Back in the spring, Roger Ebert created a mild stir by insisting that Videogames Will Never Be Art. I personally think he’s not really qualified to make that judgment. But I did play a game recently that, while I have a hard time recommending it for other reasons, could probably make a fair case for proving Ebert wrong.
LIMBO from X-Box Live Arcade is as close as anything I’ve ever seen to a video game that could be considered fine art.
Also, let me be perfectly frank: This game scared the holy crap out of me.
It is probably the most visually-stunning, atmospheric, and morally-complex game I’ve ever played.
It may also be the most disturbing video game I’ve ever played. (Although, to be fair, I tend to steer clear of truly dystopian stuff and I still haven’t played Bioshock.)
I will admit I have a higher-than-average startle reflex. Did I jump way back in the 90s, when the T-Rex jumped out and ate Lara Croft in the original Tomb Raider, just after you were convinced she’d survived the velociraptors?
Yes, I did.
But even seeing poor Lara become a dino-treat did not prepare me for the constant dramatic tension of LIMBO, a deceptively simple little platformer available for download on XBox Live Arcade.
The controls are ridiculously simple. Remember Mario, waaaaaaayyyyy back on the old NES? It was all timing, with four basic directions, one jump button and one action button. This is no more difficult than that (and no less so.)
Except when you fail to time things right, the little silhouetted kid gets it. Gruesomely. In black and white.
As a mom, I found this game to be extremely disturbing. I’ve played or watched more violent games by far, but a few of the stark, black-against-grey images in this game made me nearly nauseous. I’ve watched survival horror games with far more realistic graphics, and incredibly well-done soundtracks, but none of them created the same dramatic tension as this simple game with only ambient sounds as an aural backdrop.
If you want a more detailed review, I found this one to be pretty thorough: LIMBO Review.
The game is rated T for teens, and it’s definitely a rating it earned.