01
Aug
10

Understated

That's one massive bug zapper.

After having beaten Limbo, one of my favorite parts about the game is that no one said anything.  I think there have been some complaints that the game has little to no narrative, but after playing Bioshock, the sweet, sweet silence was refreshing.  I shouldn’t have impulsively played back every tape as I found it in rapture.  I was hoping for a more cohesive narrative, however it was just really loud and wordy.  Limbo, on the other hand, did what most games had done in the 80’s and 90’s and left the narrative to being a premise found in the instruction manual.  We didn’t need any narratives then, and those were the games that persuaded a large number of people to embrace gaming (who began demanding that they tell stories keep their interest.)

I praise Playdead for cutting the fat and focusing on a game that’s interesting to play and experience, not listen to.  Too often a game’s narrative serves as an excuse to pad game play with unnecessary crap.  I’m thinking primarily about Bioshock’s fetch quests in particular.  Instead of focusing on exploiting the strengths of Bioshock’s game play, 2K had to focus on how to make game play fit coherently within a story they wanted to tell.  From my perspective, that didn’t work out too well, or it at least kept them from fully capitalizing on game play.  Bioshock was a game that should have been a bit more like Castlevania: a game with limited narration, a whole lot of exploration, and progress that’s made by acquiring new abilities.

Limbo may have been short lived for a $15 game, but I can’t really hold its value against its merits.  Limbo’s events had much more impact when my expectations weren’t focused on how the story was unfolding.  I hope more game’s follow it’s lead.  Narratives in games aren’t worth it if it means watering down other aspects of them.  Just go read a book if you need that so badly.  Gamers generally have enough imagination to fill in narrative gaps for fun.  And many times, that’s the way it should be.

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