Version Reviewed: 1.1
Device Reviewed On: iPad 2
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Nihilumbra is something of an ambitious game. It tries to tell a deeply philosophical story about the purpose of life and why it continues to go on, while also being a puzzle-platformer involving modifying the environment to survive the many hazards of the world and to advance. It aims to do a lot, and it succeeds as an extremely fulfilling experience.
Players control a being born in the darkness of the Void, that escapes and explores the world. However, the Void seeks to reclaim that which was born from it, so players must help the protagonist avoid harm and escape the encroaching Void when it comes at the end of every level. Players gain elements of different colors that affect the environment, such as making the ground slippery, or sticking to the walls. Eventually, these must be used in combination in order to avoid enemies and advance.
The world of Nihilumbra is engrossing, and while the animations are simple, they’re still detailed, along with the beautiful hand-drawn level artwork. The text that pops up in the world that serves as a kind of externalized monologue works very well over time, because the game sticks with it as a way to express the protagonist’s thoughts, and to advance the story beyond the external threats coming at the player.
The length of the game is just about perfect. It’s short enough that it doesn’t overstay its welcome, experimenting with the elements without trying to do too much with them. Yet, it’s long enough to feel substantial and “worth” the $2.99 price tag in the warped economy of the App Store. Plus, a special mode opens up after the completion of the game that’s the same levels but with added enemies and obstacles. It’s a lot harder, and only for those who want a true challenge.
The controls do a solid job, though on the iPad the left and right arrows for movement are perhaps a bit too far apart, as it felt like my thumb was a bit uncomfortably stretched. Drawing the elements on the screen works, though there are often moments later in the game where multiple elements need to be switched between, and that can be often difficult to do in a hurry.
However, beyond the control issues I found myself completely fascinated by Nihilumbra. The game is artistically wonderful, the gameplay is creative yet not repetitive, and there’s replay value for those who want it. I can’t praise this fantastic indie platformer enough.