Limbus Company

Limbus Company is very weird, and just a bit nuts.

Authors Note: I’ve played more Limbus Company since this writeup, and I’ve realized a few things I said were incorrect. You can read those corrections here. I’m leaving this writeup as is though, in order to preserve my initial understanding and perspective.

It would make sense that after 10 hours of Limbus Company, I would have a strong feeling on whether or not to recommend it. Thing is, I really don’t.

Limbus Company is fascinating. It’s unlike any other RPG I’ve played, and it’s tonally different than any other F2P game I’ve played. But its F2P mechanics, poor tutorials, and awful information display make it a very tough sell.

Side Note: I saw someone mention that you need to be a rocket scientist to understand this game. I asked my friend who worked at NASA to try it, and they completely bounced off it.

Limbus Company is a game from Project Moon, a Korean indie game studio. Project Moon’s other games include Lobotomy Corporation and Library of Ruina.

All three games share the same world and story. I mention this because I will be talking about Limbus Company’s story, and that means general spoilers for the other two games. Sort of.

It’s a bit hard to explain. Much like the rest of Limbus Company!

Story and Art

Limbus Company has a strong visual style. I’ve always really liked 2D images in 3D environments as a design choice, and it’s done very well here. The story is unusual, and tonally a bit wonky.

The 13 incredibly poorly adjusted and mildly sympathetic whackjobs the player has to lead.

For reference, the game opens with the player character cutting off their own head and replacing it with a clock. The individual story arcs run the gamut from “Haha, weird,” to “What the ever loving fuck.”

Notable moments in the first category include a casino run by people in Mariachi outfits who fight with maracas.

Notable moments in the second category include a sympathetic NPC being gutted and worn like a flesh-suit. By a giant apple.

Anyway, game mechanics. Let’s talk about game mechanics.

How Limbus Company Works (I Think)

I want to know who plays this shit on a phone.

I’m going to try to explain how Limbus Company works. If you don’t care, you skip this bit. The extra knowledge is useful for deciding if you’d like the game, but not necessary for me to explain my problems with the game, which I’ll get to in a bit.

Limbus Company is a combat game. The player controls a group of characters (sinners) in fights against enemies and abnormalities. On a given turn, the player chooses from two available cards and builds a chain of cards across the characters they control.

Cards have: Power, Coins, Damage, Attacks, Damage Type, Sin Type, and Count. Power determines who wins Clashes, but only after Clashes are resolved by flipping the Coins. There’s a secondary value that determines the increase to power based on the number of coin flips that land heads during a clash or one-sided attack phase.

Damage is the amount of damage inflicted. I think. Honestly not sure. Attacks are the number of attacks to be inflicted on the use of a card, or that will be used for resolution of Clash during a Clash. However, it’s important to note that Sanity has an impact on Coin flip resolution, increasing or decreasing the rate at which you flip heads. This makes the Coin Flip not actually a coin flip.

Damage Type is the type of damage inflicted. There are three types, which are modified by enemy resistance, but also change if the enemy is staggered or panic based on their sanity. Abnormalities though, don’t have sanity, and cannot be panicked.

Sin type determines resonance and absolute resonance. In addition, resolving an attack of a given sin type grants Sin that can be used to activate Ego.

Count determines how many copies of a card are in a sinners deck.

If this doesn’t make sense to you, good. Because I’ve played 10 hours of this game, and I don’t get it.

Anyway, combat! Combat is against either abnormalities or everyone else. In fights against abnormalities, individual abnormalities and body parts of the abnormality can be targeted, but in general fights, characters pick targets on their own.

Game Modes

Limbus Company has multiple game modes. I’ve only unlocked a few of them, but most are just “do combat, get different resources.” However, there is one mode that’s very different, and that’s the game’s mirror dungeons.

Yes, it’s a simulation run. I’m not wasting energy to get a screenshot.

