It's not easy to stay friends with Microsoft.
Sure, on occasion, they publish kick-ass games, though their first- and second-party efforts are on the whole much less impressive than the competition's respective line-up. Microsoft has the FPS market cornered with Halo and Gears of War, but sadly, that's the extent of their dominance. And credit where it's due: from time to time they'll plow good money after bad into worthwhile projects that wouldn't otherwise see the light of day - see The Lost and the Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony, erstwhile episodes from Liberty City that broadened the scope and honed the tone of Grand Theft Auto IV. And then there's Xbox Live Arcade. It mightn't be so relentlessly indie as PSN, yet XBLA has had its share of games-as-art essays - most notably Jonathan Blow's Braid; as well as a host of fantastic arcade experiences - Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2, Pacman Championship Edition, Trials HD, 'Splosion Man - and a litany of board game adaptations including Catan, Carcassonne and recent champion Risk: Factions, all of which I've spent longer playing than I'd care to admit.
But for three years, now, the Big Bad of the console war (as opposed to the Wii's red herring and the PS3's stalwart soldier) has put aside its usual moneyhat shenanigans to give five of the most promising XBLA games in development the full weight of their maniac marketing muscle. The annual Summer of Arcade has come to be something to look forward to, something to hoard away your MS points in anticipation of. Enter this summer's first contestant: 1200 of the best spacebucks I've ever spent. Enter Limbo.
At around three hours from beginning to end, it won't take you long to find out. Treat Limbo like you would a movie: an evening's entertainment, undisturbed, with the lights down low and the volume on your amp pumped up as far as your neighbours will let you get away with. Play it in a single sitting, as I did. Some of Limbo's set-piece puzzles will baffle you, but persevere, for however lightweight the setup, an unexpectedly poignant denouement awaits you on the other side; a momentous moment, resonant with emotion, which serves to enrich the experience entire.
In quantitative terms, it's a rip-off most egregious - I paid less for Risk: Factions only a few weeks ago, and I must have sunk 30 hours into that one already. Qualitatively, though... let's just say I'd trade every moment I've spent invading Australia for another hour of Limbo. In fact, in retrospect, forget about a tenner or a day's worth of play - I'd gladly pay full retail price for it. If we're ever to get to a point where games can be considered as art in the same breath as books or movies, we need more games like this, and for that, we need the few such games which speak to the medium's tremendous potential to succeed. A vote for Limbo is a show of support for video games as a whole. You have to ask yourself: are you content with interminable annualised shooters and open-world offal or do you in fact give a shit? Take the hit and have your say or else we'll all end up paying for your mistake. Limbo is sublime, and all the argument one needs to win over a jury of your peers to the great gaming cause.
Simple. As. That.