LIMBO
by Gabriel Francis

As long term fans of everything Indie and obscure in the gaming world, it is no surprise that this game should join the Indie Weekly family. From those first few moments, LIMBO glares at you with two eerie eyes and begs you to mosey on into its darkly beautiful world. After a brief pause to gawk at the eerie calm of the Start screen, we tap the button and are greeted with two beaming eyes to guide us. You awake in a dark forest, much like a certain poet many centuries ago, and there is no indication as to how you got there or what you are meant to be doing. A true metaphor for every morning in a gamer’s life if you ask me. All around you, the screen is comprised of black and white tones, with a film grain effect and some subtle yet hypnotic ambient music to give us a feel of what’s to come.

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The masters at Playdead have given us a side-scroller to hit home and to provide us with something both familiar and reminiscent of the golden age of gaming. With a playstyle referred to as ‘Trial and Death’, LIMBO breaks the boundary between normality and the indie obscura. There are no words spoken, no weapons or abilities to aid you on your path to anywhere. There are, however, plenty of perilous traps and puzzles scattered about the game world, just waiting for the unsuspecting player to make a mistake. A lack of focus is often rewarded with a death, both shocking and of a most gruesome nature for our protagonist. These little lessons help to steer players away from conventional thinking, which is necessary if some of the game’s more difficult puzzles are to be solved.

The world of LIMBO is presented beautifully in tones of black and white, with crisp lighting and a film grain effect to bring a little taste of the Horror genre into the mix. It is dark, and is praised for just that as opposed to most other works of the genre. With its gritty nature and subtle film noir effect, LIMBO is one of the many examples of the ‘Video Games as An Art Form’ movement that is currently drifting through the medium. There are a great many things that, when coupled with the game’s infinite brilliance, really make a person smile. A clap of thunder followed by some rain, or drifting across a body of water in a little boat, in complete silence I might add, are only a few examples of the immersion offered by Playdead and their masterpiece. These moments, caught in an art style so magical is reason enough to appreciate this work of art.

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With its eerily crafted aesthetics and a simple plot equally as enigmatic as the characters occupying the world, there is little that can bring down the name of LIMBO within the gaming community. As a winner of several awards from multiple industry groups after its release, it was named as one of the top games for 2010. Heralded as a true work of art for most gamers and a more than memorable experience for others, it has been classed amongst the greats of the genre. Perhaps this calls for another play-through of this Indie wunderkind. Though the end may seem too near and rather unnerving for certain players, it is undoubtedly the journey that is that much more important.

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BattleBlock Theater
by Logan De Mink

There are very few games in the world that contain all the aspects necessary for 100% enjoyment and fulfillment. In other words it’s becoming harder and harder to find real value for money. And then, along comes this gem (excuse the pun) of a game to torture your soul with boisterous laughter, beautiful music and sometimes mind-boggling puzzles. Oh and death – lots and lots of death. From suicide to impalement, being gorged upon by what can only be described as a racoon/rabbit/dog type thing, to being beat up by cats wearing aviators and earpieces. BattleBlock Theater has it all.

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To add the cream on top of the oven fresh chocolate-mousse brownie – the gameplay is superb. It is responsive, smooth and can in no way be blamed for your multitude of deaths. The control scheme is simple enough with A to jump, the Left-Stick to move and X+B for various attacks – simple, yet effective. Not too much, and not too little, making it a veritable ode to gaming as a whole. Teamwork is encouraged and ensures the game is marginally easier (unless of course you are feeling brave and decide Insane Mode is for you). The mostly customisable avatars make for cute but unfortunate protagonists, while also affording one the ability to finally become the unique and wonderful snowflake that you have so craved to be all your life.

