration bits until I realized that my hunters were gone, and my watchers’ eyes put out. The rest of the game lacked all emotion except the drive to solve a few clockwork puzzles, and then it was over. To me, that’s the real disappointment of Limbo: that it discards the mood it had worked so hard to create, and replaces it with uninteresting puzzle moments.

    • Quistie says:

      Agree with this totally. There are some points that did feel trial and error to me but mostly I was so immersed in the first 2/3rds of the game that it just felt like the enviroment i was interacting with was dangerous. In many cases I did feel that when I died I had missed a clue to surviving that particular problem.

    • Wilson says:

      Same here, the early parts of the game just had way more atmosphere than the later bits. I think it’s a shame and could have been avoided, by hinting at some kind of story in the same way the early bits somewhat hinted at Lord of the Flies style stuff. Nuclear war, lethal disease wiped out humanity, that kind of thing. Not especially inspired, but would have given it more atmosphere in my opinion. As it was, I was just wondering what was interesting about these factories and buildings.

  5. LennyLeonardo says:

    Am I the only one that didn’t think there was that much trial and error in Limbo? There are trials and errors, yes, but not Trial and Error. Am I playing it wrong?

  6. ResonanceCascade says:

    “Well done – you have complete control of reality and have managed to make me do something stupid. You must be a fucking genius! I’m so impressed.”

    Ugh, I really hate having the rug pulled out from under me when I’m playing a game. I haven’t picked this one up yet (paycheck pending) but if it’s constantly just saying “gotcha, sucker!” I’ll be pissed.

  7. Frank says:

    Bah. Based on the demo, I agree with Keiron.

    Also, Another World was pretty unpleasant when I first saw it in the 2000′s. Chahi (right?) can re-release it all he wants, but I’ll never see the fun in it.

    Console side-scrollers (Mario, Ghosts and Ghouls) never interested me, so whatever point the dev is trying to make goes over my head and, besides, is of no interest to me.

  8. nobody says:

    I think there’s a game-design purpose to that one early iconic pressure-plate trial-and-error scenario that I’m not seeing anyone mention. (forgive me if I’ve missed it by skimming the comments).

    The game-designer is not laughing at you, Kieron. Rather, by explicitly presenting you with a segment in which there is no way you will not die the first (and/or second) time you attempt it — and, even more importantly, a segment that makes clear to you that there was no way you were not going to die initially, the game is trying to teach you to accept momentary failure as part of the game.

    Maybe this was a lesson you didn’t need to learn — you already know and like games like VVVVVV where you’re bound to die and die and die again — and by presenting it as such the designer’s intention here has backfired, but for me these early unavoidable deaths are like Miyamoto making it very unlikely you won’t grab that first World 1-1 mushroom (to bring up a well-known example).

    It’s also — and this is going to undercut my argument above a touch — trying to train you to accept death as not necessarily your fault. Don’t feel bad about it! You died! Don’t be afraid to die! I mean, there’s a lever over there. Don’t you want to see what it does? Will you not pull it? If you pull it you might die. But if you don’t pull it you’ll never know what it does. It’s okay. Just pull it. Go ahead and pull it. Oops. I guess you died there. Ok. Maybe you should have taken care of that pressure plate before pulling the lever. Sorry about that. What does[n't] kill you makes you stronger?

  9. mollemannen says:

    it sounds like this isn’t a game for kieron, thats all. i never felt there were any trial and error in the gameplay and i just think you need to be smart and have some common sense to to beat it. kieron might not have any of these abilities ^^

  10. The Sombrero Kid says:

    Kieron’s right that it’s effectively not a game & John’s right that that fact doesn’t stop it from being well crafted.

  11. Vinraith says:

    This conversation neatly summarizes why I miss Kieron so much, we’re of like mind on this sort of thing.

  12. noom says:

    Wayyyyy too many people siding with the Gillen monster on this. Limbo is a beautiful little game. I don’t remember once being frustrated by the death mechanics in it, and quite happily played it (almost) all the way through in one sitting. The puzzles are smart without being too taxing, and the difficulty curve was almost perfect.

