Hands-on: Limbo

Very few games manage to instill a pure kind of terror such as Limbo, an aptly-titled puzzle-platformer in development for the past four years. Winner of multiple IGF awards, Limbo is a beautiful and haunting journey, one that must be experienced to be understood -- and thankfully, you'll be able to experience it on Xbox Live Arcade this summer. Like Braid and Shadow Complex before it, Limbo is likely to become the headlining downloadable game of the year.

To describe Limbo in great detail would be a huge disservice to gamers. What makes Limbo so mesmerizing is its mysterious quality: the game simply begins, and continues. The abstract narrative is told simply through the journey; don't expect long Jonathan Blow-esque prose throughout. Presented in black and white and silence, Limbo's simplistic style carries a foreboding atmosphere unlike any other game. It's gorgeous, with detailed animations giving life to every object in the world. Were it not for its interactivity, one might be hard pressed not to think it's a painting.

Limbo offers players little direction, nor does it need to. A GUI would ruin the simple beauty of developer Playdead's project. The controls will be immediately familiar to most gamers: A to jump and X to grab. It may seem a bit too simplistic, but Limbo offers some rather unique puzzles that take advantage of the environment in unusual and unexpected ways. Timing and precision is a necessity -- as is repetition, with death an unavoidable part of the gameplay. Traps, enemies, and pitfalls will make this a perilous journey, and the graphic depictions of death will keep you uncomfortable and on edge for hours.

It was hard to resist the urge to continue playing through the entire adventure. While I found myself stuck at a few devilish puzzles, I never found myself too frustrated to go on. Limbo is a gorgeous game that explores emotions so rarely found in games: not just terror, but a distinct sense of helplessness and longing.%Gallery-88180%

This article was originally published on Joystiq.