John And Kieron Argue About Limbo

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.



  1. Sentient Waffle says:

    My opinion of Limbo is a middle ground between John and Kieron, I don’t think its the masterpiece everyone thinks it is, and I too am annoyed by the forced trial and error. In fact, I think its a boring game.
    However it does have a good atmosphere and the sounds and ambiance are pretty good.

    But as a game, I don’t like it very much. And despite its relatively short length, I haven’t bothered to finish it yet.

    And I’m even danish, so I should blindly love it just to support that little bit of Denmark that reaches the rest of the world like my fellow brethren. But I don’t. (This last bit is a joke on danish people, we are almost required by law to be overly enthusiastic about ANYTHING danish that gets remotely famous in the rest of the world :P)

  2. Hulk Handsome says:

    I’m on the “dislike” side of the line, here are my reasons why (written very poorly while in a dangerously tired state, just warning!)

    At first I loved the art style, but it eventually became stale, especially in the third half (which I’ll get to later) and often it just made stuff hard to see. The sound did little to impress me, too. Really, I found most of the game to have a pretty bland atmosphere. It just didn’t make me feel anything.

    A lot of the puzzles in the first two halves didn’t feel like puzzles. Rather, I just waltz in there and quickly get killed, then waltz back in there and avoid what I now know is coming. Some might as well be QTEs. These moments often prompted a bored sigh from me.

    I think the frequent deaths also contributed to weak impact of the atmosphere.

    The puzzles that didn’t try to instantly kill the player ranged from genuinely clever/fun to tediously simple.

    Some of the moments when the game screws with the player are cute/funny, other times it made me roll my eyes and made me feel, as Keiron said, that it was wasting my time and almost made me go do something more productive, like jerk off.

    The last third or so of the game had very little trial and error and few frequent deaths. Instead, it was just boring. The majority of puzzles involved moving crates and flicking switches. Few did anything original or interesting and most were solved upon first glance, the execution being more difficult due to it being a bit fiddly. I had to really force myself through this section.

    The last third was also very boring environmentally and narratively, which I don’t think is an actual word. It all gave me the impression that they ran out of ideas, the sudden ending further compounding this opinion.

    Quite frankly I would have had a more interesting time playing some of the better flash puzzlers out there on the internet.

    There were some highlights! I loved the spider (and I liked the way sound was used there, instilling a tremendous sense of dread) and some of the killer kids stuff was good.

    Frankly, I think the game is too long at 3-5 hours. Most of it felt like filler to me. In the end I found it to be a pretty hollow, unrewarding experience.

    I love Another World, though! Yes, it has tedious bits and some trial and error, but it has a vastly superior narrative, world, atmosphere, design and manages to stay fresh and interesting right to the end. It did for me, anyway!

  3. DeanLearner says:

    I think there’s more to this. I think something happened to Kieron in the olden days when everything was black and white. That or he’s racist.

  4. Veracity says:

    Disagree and possibly agree with both, which is annoying, since I can’t join in any cheerleading. Exactly one checkpoint was a bit irksome because you could see it coming a mile off, but I died, anyway; still, don’t think it could easily have been improved. But I don’t mind dying to find out how not to in general, and certainly had no problem with it, here. Because there’s no twitch challenges it never does that heinous thing where you don’t know if it’s your solution or your execution that’s off – if it doesn’t work, you did it wrong.

    Artistically, though? Gods, what a grating morass o’wank. Torture porn isn’t the phrase I want, but there is one people use for what this is, just can’t think what. It’s wantonly grotesque, gruesome, death-fixated, generally fairly distasteful and all to no discernible end: a string of Mortal Kombat fatalities that’s art because, what, it’s in black and white? I thought the shock value failed, perhaps partly because everyone knows it’s coming, certainly because the animation is too comical to be be upsetting, but also, as others have said, through inevitable familiarity and the game burning all its better ideas in the first third or so, after which it’s an entirely routine mechanics-driven puzzle platformer. Timed stompy crushers of doom are the platform level designer’s crate. It’s arguably odd to think a three-hour game is too long, but this is – the first third in Flash would’ve probably been more use, but I guess that way the developers wouldn’t be gloating over four whole GBPs of my money now. They’re totally gloaters.

    I did quite like the fact everyone, especially that poor spider, is your hapless victim. Didn’t feel the game really went anywhere with it, but it was the one aspect that squeezed a bit of genuine revulsion out of me.