  13. nootron says:

    Compare this game to, say, Earthworm Jim. Both have a lot of trial and error elements in them, but EJ was just fun to play. Fun to jump and swing, etc. If you died and had to start 100 paces back, it didn’t bother you as much because there was reward at any rate: an opportunity to perform better by way of better timed jumps and swings.

    Limbo, on the other hand,isn’t fun to play. Its beautiful and original and great “design” in those respects, but it lacks a fundamental enjoyment of movement that any trial/error game must possess to avoid being tedious and “dickish”.

  14. ffifofu says:

    I think this Kieron guy must hate every game.

    He chooses the sniper in TF2 for the first time – bam – a Spy backstabs him.
    It’s sadistic design. (ok, vulnerability is a little bit cruel)
    He then respawn as spy for the first time, a pyro messes his cloack.
    It’s sadistic design. (ok, game balance is a little bit cruel)
    In Fallout 3, he creates the character with 10 strenght, and 10 dexterity, but after 5 hours, 8 charisma was needed to pass a desired speech test…
    It’s sadistic design. (ok, role play is a little bit cruel)
    He waits and waits, and the damned straight block does not come in Tetris.
    It’s sadistic design. (ok, randomness is a little bit cruel)
    His Niko has to deal with an helicopter rather than a boat at the end of GTA IV.
    It’s sadistic design. (ok, uninformed consequences for your decisions are a little bit cruel)

    In Limbo:
    Those 2 crushers with switched rules for the step plates, you could foresee that the “security” design is tricky. You won’t believe it, but I did.
    The spider leg trap is an example of how you probably die because of try and error, but could observe the ambient before adventuring in. You assume that the screen shaking is just eye candy because you think you know how to play games. If you were playing with your real life, you wouldn’t be so reckless. Virtual worlds are not fun for you anymore.

    But I agree, the expectation that we are inhumanly versed in all faculties is ridiculous. There’s a relatively true concept that the word “overthinking” relates. So trial and error is a valid option.
    Backspace, delete, Ctrl+Z and restart/continue form the second greatest power computers gave us. Embrace it instead of searching for dope in your games. That’s why flight pilots don’t go straight from books to aircrafts command.

    You are a journalist that writes for a respected blog. You, over all people, shouldn’t keep bitching about games that demand more concentration and lateral thinking from the player in times where every publisher desires to release the next CoD, Bejeweled, Farmville or WoW.

    Limbo was not that complex. The fragility of rules was it’s greatest contribuition to a gamer repertoire, it wasn’t a flaw. It was also beautifull how it barelly repeated itself for sake of player’s pride on insignificant learnt patterns.

    The bottom line: learning is related to masochism. Do not promote the proximity of the concepts of gaming and dope.

  15. thegooseking says:

    I agree with both Kieron and John, and at the same time neither of them. It was an unfair game, but it was knowingly unfair not to abuse the player, but to open a dialogue with the player on the nature of unfairness. At times it felt like it was not bad through lazy design, but almost deliberately bad to encourage the player to examine their own values on what makes a game good or bad.

    Even the visual aesthetic, while pleasant in itself, is also representative of a natural progression of video game graphics, which have become more and more desaturated over the years. That’s the first clue that Limbo is, at heart, a game about games. The loosely framed narrative is not a failing, but a statement on games’ inability to reconcile the effective amnesia of the player with the in-world role of the avatar (something from which even narrative-heavy games like Dragon Age: Origins suffer).

  16. thesundaybest says:

    And to think I once thought I could write for this site.

    Awesomely entertaining, and I’ve not even played the game. More of this please.

  17. Nogo says:

    Since I played this ages ago on the hunk of plastic next to my TV could someone remind me what sections absolutely require trial and error? Because my recollection is that every puzzle’s solution is telegraphed quite well.

