LIMBO Preview: A Profound Silence

BOOM widget 94855 The first project out of independent developer PlayDead, LIMBO is a stylish black-and-white side-scroller that simply must be experienced.

The downloadable game, coming to Xbox 360 sometime this summer, presents a variety of environmental obstacles. To overcome those obstacles, players must carefully explore the surrounding area, avoiding traps and hazards while looking for a solution.

The entirety of the experience revolves around that sense of exploration and experimentation. The bulk of the time a player spends in the game will be spent trying to figure out these these puzzles--pushing, pulling, jumping, and so on. Once you know the solution to the puzzles, that's it--there's no real challenge, as the various attendees of PAX East learned first-hand by watching others play while waiting in line.

Problem is, that makes it extremely difficult to discuss LIMBO without ruining the experience to some degree. And trust me, you want to experience this for yourself.

So instead of discussing the specific puzzles or obstacles I tackled during my two-stage playthrough--after all, simply coming across and having to suddenly respond to any given situation is half of the experience--I'd like to talk about the one aspect that really doesn't come across in the various media released thus far: the audio design.

As with LIMBO's visual design, the audio design takes a minimalist "more is less" approach. There's no sweeping musical score, there's no hip-hop electronica. There's just you, a boy running through the woods, his footsteps pounding on the forest floor.

For the more part, you're encompassed by a profound silence, which producer Mads Wibroe demonstrated on the crowded show floor thanks to a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. So when something did actually happen--a rusty trap snapping shut, a boulder rolling down the hill--I found myself startled by the sudden noise.

And that, in essence, is what LIMBO's all about. You're just a boy wandering through the woods. You have no idea what's going to happen. And it's simply wonderful.