  5. sinister agent says:

    I have not played Limbo, so I shall choose a winner based on who has the best hat.

  6. Hulk Handsome says:

    Oops! See my post above.

  7. Hulk Handsome says:

    Oops! See my post above.

    • Hulk Handsome says:

      OOPS, how embarrassing. Sorry about all the long, repeated posts. It wont let me edit them, either!

      EDIT: Now it is, because apparently it wants to make me look stupid.

  8. Hulk Handsome says:


  9. orpheusx says:

    Another excellent example of Kieron expressing his grumpiness–too much lager last night, K.?–and trying to pass it off as a critique. “Clever, but cuntish” indeed.

  10. F33bs says:

    Could this possibly be a game for non-platform diehards? I have to say that I loved it and the only reason I played it was because of the presentation, atmosphere and [non] narrative. It started reminding me of H P Lovecraft’s “The Outsider” after about 15 minutes in. I like games like Limbo for their ability to draw me into a world of which I am not an author. This whole debate is like sitting in an English class full of people who haven’t even read the book, judging the experience beforehand through arbitrary interpretations of style and form.

    What happened to just shutting the fuck up and playing the game? Not every review or critique needs to include the words “nihilist,” “existential,” or “mainstream.” If you can’t even enjoy a game for its simplicity, then you probably should play Limbo in the first place.

  11. Navagon says:

    I’m siding with Kieron on this one. Maybe not about the aesthetic, but certainly about the gameplay. The game just reeks of Another World and seems to revel in the fact that it hasn’t learned anything from the more recent platformers, including the output by fellow indies. The game just wants you dead. It’s true.

  12. PetiteGreve says:

    When I saw the very first picture of “Limbo”, in less than 50 millisecond I saw the viruscomix “Indie Games : Bad ‘A Time For Mood’ “.
    => It’s exactly like the Limbo art style and not that far from the description

    (see : link to

    Sadly (or not), it might be the only reason I haven’t considered getting it before tons of reviews and discount offers.

    (then I thought about the “Limbo of the Lost – Epic Ending” video, but that’s kinda off-topic)
    (=> King of Limbo song : link to )

    • SiHy_ says:

      Hmmm. Just looked at that link and it seems kind of bi-polar. The author says they want games to evolve in the future beyond the entirely mainstream AAA titles, then in the indie part says that basically everything but Angry Birds is rubbish. I wouldn’t pay to much attention to people on the internet (yes, including me). Best off finding your own way.

  13. zal says:

    I didn’t even realize it was a satire/comedy thing poking fun at video games till I hopped on here, I thought it was just a game about a ruthlessly singleminded entity, chewing his way through limbo trying to get to something (turns out it was a girl who didn’t seem very happy to see him). I found myself thinking finally, someone came up with a plausible setting for a sidescrolling platformer.

    I guess I was missing out on some meaningful insight into games and stuff, but my way sure was fun!
    Hurray for face value!

  14. jrodman says:

    This game lost me on the first screen. “oh, I died, and it made no sense why. Oh, I died again. Hmm.. zzzz”

    Another World, for all its problems typically made it *possible* to anticipate dangers. Tentacles from underwater seem bad. A roaring beast is to be avoided. Cliffs are bad. etc. It might have been a game of trial and error but typically it was my reaction time that made me fail. It would frustrate me as a modern gamer, but not nearly as much as Limbo. Besides, Another World had a more interesting story to tell.

  15. Neonnicko says:

    Limbo sucked.

  16. SiHy_ says:

    Wow, heated.
    Didn’t see this story back when it was posted. Sounds like Keiron is a bit too heavily involved with games to enjoy this. Like a painter who can’t see the picture through the brush strokes, he can’t see the game behind the developer.
    Every death is a lesson, every area introduces a new thing to avoid. Eventually, if you’ve been paying attention, you can muddle through an area without dying. Ultimately though it’s a puzzle game, with death being the failure.

    • Gira says:

      No, it’s yet another mindless ponderous horsewank designed to get aspirational philistines to part with a few quid. Even ignoring the fact the gameplay in this is nonexistent, the aesthetic is adolescent and puerile at best. So it’s pretty much a failure on every level.

      ~but games as art!!!!~

  17. dellphukof says:

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