    SPOILERS
    Heck, even the double pressure plate puzzle could be done on the first try if you’re paying attention. The immediately preceding puzzle uses the string trap, so logically the next one would, especially considering how the bottom of the screen hints that this may be the case. The second plate is slimmer and raised up, showing no string, so it can’t be anything but a button.
    END

    Which is fundamentally why I disagree with Kieron. I can’t see the developer laughing at my expense when they spent so much time and effort helping me escape their traps. When I fail it feels more like I let them down by not being diligent enough rather than them mocking my efforts.

  18. Jahkaivah says:

    Only played the demo thus far, and from that I can’t see the Rick Dangerous semblance. While I did get killed by traps, I felt they were traps I could have avoided if I was more cautious.

    (spoiler) For example the the giant rolling boulder in the demo could have been avoided had I paid attention to the smaller rolling pebbles that preceded it and deduced I needed to get out of the way.

    Also I took a look at the first log that Kieron was complaining about, there is quite clearly a slope below it, jumping off (which is to say jumping and holding fowards, you’re fine if you just jump onto the top of the slope) would quite logically result in a significantly greater fall which one could reasonably consider deadly.

    It’s likely that it gets more unfair later on though, I’ll probably get the game some time and give it a shot.

  19. Tom Camfield says:

    That was really cool KG & JW; more debating, less agreeing = funsies :-)

  20. zeroskill says:

    The issue seems to be, with alot of players that dislike Limbo, that they cant take that they die every other step. Thats so sad. Its basically people that play video games that tell them: “Your awesome, you are very skilled and generally an awesome person and not fat”. They want to play games that create the illusion that they are good at video games. Its the same kind of people that hate Team Fortress 2 because they get owned in the face all the time and cant take it, then rage quit.
    Lets just say: Limbo definitely isnt for anybody.

    • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

      Limbo is a game that gives you the illusion of being bad at video games.

    • zeroskill says:

      Lets just put it that way:
      There are many different kind of video gamers. Some are just looking for a game thats telling them how awesome they are. Its exactly those people that wont get their fix with Limbo.

    • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

      But Limbo is an easy game!

    • fenriz says:

      for pity sake i don’t want games to tell me shit, i’m supposed to tell them shit.

      Before 1998 games were honest to god gameplay rich products, they made their games loaded with stuff to do. Now everyone’s fucking Warhol calling his game great with the excuse of “minimalism”.

      Let’s just make a serious game, with serious gameplay, then, only then, comes existentialist artistic junk. The critics give meanings, not the painters.

      I am still waiting for a new Flashback, a platformer with something REAL that i can fricking do, objects to use, devices to modify, hard missions to accomplish, people, and more than that SUBWAYS to take.
      Not fucking jumps into holes i die in

    • zeroskill says:

      Or lets just be honest: “I dont play video games for a challenge, whatever sort it might be, but to rub my little ego.” That exactly what the AAA games industry is catering towards lately.
      Oh and: existentialist artistic junk. Thats just low.

  21. fenriz says:

    “So what?”
    Kieron is so right.

    These game indiemaking freaks think everything’s a masterpiece because it’s art and philosophically deep and existentialist fluff.
    Philosophy, my foot.

    My butt is the best videogame ever because it negates your freedom of interactivity(i.e kiss it), it wounds your ideas and makes you realize life is a crack.

  22. Casimir's Blake says:

    Kieron, don’t ever play King’s Field. It will be too unfair for you. :P All of them. (Personally, I could only make it through them since they’re about as perfect as action RPG games get for me.)

  23. aircool says:

    If a game pisses you off.. You’re not gonna like it, no matter how well presented, how detailed etc… Simple as that.

    For me, a good example is Magicka. Great fun, but because you have to restart a level if you quit in the middle of it, I got pissed off with the game. Whereas Alien3 for the Megadrive was (and still is – try it on one of those emulator things) hard as hell. A lot of aliens were hidden until they dropped from the roof, or jumped out behind you etc … Throw in a time limit to rescue the prisoners on each level and then find the exit, it was a tough challenge; lose all your lives and it was game over – a real game over, no saves, no level skips etc… However, you kept going back as the satisfaction from choosing the most effiecent way through a level, and knowing where all the ambushes were was incredibly rewarding.