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While the looks of this game do not, cannot and will not compare to your latest graphics card buster – the visuals are so smooth and well done it makes you wish AAA developers and publishers would take a few notes. To rival the smooth graphics and gameplay as the best features of this horridly beautiful death-fest, you are presented with a maniacal sound track and ridiculous narration. While semi-repetitive, the background music is enjoyable enough to remain so – provided the game is played in measured installments, which, as you might have gathered, presents a problem in itself. Where the sound of this game would present its trump card, through its own way it tells a story unlike you have ever dreamed of. Or maybe you have, you mad Hattie person you. A witty, yet horribly dry narrator brings you lopsidedly from point A to point 3, and will leave you cackling for days on end with his little nuggets of wisdom which you may present as your own on your preferred version of social media.

One should expect no less from the people that brought us the mighty Castle Crashers, which will be covered at some point once we’ve secured enough gems. This game is without a doubt one of the most fun, humorous and satisfying games I’ve played in my entire life. The fact that it has two player co-operative play, both local or online, allows for you to share the experience with someone close or someone new. Either way, both of you will be better for this magnificently death-filled experience.

Did I mention that you die? A lot? Well, you do! Okay?

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Bastion
by Gabriel Francis

The Kid wakes up, runs out the door and finds his world to be as colourful and perilous as ever. The world forms beneath his feet as he takes the first steps to restoring the last refuge of his civilization. He is left with the aftermath of the Calamity, a catastrophic event that suddenly fractured the city of Caelondia and many of the surrounding areas of the world into floating pieces. This disrupted the ecology of the area, twisting the dense wilderness into animalistic arenas and reducing most of its people to ash. This is the world of Bastion, and you are The Kid. You push on through your first impressions, and with nearly every step, you find your actions to be narrated by a mysterious stranger. Every encounter and every milestone reached has the narration peak and dive depending on the situation. From “somersaulting like crazy” through a horde of Squirts, ready to sting The Kid to smithereens, to rolling off the edge of the world and suddenly reappearing to fall on flat on his face. The Kid is up to the challenge. Question is, are you?

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The player, along with The Kid, have found themselves in an action RPG with a rather brilliant level structure. As the floor forms beneath your feet, you begin to move through spectacular floating, fantasy-themed environments that form different paths as you near the edge. The locales consist of a single plane, and are viewed from the realms of the isometric view. This has no effect on our hero whatsoever, despite the occasional tumble off a floating island, or an encounter with a Gasman that sends him flying through the air. The Kid always prepares for the worst though, and never forgets to equip two weapons from his trusty Arsenal. Whether it be Cael Hammer and Scrap Musket, or Breaker Bow and War Machete, The Kid knows his way around all weapons, after some practice that is. So we press on through the various levels, educating any would be assailants in the arts of war, on our quest to find any survivors, or the materials for our last Bastion. See what I did there?

In his quest to restore the many features of the oh so important Bastion, The Kid finds himself exploring much of his world, including that which he has known before the Calamity. With all the change it has brought, he is faced with many a beast and burdens unlike we can ever know. From rushing through a forest path to rescue a core piece from a critter, or collecting Black Tonic so that he can unleash some of his secret skills upon the beasties of the land. All these activities form the day to day of The Kid’s life, in his post-Calamity world. Though it is now filled with new dangers and adventure, his surroundings are still incredibly lush and beautiful, and every now and then, The Kid still finds the time to relax and drift off into Who Knows Where for a little backtracking into his past life.

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Another thing that The Kid and the player hold dear in this wilderness of hope and memory is the blissful tunes that run with them on many of the adventures. Understood only as acoustic frontier trip hop, The Kid and his friends of few would be lost without these magical chords to go along with them. All in all the world of our hero and the characters he encounters, both real and ethereal, are a mixture of watercolour artistry and pure adventuring bliss. Throw in some quirky narration, a hero that pushes on regardless of the odds, with his stoic silence and duelling personality, and voila, you’ve got yourself a tale worth telling. The guys and gals at Supergiant Games have most certainly outdone themselves with this one, so who are we to ignore its mastery. Go on, give it a whirl, but just be sure to avoid the edge of the final frontier. See what I did there?

“And he falls to his death. Nah, I’m just kidding with you…”

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