Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Limbo: it's art





Recently, I was fortunate enough to experience an extraordinarily artistic video game at Bernard Sell's house.

It was not exceptional because it was an action-packed first-person-shooter with high res graphics.  On the contrary, it was exquisite because it was none of those things.  It is a 2D sidescroller (a feature that brought back joyous memories of Sierra games) and it is entirely in monochrome black and white.  There is very little action in the traditional video game sense.

It's name is Limbo.  It is the first video game that I can say without hesitation is truly art.

The plot behind the game is centered on a boy who awakens to find himself on "the edge of hell."  He sets out to find his sister and faces many trials and tribulations in doing so.  Difficult as it may be for our protagonist, the imagery is stunning.

What you see is a combination of German expressionism, a style featured in art and films such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, the minimalist work of Lotte Reiniger, Fritz Lang's Metropolis and M (both of which are exquisite and get my highest possible recommendation), and much of the work of director Ingmar Bergman.  These works eventually led to the rise of film noir in Hollywood.  We see attributes of that style in Limbo as well with shafts of light, harsh shadows, and chiaroscuro.  Don't ask me for examples of film noir as there are literally hundreds.

So how about other more contemporary examples?  Well for starters, you can see a lot of Tim Burton in this game, especially in regard to the Edward Scissorhands-like character designs and a few of the landscapes.  Edward Gorey can't be far behind as an influence either with the horror aspects of the artwork.

Yes, Limbo is amazing to look at and I wouldn't mind watching it unfold as a film.  However, it is also fun to play.  Fun for a thinking person, anyway.  The player must reason through problems and conundrums in order to advance (scroll) to the next scene.  Admittedly, much of my reasoning was carried out in the form of "Hey, Bernard?  How do you do this?"

I'm not sure just how lucrative the game has been for its producers.  I am hoping they've done well because this is the type of game I would like to see a lot more of.  If I can get all of the rest of the things on my docket cleared away...and I am not hopeful of that at this point...I look forward to many more games of Limbo.



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