  24. Zogtee says:

    “The fact that you’re dragging dead bodies to use as platforms in water before you reach any of the trial and error stuff – it’s a really interesting statement on what we’ll do to go from left to right.”

    ‘Nemesis The Warlock’ on the C64, except he didn’t want to go left to right, he just wanted to go up. Yeah, it’s been done before. ;)

    Not sure about Limbo myself. I felt that it relied far too much on the visuals. Replace those with something more mundane, like ‘Braid’, and few people would be impressed by this. The gameplay itself is nothing special, imo.

    • Kefren says:

      Nemesis The Warlock on C64 – great music, tense action. And the worst ever trial and error mechanism – you didn’t always go up. You had to leave through one of the four sides of the screen. Three killed you, one led you to the next level. You had no way fo knowing which apart from trial and error. Unfair.

  25. lhaymehr says:

    This:
    Kieron: Total trial and error game with a dark, edgy aesthetic. It’s incredibly mean spirited.

  26. Kadayi says:

    I’m not I’ve seen Kieron this angry at a game since MW2…..

  27. Kevin says:

    I do so enjoy Kieron trolling John.

  28. Sander Bos says:

    I was going to argue that Rick Dangerous was only unfair in the initial levels, but fortunately I checked the Internets before I posted that nonsense:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m02kIUVLWoE
    It still was a great game though, in my memory, and I played it for probably 50+ hours. Best use of sound since Impossible Mission on the C64. If you have a great death sound, you want to have a large number of deaths in your game.

  29. Frye2k11 says:

    Some of these comment are hilarious!

    deep, philosophical, artistic, existentialist, edgy,….. yes even “pretentious”.

    *shudder*

    Takes one to know one, right? Talk about pretentious!

  30. Radiant says:

    Rick Dangerous for goths indeed.

    Good shit.

  31. Jimbo says:

    “So what?” and “Don’t waste my time” can be levelled at pretty much any game, or anything, ever made. From my own experience, vague dismissals like this are usually a result of going into a game with an attitude which is unlikely to allow for enjoying the experience. Either because there is actually something else you would rather be doing (and therefore begrudge the game for doing *anything* which prevents you getting through it ASAP, even if there is a point to it), or because your mind is already as good as made up and you’re just looking for problems to justify a pre-determined position.

    I suppose to be able to enjoy a game like this you have to be prepared to freely give your time over to the game, so that you no longer view it as *your* time that’s being wasted. That time doesn’t belong to you anymore, it belongs to the game to waste as it will; that’s part of the deal. If you’re not ok with that deal then you’re not going to be capable of enjoying trial and error gameplay, regardless of whether it’s attempting to serve some higher purpose or not. It doesn’t seem like there is a right or wrong in this argument; it just depends on the attitude of the player and how they view and value their time. Of course, if you value your time too highly then you can make it almost impossible for yourself to really enjoy anything – there’s always *something* better you could be doing with your time.

    • fenriz says:

      ““So what?” and “Don’t waste my time” can be levelled at pretty much any game, or anything, ever made”.

      No. In this case “don’t waste my time” is as if you were reading a book, and 20 pages only read “sorrow and dislexia”… and the book TELLS you to read these words, for 20 pages, out loud.

      This is the time wasted. A videogame has to challenge your intellect, stimulate your mind, has to have you learn something about someone. While this game is just artistic nonsense that the media doesn’t need.

  32. Dawngreeter says:

    Ah. I remember Kieron had something against Shadow of Colossus because it was ‘trial and error’. I can understand that some people don’t like it, but what I can take away from this argument is that Johnny the Homicidal Maniac is either bad or good, depending on whether Kieron likes or hates the person who works at the comic store.

    Also, this whole thing reminds me terribly of the reason a friend of mine won’t play any game against other players, ever. He can’t stand the thought of someone else laughing at him because he lost. That’s some fucked up shit right there.

