Atomic Heart: Trapped in Limbo Review

Atomic Heart’s Trapped in Limbo DLC is colourful and eye-catching, and I hated every minute of it. I certainly felt trapped; trapped in a mobile game-inspired expansion that’s repetitive, frustrating, and a chore to complete. As someone who enjoyed Atomic Heart itself a great deal last year and found several things to like about the previous DLC, I am genuinely baffled at how actively I do not want to play Trapped in Limbo ever again.

While Atomic Heart’s first dose of DLC, Annihilation Instinct, explores what happens after the shorter of the main game’s two unfulfilling endings, Trapped in Limbo picks up in the aftermath of the longer one. Respecting and expanding upon both endings is an interesting and commendable approach, even if having these add-on DLC chapters flip-flopping from one ending to the other before anything is resolved makes playing through them feel like reading a Choose Your Own Adventure book from front to back.

In this conclusion, P-3 is left in limbo – a dream world for the subconscious that P-3 was previously sent to during the main campaign while the Kollektive network controlled his body. Unfortunately, unlike the visits to limbo during the core campaign – which were creepy, quirky, and used in brief bursts – Trapped in Limbo drastically overstays its welcome and goes all in on just a couple of gameplay mechanics that are repeated ad nauseam until I was thoroughly nauseated. For clarity, it only goes for a few hours – which is entirely fair for a low-priced add-on. The levels are just not enjoyable, so they drag. Everything here really could’ve been edited into a short prologue level to illustrate P-3’s return to the real-world. The majority of what’s here is just padding.

The first – and worst – are the sliding levels, which function similarly to Counter-Strike’s “surfing” (which, if you’re not familiar with it, is a long-running mod scene for Counter-Strike that embraces a physics quirk and is based around sliding down sloped platforms). Trapped in Limbo’s sliding levels are finicky, trial-and-error affairs, and they go on and on and on. I can see no other reason for the “percentage complete” bar at the top of the screen other than to reassure us that there is, indeed, an end to this torment – if we can persevere to it.

There’s just something off about the way it feels, and I was never able to get a good gauge on how to consistently get the right amount of air off the end of each slide segment. It has nothing to do with jumping, because you can’t. It’s all about the angle – and yet getting it right is not always possible thanks to the huge spiky obstacles. It’s like playing Tony Hawk with a broken ollie button, and the half-pipe is mined. I didn’t feel a sense of satisfaction getting to the end of these sliding levels – only relief that they were done and I wouldn’t have to do them again. That’s not a sensation I associate with having a good time.

Accompanying the two sliding levels are a pair of climbing ones, which focus on first-person platforming (although they also include aggravating sliding sections of their own). These levels are a lot more in line with the moments of first-person puzzle-platforming present in the main game, and they’re certainly a little more straightforward. For instance, it’s quite forgiving when it comes to landing on tiny cubes and detecting clambering opportunities. That said, I still had times where I was cursing the sloppiness of the jumping on a timing-based trap, or reloading my last save after falling into an area it didn’t appear I was supposed to have been able to get into. Like the sliding levels, I have no desire to play these again, either.

If you’re wondering why we haven’t discussed combat yet, it’s because there really isn’t much of it beyond a few arenas. Enemies are largely edible reskins of the ones in the main game but, despite the small cache of sugar-coated candy cannons at your disposal, the combat is anything but sweet. I get P-3 is living in a dreamland here, but it just has none of the punch or metal-rending mayhem of the main campaign. It’s plain.

The fifth and final level of Trapped in Limbo is the weirdest of all, and that’s saying something in a universe where the main character’s dead wife is actually two eight-foot-tall ballerina robots. It’s… an endless runner. The level actually does have an end, but it’s long enough to feel like it doesn’t – and not in a good way. I get that this version of Limbo is a weird place where anything’s possible, but an endless runner as Atomic Heart DLC is a little like having a band you like coming out for their encore and humming a nursery rhyme.

Not quite what you’d expect – and you’d probably walk out.

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