Nihilumbra
Gameplay 9
Graphics 9
Sound 9

Nihilumbra is one of those games that is hard to put down once you start playing. The stylish hand painted visuals along with some excellent creature designs give the game a visual flair of its own while the brilliant narration and moody soundtrack sucks you into the gameworld. Things start off deceptively easy but, once you unlock Void mode, you better be prepared to put all your skills to the test.

Gameplay: A charming mixture of platforming and puzzle solving.

Graphics: The hand painted visuals are stylish and enhances the atmosphere.

Sound: Brilliant narration and a moody soundtrack

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Nihilumbra

Developer: Beautifun Games | Publisher: Beautifun Games | Release Date: 2013 | Genre: Adventure / Casual / Indie | Website: Official Website | Purchase: Steam

Inside the shapeless, formless reaches of The Void a small being makes a daring escape after the lure of independence becomes too much to bear.  You take control of Born as it flees from the The Void, which will stop at nothing to absorb its errant child back into its dark folds. Born starts out helpless, but as its journey progresses, it learns to harness the power of color while discovering what it means to be alive.

Nihilumbra started as an iOS title before being ported to PC, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it can’t stand up to the major players in the genre. This game has all the bells and whistles that you would expect from a full-fledged PC release and will waste no time in sucking you into its dark and moody gameworld.

The game is a platform puzzle title that draws inspiration from titles as diverse as Portal 2, Oddworld and Limbo yet retain its own identity. Although Born can initially do little more than jump and has to exercise extreme caution when encountering the Void creatures prowling the landscapes, the tables are soon turned. Each of the areas in the game introduces Born to a new color which can be used to overcome both creatures and obstacles. After selecting a color you can then use the left mouse button to “paint” it on the landscape. Much like the gels in Portal 2, each color has its own unique properties.  Blue turns surfaces slippery while green acts as a trampoline. The colors can also be used in multiple ways so brown, which slows down enemies and enables Born to stick to surfaces, can also double as soft footing so that Born can sneak past sleeping enemies. Colors can be erased with the right-mouse button and Born always has an aura of the currently selected color.

Levels comprise of frozen cliffs, forests, deserts, volcanoes and a city which might seem clichéd but the hand drawn art style really set things apart. The visuals give the game a dark and somber mood and perfectly match the color painting gameplay elements. Creatures are nothing more than shadows, just like Born but are brought to life with excellent designs and creepy animations. For this PC version the levels have been adapted for widescreen displays and the texture quality ramped up. The visuals have also been spruced up with some nice weather effects and you can unlock an art gallery of the wonderful designs used in the game.

I loved the visuals in Nihilumbra but the audio plays just as important a role in creating the wonderful atmosphere that this game exudes. The original soundtrack has been remastered and all I can say is that the tunes are a perfect match for the game. Each level has a haunting background melody that will stay with you long after you have stopped playing and the new narrator is absolutely brilliant. The game is played with the keyboard and mouse and I found the controls to be responsive and intuitive even though I am used to playing platform titles with a gamepad.

There are only five different areas in the game and the levels that comprise each are fairly linear, so there is no backtracking or real exploration. The focus is purely on evading or incapacitating your enemies while solving the obstacle based puzzles. There are ample check points and my initial run through the levels clocked in at just over three hours, but that is when the real fun started. Casual players should have no trouble completing the game and experiencing the surreal story, but hardcore players will find that after the credits roll the real challenge begins. The “Void” mode throws new enemies, puzzles and challenges at you in rapid fire without the slower pace of the story mode. In this mode, you really have to think on your feet and combine all the powers that Born has at its disposal just to stay alive. This mode is where you will spend most of your time, so ignore all those complaints from people claiming that the game is too “short” or “easy.”

If you never had the chance to play Nihilumbra on mobile devices you owe it to yourself to pick up this PC version. The game really exceeded my expectations and even when facing some tricky challenges in Void mode I found myself grinning at the ingenuity of the level designers. Steam fans will also be pleased to hear that the game has cards, achievements and Steam Cloud support rounding off the package.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Nihilumbra and hopefully this title will not be overlooked in the flood of other releases. The developers did a great job porting this game to PC and I can wholeheartedly recommend it to both casual and hardcore gamers. If you have any doubt about this game I urge you to check out the demo on the Nihilumbra website so you can experience the unique gameplay yourself.

*Review originally published September 2013.

System Requirements

  • OS: Windows XP/Vista/7
  • Processor: 1.6 GHz
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM
  • Hard Drive: 3 GB available space
  • OS: Snow Leopard or later
  • Processor: Intel Mac
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM
  • Hard Drive: 3 GB available space
  • Additional Notes: Nihilumbra is not compatible with Apple Trackpad
  • Processor: 1.6 GHz
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM
  • Hard Drive: 3 GB available space

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