  33. Hypocee says:

    You’re not meta enough in this case, Kieron. The question is the match between theme and mechanics. Is Rick Dangerous supposed to be about melancholy, mysterious perseverance in the face of supernatural horror? No. He’s supposed to be an exciting superspy who doesn’t blunder into the laser trap. If you want to be generous they twisted it into a satire, if you don’t they wanted to sell some animations so they put a guessing game in front of them. Even if you want to say it’s a satire, it doesn’t effectively address the mechanics. Limbo does.

    If you want to persevere in this position, I presume I will see the following statements from you about inscrutable trial and error games:
    ‘Pathologic: Rick Dangerous for Goths.’
    ‘Shadow of the Colossus: Rick Dangerous for Goths.’
    Also: ‘Good music cannot be made out of unpleasant sounds or words.’

  34. FunkyBadger3 says:

    What’s the critical mass of people agreeing with Keiron on something before he has to write a splenetic rebuttal?

  35. phuzz says:

    They only argue because the makeup sex is so good.

    (I have shamelessly stolen this joke off a mate who used it to hilarious effect while we were watching two of our bosses arguing)

  36. eclipse mattaru says:

    John: But you look like you’re desperately clutching. “And… and… you’ve got a stupid hat!”

    ^ This.

    Can someone confirm this is actually KG and not his 13-year old nephew? Because I don’t remember his writing being this stubbornly bratty.

  37. Zeewolf says:

    It’s not Rick Dangerous. It’s Another World.

    • Zeewolf says:

      Also, the very things Kieron criticises it for are the central elements of … TrackMania. Trial & error & restart.

  38. Lazaruso says:

    I liked the alt-text more than the article.

  39. Jamesworkshop says:

    I don’t care that much about limbo but why did kieron obscure his point with 50% expletive content

    • Abundant_Suede says:

      Why did John make his point by insinuating Kieron was a priss, cunt, a big “wuss baby”, and implying with a pejorative spin that Kieron was a homosexual?

      Neither side exactly distinguished themselves as beacons of detached reason.

  40. JackShandy says:

    If you’re still around, Keiron, I’d really like to hear your opinion on I Wanna be the Guy.

    I remember getting a friend over to play it and encouraging him through the apples, the spikes, the deathtraps, to reach the second screen. He tried and died again and again, getting crushed and spiked and destroyed, until he finally made it to the platform – only to have a giant block fall from the screen to crush him.

    We both laughed ourselves sick.

    Setting up the designer as an absolute asshole who doesn’t want you to win is a totally legitimate design move. It sets the game up as an actual struggle: You VS the world. You have to pry your victories from a world that hates you. It’s a refreshing change to the classic videogame world, which secretly smooths everything out so that you can win.

    There’s nothing wrong with unfairness done right, is what I’m saying.

  41. thebigJ_A says:

    People who like this game are smarter than people who don’t.

    FACT!

    :P

  42. Jackablade says:

    Well now, someone who feels the same way about Limbo that I do. While it’s vindicating to some degree, having the argument laid out in prose does make me wonder whether my arguments (and Kieron’s) are actually sensible. I just could not enjoy this game, and not for want of trying or indeed wanting to.

  43. sexyresults says:

    Siding with John, really surprised this game is drawing any criticism at all (outside of it’s short length).

  44. UncleLou says:

    Leaning, leaning,
    Safe and secure from all alarms;
    Leaning, leaning,
    Leaning on the everlasting arms.

  45. Kamos says:

    I didn’t think this was a trial and error game, but a paranoia game. 99% of the traps laid by the developers were easily avoidable if you were sufficiently pessimistic. While playing, I was always thinking: “that thing is going to fall on me”, “I’m climbing a slope, so something big will come sliding down”, “I have to jump this pit, but there will be something bad on the other side the moment I land”. And so on.

    • 3lbFlax says:

      Yep, this was my take. You quickly learn that Limbo is in the business of taking various platforming tropes and using your familiarity with them against you. So in each new area you think okay, in any other game I’d do this, but here I need to figure out what the twist is going to be and try to pre-empt it.