Mirror Dungeons are semi-randomly generated path of various encounters, similar to a “run” in Slay the Spire or Inscryption. The characters are reset to start at level 10, and after winning a fight, there’s a reward of either a random item in the vein of Slay the Spires artifacts, or the ability to level one of the current party members up.

Personally though, I’ve found that Mirror Dungeons got stale fairly quickly. Because there’s no reward for experimenting, and Limbus Company is F2P, I usually just ran more or less the same team, and picked safe options.

Story mode has something similar. While 90% of the story is a set of single linear combat encounters, the mission of each story chapter is a large non-randomized dungeon. These have been some of the more interesting parts of the game for me so far, and feel more like playing an actual video game than a free to play game with a gacha system.

The Collision of Money and Mechanics

There are two large pain points I have with Limbus Company. The first is that the game did not spend enough time and detail explaining the aforementioned combat systems, and doesn’t display in-game information in an easily accessible way. The tutorial is brief, and while not unhelpful, is overwhelming. I had another friend download and try the game to confirm that it wasn’t just me being stupid, and they had a similar level of drowning in information.

While bad onboarding and scaffolding can be a problem with games, it’s not one that necessarily turns me off. As perusing this blog for any length of time will make quite clear, I am willing to play games with janky or unexplained systems. I will play games that are horribly broken. I will play games that are in a language I can’t speak or read.

But learning a game’s systems by experiencing them requires me to actually be able to play the game. Limbus Company is F2P play, which means it has an energy point system. As with every energy point system ever, it boils down to the following core loop:

  1. Spend Energy to enter levels
  2. Get more Energy over time, or by spending real money.
  3. There is no three.

I mentioned in my Arknights writeup a while back how much I liked that the game had a parallel energy system that gave free tries at clearing levels without any rewards.

A system like that is exactly what I want in Limbus Company. Something that lets me play the game, experiment with builds and try to figure out the incredibly obtuse systems that make up combat without “wasting” my energy on fights I can’t clear.

Right now, I felt discouraged from actually experimenting with the game’s mechanics, unless I hit a wall and had no other way forward.


Limbus Company has a compelling, if occasionally frustrating, story and solid art. The mechanics are interesting, and I wish I understood them better, or that they were easier to learn by playing.

If you’re looking for a F2P game, you could certainly do worse then Limbus Company. But enjoying it requires a high level of patience and tolerance for what initially feels like esoteric bullshit.

Limbus Company can be played for free on Steam, and also on phones. I suggest you avoid playing it on your phone unless you have an electron tunneling microscope so that you can actually read the text.

Devolver Tumble Time

If you search for Devolver Tumble Time, you find an article describing the games genre as “Puzzle and Monetization.” Presumably because this article was written with ChatGPT. Apparently, the AI that wrote the article thinks that “Monetization” is a genre of mobile game. And the worst part is, I don’t think it’s wrong.

This is evidence that there is no hell but Earth, and there is no devil but man.

Usually I’d include images of the game. Tumble Time hasn’t earned that, so here’s an unrelated panel from the manga series Chainsaw Man.

Okay, so the game for a moment. Devolver Tumble Time is a “Tumble Matcher.” I don’t know if that’s what the genre is called, but I know full well it’s not the first game to do this mechanic. The first paragraph here should give you a taste of how this review is going to go. This game will get the same level of charity from me that Salvation Army gets, which is say: FUCKING NONE.

(On a more serious note for one moment: the Salvation Army is terrible. Don’t give them your money or stuff. Okay, now back to talking shit about a bad mobile game.)

The game’s primary mechanic is that a bunch of objects fall down, and you match them. Unlike something along the lines of HuniePop, or Beglitched, there’s an aggressive timer. As such, it’s almost always best to just make any matches as fast as possible. Ultimately, this means just tapping the screen semi-randomly as quickly as you can. There are levels, and there are collectible characters, but the tumbling is the game’s actual “mechanics.” I won’t be talking about the mechanics again in this review because they (mostly) don’t matter.

