If you played Atomic Heart’s intense retro-futuristic thriller campaign, you probably didn’t expect Major Nechaev’s next outing to involve sliding along rainbow roads made of candy. But the new “Trapped in Limbo” DLC takes some wild turns. This expansion sends Nechaev on a psychedelic trip after the story’s “good” ending, stranding our grizzled hero in the surreal realm of his own subconscious imagination.
The aptly named Limbo looks like a diabetic coma brought on by Willy Wonka’s candy factory. Nechaev himself morphs into a furry feline without a face. His digital wife Katya floats around this wacky dreamscape as a pink cloud, eager to guide her confused husband back to reality. Doing so requires passing some eccentric new challenges tailored to Atomic Heart’s sweet settings and strange logic. Say goodbye to mutant mowing and hello to freaky platforming.
Mundfish dared to shift gears from Atomic Heart’s standard sci-fi shooter formula. So gear up for a sucrose-coated slide into the surreal as Nechaev scrambles over cotton candy cliffs and pops killer gingerbread men. Just don’t expect this dizzying Limbo jaunt to stick the landing.
Frantic Platforming With a Sweet Tooth
Limbo replaces Atomic Heart’s heavy gunplay with quirky platforming challenges flavored by saccharine visuals. Expect less mutant mashing and more hopping between rarebits and rainbow roadways in this candy-coated realm.
The expansion subjects poor Nechaev to four confounding gauntlets. Two levels transform the major into a furry feline surfer, sending him sliding atop surfaces of solid frosting. You’ll need to carefully angle launches off ramps to accumulate speed for lengthy slides and huge airtime over cotton candy chasms. It takes practice to stick these long-distance landings. Mundfish should have reined in the possible pace, though, since wiping out from overwhelming velocity gets old fast.
The other pair of stages opt for more traditional platforming action as Nechaev clambers up cliffs lined with lollipops and leaps between layers of cake. There’s some timing skill involved in grabbing ledges, but the mantle mechanics feel stiff. Occasional combat crops up against gingerbread goons or other demons from Nechaev’s traumatized psyche. You’ll collect precious apple currency from fallen foes to purchase weapon upgrades that make slaying these cookie creatures less of a stale grind.
A final gauntlet modeled after mobile classic Temple Run casts you as that pesky goose from Atomic Heart’s campaign. It’s a frantic race through the trippy realm that tests your rhythm and reaction skills with a flock of furious waterfowl on your tail feathers.
While I appreciate Mundfish taking some chances, Limbo’s challenges grow repetitive and irritating over time. The DLC diversions distract more than delight compared to Atomic Heart’s main ingredients. This rocky road serves up some novel ideas but fails to stick the landing.
Eye and Ear Candy With Some Sour Notes
Limbo looks every bit as toothache-inducing as a candy store designed by Willy Wonka and Doctor Seuss. Mundfish renders Nechaev’s subconscious as a creepy-cute fever dream dripping with sweets. Cotton candy clouds, chocolate chip rubble, and lollipop lampposts adorn the fantastical realm. The art direction pops with brightness, selling a jam-packed landscape crafted entirely from the major’s favorite sugary treats and traumatic memories.
On a technical level, Atomic Heart continues to shine whether you’re surfing rainbow roads or smashing gingerbread goons. The DLC maintains flawless 4K/60 performance with finely-tuned visual settings so Limbo looks almost real enough to taste. Just keep some insulin handy.
If only the audio was as polished as the eye candy. Amateurish English voice acting again sours the experience, clashing with the much more passionate Russian performances. Did Mundfish even try directing these wooden line reads? I felt like I was watching a school play.
Thankfully, Atomic Heart’s synthwave-inspired soundtrack continues to deliver absolute bangers, backing up the bonkers setting with some bouncy electronica beats. The original score stands out as a highlight, while the licensed golden oldies will having you humming even in frustration. The tunes provide a catchy anthem for this off-kilter romp through Nechaev’s haunted hunger pangs.
A Sweet Escape From the Subconscious
Limbo emerges directly from the dark recesses of Nechaev’s thoughts, feelings, and memories. This whimsical realm blends the major’s sugary happy place with traumatized visions of war and loss into one seriously strange trip. It’s like waking up inside Nechaev’s own thoughts.
Trapped in his fursona feline form, Nechaev must conquer tests set by his subconscious to push through the hazy realm back to reality. His supportive wife Katya cheers him on in glitchy cloud form, eager to reunite after feeling stranded for years in the surreal dimension. Even that pesky goose from Atomic Heart’s campaign makes a cameo during a feverish flight from Nechaev’s demons.
The premise provides a window into the atomic soldier’s complicated psyche while letting Mundfish continue the tale. The expansion’s endings hint that Limbo may not remain a self-contained headtrip either. Perhaps this meltdown leads to more adventures within Nechaev’s troubled but determined mind. Either way, the DLC adds some telling texture to Atomic Heart’s principal character.
An Ambitious But Confusing Release
Ultimately, I appreciate Mundfish taking some chances by departing from Atomic Heart’s core formula with “Trapped in Limbo.” Transporting Major Nechaev’s consciousness to a surreal candy-coated realm allows for scenic new settings and some inventive gameplay concepts. The studio aimed admirably high even if the sugar rush wears off fast.
Unfortunately, the Wonka-fied platforming and psychedelic surfing challenges become more frustrating and tedious than fun with repetition. Sliding across rainbow roads offers fleeting thrills until the slippery mechanics overstay their welcome. Perhaps if the pacing or difficulty balanced better, these ideas might leave a sweeter impression.
Instead, Atomic Heart’s first DLC “Killing Instinct” provided a more satisfying extension of the base game’s combat and exploration. By contrast, Limbo often feels like surviving a spin-off minigame that wasn’t fully playtested rather than experiencing a proper continuation of Nechaev’s story.
The eccentric setting and imaginative art direction almost outweigh the design flaws…almost. But at the end of this rocky road trip, Atomic Heart’s gameplay formula reversal flounders. Limbo offers some novel sights worth seeing for hardcore fans, but fails to fulfill the promise that made Atomic Heart’s surreal retro thriller world so memorably delicious the first time around. Here’s hoping Mundfish finds surer footing with the next expansion.
Atomic Heart: Trapped in Limbo
Atomic Heart's "Trapped in Limbo" DLC earns points for aesthetic appeal and audacious attempts at gameplay innovation. But the confounding design and repetitive, frustrating challenges overwhelm the brief thrills of its candy-coated playground. With its slippery surfing and slippery handling, this expansion leaves a sour taste rather than satisfying cravings for more adventures in Atomic Heart's twisted alt-history USSR. A psychedelic platformer spin-off that disappoints.
- Vibrant, surreal candy-coated art style
- Strong technical graphics performance
- Catchy synthwave soundtrack with classic hits
- Attempt to innovate beyond standard gameplay formula
- Repetitive and frustrating sliding/platforming mechanics
- Issues with play balancing and difficulty tuning
- Amateurish English voice acting hurts immersion
- Fails to match expectations set by main game