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Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

No. 1 of #52Stories: Limbo

16 January 2017
Posted in: 52 stories, Gaming, Reviews | No Comments

52 Stories 2017You know that feeling of being in a dream, where the world feels a bit out of focus, where everything is just a little out of reach, and where you have a sense of knowing that you have to go on but no idea why? Well, Limbo is sort of like that. I would go so far as to say that it’s a work of art, one whose its strength lies in its simplicity.

The surreal world of Limbo

Limbo dates back to 2010, developed by the independent Danish studio Playdead (who have since brought out another, very similar game called INSIDE in 2016). It is a puzzle platformer, but nothing like you’ve ever seen before. In Limbo the player controls the protagonist, a little boy who wakes up on the floor of a forest. You don’t have any information about who he is or what he is supposed to do; you can’t even point and click at things. All you have are the arrow and alt keys to make him move, jump and interact with his environment, that is, push and pull.

The gameplay takes place in the aforementioned forest, a vile, menacing space. The forest is full of dark shadows and blurry shapes. As the boy goes deeper into this nebulous, murky world, he confronts untold dangers and seemingly insurmountable obstacles. But he must keep going—who knows where and why. This incongruity of a seemingly innocent little boy along among the concealed dangers of this surreal world is what gives Limbo its edge and you, the player, a chill down your spine.

The surreal world of Limbo

The artwork is hauntingly engaging—silhouettes in shades of grey, used beautifully to convey a sense of depth. The cute-creepy little protagonist is but a solid featureless figure with two bright spots as eyes. The foreground in which the action takes place is also in dark silhouette, and lighter greys are used to convey depth and layers, while light streams in to create soft shadows and highlight dust motes, and underline that sense of dreaminess. But the softness of the environment is skin deep, for you don’t need to go too far to find the menace in Limbo. You must steel yourself to watch the little boy fall, and by that I mean die, and die in gruesome ways. There’s no blood, no mourning. He just gets up and tries again.

Death is serious in Limbo. Timing and the environment are all you have to bridge unpassable terrain, to keep going, to defeat the vile creatures that bar your way, and to bypass the deadly traps that will sever your protagonist’s limbs. Yes, the deaths can be grisly—you watch the kid getting snapped in two, decapitated, skwered by the legs of a giant spider; you watch him go limp when he falls into water, you watch his body crumple when he falls from a height. You don’t need graphic imagery to recoil when steel traps squelchily snap the little body into pieces or when all sounds stop as water engulfs the boy and he stops moving.

Gameplay-wise, there’s a fair bit of trial and error to get past certain sections, made a little bit harder because you know that every failure means you have to watch the grim death scene again. And, of course, the puzzles do get harder as you go on. Thanks to the short chapters, there are frequent autosaves, meaning that you don’t always have to redo a really complex bit that you just about managed after many tries.

Since I have yet to get to the end of Limbo, I don’t yet know what the story will unfold. It’s already one of my favourite games of the year and it’s still the first half of January.

~PD

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Book review: Come, before Evening Falls

29 July 2016
Posted in: Books, Reviews, Social issues, Writeside | No Comments

Yesterday, at the Scholastic Writing Awards ceremony in Delhi, I ran into the author Manjul Bajaj. We were only introduced to the each other just as we were leaving, but we had a nice walk down the stairs talking about a mutual writer friend, Monideepa Sahu. Anyway, I digress…

Meeting Manjul reminded me of a book of hers that I liked very much and had reviewed, but in one of the design updates, it had got culled from the reviews section. So here it is again, a review of Manjul Bajaj’s Come, before Evening Falls, a haunting story of forbidden love, set in the Rohtak in British India. Though the story takes place in the early 20th century, what is terrifyingly disturbing is that, take the dates away, and it would ring just as true in the present day.

Click here for the full review

~PD

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Book review: Asmara’s Summer

2 June 2016
Posted in: Books, Reviews, Social issues | 1 Comment

Is there anything more important to a teenager than her street cred? No, at least not for Asmara. So when her Canada plans are cancelled and instead she has to spend a month with her grandparents in the conservative and definitely un-posh part of town, it is instant social disaster.

So Asmara does the only thing that seems reasonable: she pretends to her friends that she is in Canada and settles down to turn up her nose at Tannery Road.

What happens next is something that takes her by surprise.

Read the full review

~PD

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