The other thing is, that even though there is an aggressive timer, you can always watch a longer-than-10-seconds ad to get an additional 10 seconds f game time to complete the level. So as long as you’re willing to expose yourself to infinite ads, it is literally impossible to lose. Or if you just spend money. That also makes it impossible to lose.

I think Devolver Tumble Time is trying to be something of a parody of mobile games. Is it satire? Well, Jonathan Swift didn’t go out and eat the Irish, when he wrote “A Modest Proposal,” so I think not. And while it may be ironic that a “good” indie publisher is trying to profit off their IP back catalog by tossing it all together into a standard “good simple game mechanic wrapped in microtransactions for mobile” thing, that’s done by literally every triple A publisher in the world. So I don’t think it’s ironic either.

So, Tumble Time is trying to be a parody. But I’m not sure it’s a very good one. The tone of some of the writing has a light mocking touch to it, poking at the greed of capitalism in general, and a bit at mobile games directly. But the game is also engaged in everything it seems to be trying to poke fun at. There’s a big fancy $99 dollar package you can buy that unlocks everything permanently, but only appears after you pass certain levels that you don’t get any rewards for, because they get “stolen” by the capitalist character, because you didn’t unlock other special characters.

That’s not a parody. That’s classic “One Time Offer” FOMO with a ridiculous price tag. “Ah” you say. “But isn’t it poking fun at the prices and values of items in mobile games?” to which I say “Not really.” That button isn’t a joke. If I press it and enter my password, I’ll be charged $100 dollars.

I could buy 6-7 of the other games the characters are from with that money. I could buy every single Serious Sam game.

The same is true of things like the Daily Login bonuses. These are just tried and true tactics of habit building. Same with limited hearts system, which yes, I can buy infinite hearts for $3, but that’s still $3. And infinite hearts doesn’t unlock all the characters which I can still spend REAL MONEY to do.

Putting on a clown suit, and clown nose and going “Haha, look how silly we are, we’re so silly” isn’t making fun of clowns. It’s being a clown. Clowns are supposed to be funny. Likewise, putting a thin veneer of mockery over an in-app purchase, daily login bonus, or limited hearts system doesn’t make it parody. It’s still the exact toxic bit of design you seem to want to make fun of.

The design that Tumble Time is guilty of.

A friend called the game “Self-Aware,” which I think might be more accurate. But self-awareness and nothing else is a cop-out. Being aware that you’re an awful person, like being aware that you’re a terrible generic cash grab game, and doing nothing to fix it, doesn’t make you better.

So, fuck you Devolver Tumble Time. I actually quite like a lot of games Devolver publishes. The ones I don’t, usually just aren’t for me. But Tumble Time can go die a trash fire. It’s a greedy and manipulative exemplar of every issue present in mobile gaming. It’s self-aware, while not trying to do anything different, and that’s what cements its guilt.

If you want a good puzzle game, go play Beglitched. I refuse to link to Tumble Time here. It hasn’t earned it.

Mobile Game Double Feature

I spend a lot of time on this blog tearing into things that are probably a work of passion and love. As such, it seems only fair that occasionally go the other direction, and spend some time tearing into things that were a work of “How much fucking money can we make selling lottery tickets to children?”

Maybe this approach won’t be great for optics. But if I can analyze indie games that have interesting mechanics buried under crude art or lackluster technical implementations, it seems only fair to look mobile games that have mechanics locked in Skinner boxes.

Mobile games are kinda like indie games, but there’s an entry fee of how much your kidneys would currently go for on the black market.

Starting with…

Knight’s Edge

There’s a GDC talk somewhere in Knight’s Edge. It might be about how they managed to add in a cash shop, battlepass, and a billion other pieces of bullshit. Maybe it’s art direction-related. They could make a “How To” guide on ripping off that Clash of Clans smooth minimalistic art style that somehow has less personality than a furry OC that’s just a Sonic recolor.

Or maybe they could do one about how their cool little 3v3 battle brawler ended up tied to all the bullshit above. Actually, I can do it for them.