      It worked for me – a few sudden deaths at the start set up that paranoia for the rest of the game, which eventually defined the game, and I enjoyed it. I’ve set plenty of first-timers down with the opening level and, gamer and non-gamer alike, they’ve all fallen prey to the mantraps etc., and they’ve all adjusted and they’ve all enjoyed it. So I’m happy to recommend it without reservation.

    • Brutal Deluxe says:

      Very much this.

  46. MultiVaC says:

    I agree with John that the game is a pretty great work overall, and that the trial and error deaths were part of its “statement”, but I also agree with Kieron that the trail and error stuff really sort of sucked. And I don’t think it sucked because it bothered me gameplay-wise, but because the oppressive atmosphere the constant dying was supposedly reinforcing would have been so much stronger if the trial and error had been dialed back drastically. It was just impossible to feel any dread when you die so often. I quickly stopped feeling any feelings of sadness over the kid’s death because he simply died all the time, and it just got tiresome instead of painful.

    I remember the at beginning of the game when I first encountered the spider; I had died maybe once at that point, and when I first got killed by the spider I was so horrified by the death sequence that there was no way in FUCK that I was letting that thing touch me again. I spent what seemed like forever inching toward it and running away, trying to solve the puzzle but too paralyzed with dread to fully explore all my options. I finally solved it, with a vow not to let this poor kid ever suffer so painfully again if I could possibly avoid it. But about ten minutes later I had been sucker punched by so many repetitive, unceremonious deaths with literally no way do avoid without knowing beforehand that I was completely desensitized to that part of the game.

    I realize that it’s probably supposed to be an emotional statement of the game that we eventually become numb to the horror of the world it portrays, but it’s a real shame that it plays that card, which is one of it’s strongest points, about 15 minutes into a 3 hour game. It would have packed such a stronger punch if could have spent a large portion of the game under feeling the sort of dread I felt with that spider instead of only about 5 minutes of it. The rest of the game was a brilliant set of sights and sounds and some nice puzzles, so I really did love the game, but it had lost its teeth pretty quickly.

  47. rcolin says:

    Clearly the lesson here is that horribly unfair games have to be constructed juuust right to induce Stockholm Syndrome in a significant portion of the player base. See also the babelfish puzzle and all of “Bureaucracy.”

    On a related note, if only ~63% of people ever got to the end of Portal 2 despite its carefully calibrated learning curve, I wonder what the percentage is for Limbo?

  48. Col says:

    I’m delighted KG got involved with this one, I could not agree more with what he says. I bought this for the Xbawgs last year and remained perplexed by the sheer volume of gushing reviews the game received. I moaned about this in the thread under John’s review but in summary, this is what’s wrong with Limbo:

    (Frequent, unavoidable deaths + Puzzles which, when failed, result in death)

    x

    Long unskippable death animations/Long respawn times

    =

    A fucking tiresome experience that no amount of graphical polish can make up for.

    And I’m sorry, but: “The whole game is about being controlled, about the mindlessness of going from left to right at any cost, for no purpose”, is utter bollocks and essentially excusing bad game design.

  49. fuggles says:

    Graphics are great, the game is mostly entertaining with a bit of dragging in the last 1/3. Worth the money? Probably a steam sale candidate.
    Reviews seem to suggest 5-6 hours in length, but I didn’t get particularly stuck and it took me 3 hours. I confess that I didn’t find all the hidden eggs, but I’m not going to either as it’s not interesting.

  50. Sunjammer says:

    I never once felt stupid when I died in Limbo. Kieron’s angle is bizarre to me.

    There isn’t anywhere near as much trial and error as you’re making it into. It’s a game where everything is dangerous, so your proceed methodically. Once the game has taught you not to jump idiotically off into unknown space, well guess what, you don’t do that anymore, and it stops killing you.

    Maybe I had some sort of singular experience, because I remember some reviews saying it was very hard, but I breezed through it with little resistance. So maybe i’m just AWESOME at Limbo, wtf ever. But it’s nowhere near as retardedly backwards as some of you are making it sound.