When a game has a name as strange as Nihilumbra does, you can be assured that you will never know what you are going to expect. And, frankly neither did we. But, boy were we pleasantly surprised…
Originally published for the iOS platform, developer BeautiFun Games are finally ready to unleash Nihilumbra for PC fans come 25 Sep 2013. And you should be excited too – for here is a game where you will be appreciating the platforming sequences as well as enjoying the opportunity to exercise that noggin of yours.
Coalescing into form from out of the Void comes Born – a formless but self-aware (vaguely) humanoid-shaped shadow that bears two white eyes, and a bright colorful aura to boot.
You will follow Born on a surreal journey through 5 different worlds. And by using the 5 colors he discovers during his travels, you shall be helping Born avoid all obstacles in his way. All you need is to pick a color and start painting on gameplay surfaces with your mouse. These colored surfaces will give Born different abilities and help to defeat Void creatures and unlock the way forward.
Sounds simple enough for a new take on the puzzle platforming sub-genre!
What you get
Nihilumbra is a single-player only experience, but every minute of it is worth playing for several reasons – the fun and mysterious story, the class-act platforming action, the well thought out puzzles, and the atmospheric soundtrack and sound effects. Let’s cover each in turn quickly:
Story: For some unfathomable reason, Born gains sentience despite the turbulent chaotic Void of nothingness roiling about him. As a dramatic voice narrates the story, and large subtitles appear out of thin air for you to follow along, you will follow Born on his journey as he does his best to distance himself from the Void. But by the end of each world, the Void will catch up with Born and destroy everything making up that world. If only there was a way to stop the ever encroaching Void.
Action: Near the start of each world, Born will uncover a new color. Without fail, you find yourself entering a simple tutorial area where you learn how to use a particular color. To pick a color, you only need to drop down a palette and select your choice. Using your mouse, you will be required to paint on surfaces. For example, the first world introduces you to the color blue – which makes the surface as slippery ice. This gives Born the ability to jump further after sliding on a blue surface – a truly handy platforming trick.
Puzzles: At first, with only exposure to the color blue, most of your puzzles will involve jumping across wide chasms. However, as you learn new colors and new abilities, you must sometimes stop and think which colors you must use to overcome the many obstacles that lie before you. Obstacles include doors, spikes, walls, rising lava, and weird Void creatures like the beastly Crawlaggar, the irksome Vaccumore which sucks everything in its path, and the insidious plant-like Fillior that creates the shuriken-like Mandakkars.
Sound Design: The power of the narrated story (specially for the PC version) complete with readable subtitles would be diminished if not for the marvellous soundtrack from Álvaro Lafuente. The sound design in Nihilumbra is pretty impressive, and the narration here is not as aloof as the narrator from Bastion. Sound effects are a nice touch, with a great afterthought after you complete the game.
Art design is as strong in Nihilumbra, we loved the look of each different world, and the animation for each different monster type is gorgeous. There is a gallery waiting to be unlocked to satisfy your visual senses, with quite a number of bonus artwork and sketches thrown in. Finally, if there is one thing to gripe, it would be the slight difficulty of using the mouse to draw a color on the surfaces, something that is easily accomplished on a tablet surface of the iPad.
As a single-player only experience, you may think that with 5 worlds and 8 levels for each of them (except the first world), that the game would be pretty short. Well, there’s an excellent surprise waiting by the time you reach the end of the game. All we would like to say is that the surprise essentially literally hands you two games for the price of one. The key thing here is that the unlocked surprise is highly challenging, but luckily you have the freedom to choose which levels you want to attempt.
In handing out our score of 9 out of 10, we would like to say that this is one heckuva game that you should not shy away from. Embrace this masterpiece from BeautiFun Games, and treasure Nihilumbra for the excellent single player puzzle platforming experience that it will deliver to you. Most of all enjoy the story of Born and his flight and fight against the ghastly Void!