Anyway, now that I’ve done their presentation for them, they can spend some time talking about their actual mechanics. Knight’s Edge is effectively a combo of micro-brawler and roguelike. Your team of 3 is pitted against another player’s team, and you’re thrown into a tiny little dungeon. Whichever team makes it to the end of the dungeon and kills the final boss first wins!

It’s a simple little idea, and there’s really only two other things to mention about it. First up is that at certain points, you can invade the enemy, and attempt to kill them or mess with them to slow them down. But at the same time, it’s risky because your team won’t have your DPS during the invasion. The second one is that whenever you destroy enemies, you get EXP. Get enough, and you’ll level up, which gives generic stats. More importantly, leveling up also lets you pick between various buffs, which are determined by the weapon you’re using. This gives the whole thing a sort of micro-roguelike vibe.

Before you say “That’s kind of a lousy screenshot,” know that I took it from their app store page. This isn’t on me.

That’s pretty much all I have to say about Knight’s Edge. Is there a cool idea here? Yes. But it can’t make it out from under the monetization. Also the controls sort of suck. Your actual agency to influence a given round often feels like playing a slot machine with the upgrade system.

But anyway, enough about Knight’s Edge. Let’s talk about…

Cross Duel

I’ve written about Yu-Gi-Oh mobile games before on this site. There are a surprising number of them. Their monetization ranges from “Something resembling reasonable” with Duel Links to “Its own category in a list of shitty business models” for Master Duel.

Anyway, Cross Duel manages to sit somewhere in the middle of trashy pricing, which is to say “Typical Gacha.” But we’re not here to talk about that. We’re here to talk about Cross Duel itself.

If you’re going “Wow, seems dynamic!” that’s because I stole this one from their app page, and Konami is better at marketing then whoever makes Knight’s Edge.

I think one of the most interesting things about Cross Duel is that it shares very little with Yu-Gi-Oh mechanically. While ideas like like Monster Cards and Trap Cards are present, it’s easy to see how Cross Duel could stand as a separate game, or even potentially as a legacy board game. The deckbuilding only allows 20 cards, and only 1 copy of any single card.

Cross Duel is a four player lane based game. Everyone draws a hand of cards, and simultaneously places them. At the end of the starting “Main Phase,” monsters move down their rows if they were in attack position, or stay put if they were in defense position.

While many of the terms sound similar to Yu-Gi-Oh, there are a lot of mechanical differences. For starters, while the game can end if one player manages to knock out 3 others, it also just ends after 8 rounds are played or if even a single player ends a round with zero life points remaining. In addition, everyone starts with a single “Special” card in their hand serves the role of a panic button or can be used to apply heavy pressure.

Those aren’t the only differences. Players gain life points when their monsters inflict damage to enemy players. Unlike normal Yu-Gi-Oh, this only happens when a monster hits an opponent directly, not when they just attack another attack position monster and win. Damage is also maintained between rounds, meaning that a powerful bomb card can quickly be chipped down by multiple weaker cards.

Anyway, the result of all these mechanical changes is that you can actually do decently in some games of Cross Duel without selling your kidneys. Often, the players with more powerful cards are forced to fight each other, instead of wasting resources to knock you out.

The game also has what seems like a fairly interesting system for playing around with card skills and abilities. Unfortunately, it’s locked behind the usual grind and bullshit, so I don’t have much to say about it other than it seems neat.

In Conclusion

I was going to close with “There’s no moral to today’s writeup.” But that’s wrong. There is a pretty clear moral: interesting game mechanics can be found everywhere. In every terrible prototype, or miserable whalebait app store installation, it’s possible to find something interesting or clever. Is worth going to try to find those mechanics? I mean, for most people? Probably not.

People who play games casually would rather just play good games. People who work on games would probably rather be making games than playing other designers’ terrible ones.

But I guess for me, someone I view as sitting in the middle, it can be interesting. Hell, at least it’s something to write about.