Joystiq Top 10 of 2010: Limbo

Much like its sparsely populated namesake, Limbo is a game defined by what isn't there.

There's no color, no speech, no real prompting to speak of ... heck, the game doesn't even use that many buttons. It asks that you bring something of yourself to the experience, that you supply your own metaphorical color, ensuring that your journey through the bitter, monochrome world will be intensely personal.

In an industry that so often chokes itself with overabundance, Limbo separated itself from the pack by saying little, yet speaking volumes.

Even the game's plot -- a boy looks for his sister on the edge of hell -- is just a pinch of simplicity. The rest is all fragments: a shattered "HOTEL" sign here, a tribe of murderous children there, and all invite you to draw your own conclusion or simply bask in the creepiness of it all.

And there's plenty of creepy to go around. Our diminutive hero learns by dying, whether it's murder at the hands of a massive arachnid or his own misstep into a fatally deep trench. One of the most impressive lessons from Limbo's master class on efficiency: Some of the year's most disturbing imagery was created without blood, guts or explosions. With only the subtlest of hints, it's that rare game that rewards, requires real creativity, and punishes the lack of it by forcing you to watch a little kid get killed. If there's a more brutal game this year, I'm not sure what it is.

If there was a common complaint levied against Limbo, it's that it was too short. But how do you measure the length of an experience you can never shake ... even if there are parts of it you may sometimes want to?

Joystiq is revealing its 10 favorite games of 2010 throughout the week! Stay tuned for more must-play picks, and take heed as each staffer stands atop a soapbox to defend those games that didn't quite make the cut. Someone must have liked Tony Hawk: Shred ... surely?