My Thoughts on LIMBO

For those of you who don’t know what LIMBO is it is a popular video game created by Danish programmers. The game is unlike other video games in that it is a montone color scheme which consists of 2D animations in grey, white, and black. The game is basically many puzzles that the gamer must solve, moving on from one checkpoint to the next, until finally arriving at the final puzzle and the ending sequence. LIMBO is available in Xbox 360, PS3, and a PC version.

However, this game has a very dark theme laced throughout the entire game. There is much death shown on the screen. There is a lot of things that could be termed “gross” such as ripping creatures apart in order to use them in a puzzle. There is also very disturbing elements to this game such as the violent deaths the little boy faces each time you fail in a puzzle. Even though it is a flat, monotone color scheme, it does not tone down the ugliness of the deaths the gamer will witness.

For those of you not familiar with the word “limbo,” the dictionary defines it as this:


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noun, plural lim·bos.

1. ( often initial capital letter ) Roman Catholic Theology. a region on the border of hell or heaven, serving as the abode after death of unbaptized infants (limbo of infants) and of the righteous who died before the coming of Christ (limbo of the fathers or limbo of the patriarchs).
2. a place or state of oblivion to which persons or things are regarded as being relegated when cast aside, forgotten, past, or out of date.
3. an intermediate, transitional, or midway state or place.
4. a place or state of imprisonment or confinement.

Background Story of LIMBO: LIMBO is a video game in which the gamer is playing one character: a little nameless boy. He is nothing but a silhouette with glowing eyes. The first screen when the gamer beings the game is the little boy lying flat on his back in a forest setting. From there, the little boy starts his adventure in LIMBO. The back story to the game is that the little boy has lost his sister; and in order to find her, he must enter LIMBO. The creators are vague about the storyline for which I’m certain is because they wanted to maintain the eeriness and darkness of the game as well as leaving the happenings up to interpretation.

My Thoughts on LIMBO:
Characters: Obviously, there are minimal characters, all in nothing but sihouettes. I personally found the little boy endearing since he is so small and thin; however, he is also freakishly strong. I lent my heart to his plight of finding his sister.
Plot: I like the plot. Although this game is very dark and disturbing, I still wanted to play it. The overall creepiness that is felt thoughout the game is something that makes it unique. If you are someone who likes mind-challenging, logical games then you may want to try out LIMBO, especially if these kinds of undertones do not bother you. I like that the creators left the game open for interpretation. A gamer can simply play the game and enjoy playing the puzzles and leave it at that or a gamer can interpret everything in the game as symbolism.
Symbolism, Metaphors, and Undercurrents: There are MANY, MANY, MANY theories out there as to what LIMBO is really all about; and, in my opinion, none of them are wrong. The game is completely open to interpretation by the player. These are just my thoughts, of course, on the different symbols and metaphors and undercurrents that lie in the game.
LIMBO: I think this is a fitting name for what the creators were trying to achieve. I included the definition of the word “limbo” in this blog post because I think that all of the definitions are fitting for the name of this game. In the beginning of the game, there are many characters that appear to be children that are attacking the little boy. You will never see any adults shown in this game and after just the first part of the game, you will not see anymore children either. This fits with the first definition of “limbo” in which the Roman Catholic religion believes that unbaptized children are relegated to limbo before being able to reach heaven or hell. The fact that all of the characters are children and often involves the childrens’ deaths lends this game a creepy, dark level on top of the eeriness of the color scheme. The other meanings are also fitting in that they all relate to limbo being an intermediate place in which you are trying to reach another place. The little boy is trying to get through this strange place with so many obstacles to reach his sister. 
The Back Story to LIMBO: I have a fairly lively imagination, so in my head LIMBO’s beginning is this: The little boy has been given the opportunity to enter the world of LIMBO to find his little sister. He is thrown into the world without any of his memories or his inherent qualities except for persistance and the knowledge that his sister is here and that he must get to her. The boy is not dead but he is removed from his humanly thoughts and cares in this inbetween world.
The Settings: The settings are in three major categories: 1) a rural setting, consisting of the dark forest and tress as well as lots of grass and water/rain, 2) an industrial setting with lots of machinery and switches, and 3) a new-age, space-like setting. All of the different major settings also have some of the other elements in with them as well.
As the little boy travels through LIMBO, he sees his life pass through his eyes. The rural setting represents the little boy’s childhood. A childhood filled with green grass and playing outside, treehouses and playmates. The main conflicts include giant spiders and other children trying to kill the little boy. The giant spiders represent childhood fears: things as simple as spiders. The other children are trying to kill the little boy because they know that he is not dead like the rest of them. They are also ripped of their thoughts and humanness because they have been in LIMBO for so long.
The industrial setting represents adulthood. No longer is there carefree happiness but now the darkness of a mundane job. There is not much sunlight in this setting (not that there’s much anywhere in the game). The main conflicts of this setting is the likelihood of being crushed by many machines representing the conflicts adults deal with emotionally mostly.There is a broken down hotel sign that must be crossed at some point, leading me to believe that the little boy is going to face much ruin in his adultlife considering the connotations that are associated with old, rundown hotels. Also, there are mind-controlling maggots that appear throughout the game, representing those thoughts that grip you and will not let go of you. The maggots react to light and only then is the little boy able to change direction. The light represents reasoning that temporarily helps the little boy “see the light” and change his mind, heading to the right direction.
The new-age, space-like setting is the ending of his life, seeing the new world come to order and being powerless to stop it. There are many switches in this level that affect gravity. Also, there are many times in which the little boy’s world literally turns upside-down. In the new age, there is no reasoning. There is no order. There is nothing defined. Just like how the age-old law of gravity is simply changed by the flick of a switch.

