indie

Limbo

by Joey deVilla on July 27, 2010

I’ve been spending summer playing a couple of Xbox 360 games situated in dark nightmare worlds. One is Microsoft Studios’ and Remedy’s Alan Wake, which could be described as an homage to Stephen King (so much so that they name-drop him in the opening credits); the other is Limbo, an Xbox Live Arcade game: 

Calling Limbo a “2-D side-scroller game” does it as much injustice as referring to Red Dead Redemption as “a cowboy third-person shooter”. Limbo is the most gorgeous and haunting side-scroller I’ve ever played.

The world of Limbo is a monochromatic one, shrouded in gloom and fog and nothing but the game itself. The screenshot below shows what the game actually looks like while you’re playing:

Limbo screenshot: the boys runs towards some rolling flaming logs

No heads-up display, score or distractions of any kind: it’s just you and Limbo’s world. The controls are minimal – you just use the left thumbstick to move, the A button to jump and the B button to perform actions on things (typically push or pull objects). Where Limbo goes deep is gameplay – this game really sucks you in.

Limbo screenshot: the boy comes across a body hanging from a noose
You control your character, a young boy who wakes up in a dark forest, with no idea what’s going on. There’s no opening cinematic, no explanatory text, no little pop-up hints, but somehow the game manages to convey a sense of what to do next solely through the way the game reacts to your actions. The developers, Playdead – an indie game dev shop in Copenhagen – did an amazing job in programming Limbo to communicate just through gameplay.

Limbo screenshot: The body travels across a body of water in a boat

With its black-and-white graphics, smooth animation, minimal sound (you only hear things you need to hear) and the many, many ghoulish ways your character will die as you learn to navigate the game’s many deadly puzzles and traps, Limbo feels like the sort of ghastly-but-addictive game that Edward Gorey might have conjured up, had he decided to take up programming rather than becoming an illustrator.

Limbo screenshot: the boy encounters a pit filled with spikes and two children bearing spears

As of this writing, Limbo has a Metacritic score of 90, placing it just below Super Street Fighter IV and Red Dead Redemption, having earned heaps of praise from all sorts of reviewers, including this one.

Limbo may just be the best Xbox Live Arcade game ever released, and I suspect it’ll be in my “Top 5” for 2010. If you’re looking for a stand-out game for your Xbox 360, Limbo is well worth the 1200 Microsoft Points.

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.

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Banner from the Hand Eye Society's blog: "The Hand Eye Society: Meshing Toronto's Videogame Communities"

The Hand Eye Society describes itself as a “not-for-profit coalition of people and projects in support of Toronto’s videogame communities”. Their goals are:

  1. To help people make games
  2. To connect game makers with each other and with an audience, offline
  3. To foster diversity in game creation and public perception of games

I shouldn’t be surprised that one of the people behind the Hand Eye Society is Jim Munroe. He’s a former Adbusters editor turned self-publishing author of a number of enjoyable science fiction books such Flyboy Action Hero Comes with Gasmask and Angry Young Spaceman, developer of indie games including the interactive fiction piece Punk Points (the online version requires Java), maker of movies and all-round Toronto DIY-espousing creative type.

Also connected with the Hand Eye Society are other indie videogame notables including:

Poster for Hand Eye Society's "social": "Free presentation and social event from the Hand Eye Society / May 27 2010 @ 19:30 EST / Unit Bar, 1198 Queen West / Featuring: Mr. Brandon Boyer, founder of Offworld, contributing editor of Boing Boing & IGF Chairman"

The Hand Eye Society is throwing a social this Thursday, May 27th in Toronto at Unit Bar (1198 Queen Street West, a shade east of Dufferin/Gladstone, halfway between the Drake and Gladstone hotels). The doors will open at 7:00 and there may be a set of curated videogames for you to check out.

At 8:00 p.m. special guest dignitary Brandon Boyer, Chairman of the Independent Games Festival and contributing editor for Boing Boing and Boing Boing’s games blog Offworld, will, as the Hand Eye Society’s blog puts it, “deliver some form of immensely significant communication to the assembled videogame creators, enthusiasts, organizers & slack-jawed onlookers.”

If I weren’t going to be in Montreal that evening for the Make Web Not War conference, I’d most certainly at this event (I’ll definitely catch the next social). If you’re in Toronto and love videogames (especially ones that break from the mainstream) and especially if you love making them, catch the Hand Eye Society’s social this Thursday!

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.

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“If You’re Not Indie, F**K YOU!”

by Joey deVilla on April 4, 2009

Here’s a great video inspired by Andy Samberg’s People Getting Punched Out Just Before Eating short film from Saturday Night Live made to promote the Independent Games Festival at the Game Developers Conference 2009:

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