METAPHORS: I believe there are a few metaphors in this game. To name my major one, it would be that the industry is slowing killing. After the industrial setting comes along, there is virtually no grass, no people, no sunlight. With the Industrial Revolution, the world metaphorically turned upside-down with the new creations thought up, just as the little boy’s world is literally turned upside-down a few times.
UNDERCURRENTS:The undercurrents in this game are very dark, sinister, and disturbing. From the very fact that everything is a monotone color scheme, there’s instantly this feeling of foreboding. There is darkness everywhere, barely illuminated. The little boy never knows what new things are just out of the screen. Eeriness and uneasiness is laced through the storyline. And, to be honest, the deaths are rather disturbing. Also disturbing things include: ripping off spider legs and fly legs and using other dead children’s bodies to help you along in the game.

The ending, of course, is also filled with many interpretations. At the end, the little boy comes crashing through a sheet of glass in slow motion. He tumbles head over heels and finally lands in a heap in a rural setting. Seem familiar? Yes, we’re right back to the beginning in which this little, nameless, faceless boy is lying on his back in the middle of a grass area. I assume that means we have officially left LIMBO. If you try to run back to the glass area you came crashing through, there is nothing there. The only choice is to go forward. After running for a little while, the boy catches sight of his sister, sitting under a treehouse distinctly similar to the treehouse that is shown in the title screen of the game. The little silhouette of the girl is on her knees, under the treehouse and directly under sunlight. She appears to be bent over doing something. Her back is towards him. The little boy slowly approaches the little girl and as he nears, he stops. The little girl suddenly stiffens. And then the credits roll. Then eventually, you return to the title screen and the familiar treehouse image.

Okay, lots to cover.

I believe that the little girl is out of LIMBO yet hasn’t reached heaven which is represented by the ladder up to the treehouse and the fact that she is bathed in sunlight. The little girl may even be bent over in prayer, praying for her brother that she has had to leave behind. When she hears someone approaching, she stiffens. I assume that they were reunited and that they were able to move on to heaven. Because, the fact is, my theory is that: the little boy has been dead all along. Confusing? Yes. But to me it makes sense. The little boy is stuck in his mind in the mid-world between life and death during this sojourn in LIMBO. He believes that he was sent to discover the fate of his sister. LIMBO is most likely different for every single person who enters. In his LIMBO, he is unknowingly passing through his life that has been taken away from him with only the thought of finding his sister in mind. Once he finds his sister, the fact that he too is dead grips him. I believe that the fact that he crashes through glass to escape his LIMBO is that he has finally passed on and that he and his sister died in a car crash. There are tires used in the game and the boy goes through glass or a windshield. In his mind, he is still alive and that treehouse is how he normally sees it. But as soon as the credits are over, we see the reality of his fate: that the treehouse is really rotted now, the grass is all wild and unkept, and there is one heap on the ground in the shape of the little boys’ body with flies flying around it in the exact area he is standing in when the game cuts to the credits and one area next to the heap that is flat but also has flies swarming it in the exact area his little sister is sitting before the game cuts to the credits. In my head, that is the reality of their fates: the little boy has passed on, rotting next to his sister’s grave in which she is rotting. The little boy’s quest has been fulfilled and even in death, he is with his sister.

Screenshot of the ending scene (on top) and the title screen (on bottom). Look at what I’m saying about the differences.

There are many interpretations and I’ve read everything from the argument that the little boy is actually a villain, trying to find his sister to kill her and all of the obstacles are placed there to protect her, to that the little boy was able to get into LIMBO with the promise that he could bring back his sister when in reality his sister then kills him. However you interpret it, I think it tells a lot about who you are as a person.

My Little Tips:
Note: I have only played the PC version so I do not know if there are any differences among the versions. Also, obviously, the controls are different between Playstations, Xboxes, and PCs.
In the PC version, the controls are: UP arrow to jump/climb up something, RIGHT arrow to go forward, LEFT arrow to go backward, DOWN arrow to climb off/down something/jump down, and CTRL (control) key to perform an action. The only times you’ll need to use the CTRL key is basically when pulling things or flipping switches.
Tips: For a long jump, hold down the UP arrow.
         Always check around your surroundings before you start pulling switches or trying anything. Often there are certain elements that need to be put in place before you can successfully complete a level.
         Most of the game is about timing. Half of it is figuring out what you need to do. The other half is actually doing what you know you need to do and most of what you need to do requires good timing and judgment.
         DON’T jump off anything high because he’ll break his legs. DON’T let the boxes hit you on the head because you’ll die.
         There is NOTHING placed in the foreground of the game for no reason. If there is a rope there, you’ll be using it. If there are boxes around, you’ll be using them. There is absolutely nothing placed there for no reason.
         There are a lot of booby traps.
And that’s about it.

You can take LIMBO at its face value and just solve the puzzles and be happy with it. Or you can break apart every little thing and find a symbol for it. Regardless of your approach, the fact is LIMBO is a very unique game.