Reviewed On: PC

Nihilumbra is a puzzle platforming game from Beautifun Games, originally released for iOS and ported over to Windows, Mac and Linux in September 2013. You play as Born, a creature from the Void that managed to separate itself in order to see the world and live. The game combines the atmospheric and musical influences of Limbo with the puzzle challenges of Braid to provide a gaming experience that incorporates the strong points of both games and covers both their weaknesses. Sure to delight fans of platformers from casual to hardcore, Nihilumbra provides a thoughtful and compelling narrative, while still providing challenging puzzles to solve.

Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Beautifun Games
Developer: Beautifun Games
Platfroms: PC, Linux, Mac, iOS
Genre: Indie, Puzzle Platformer
Release Date: June 2012 on iOS
September 25, 2013 on Steam

The game features two modes: story and void. Once the player makes it through story mode, void mode will be unlocked for play. During the course of the game, Born travels through five different worlds; marveling at their majesty and unlocking their secrets. Each new world will provide a new color, which are the player’s tools for solving the puzzles presented and advancing further through the narrative. Also given to the player is the power of the void. Being a creature of the Void itself, Born is able to use this power to erase any existing colors that have been laid on the ground. Certain terrain may also be covered in void itself, rendering colors unable to be used in those areas. The controls are very simple; either the arrow keys or WASD can be used to move Born, with the spacebar acting as jump. There are two ways to change your currently active color. Players can click the color orb in the upper right corner to reveal a tree branch, then select the color they want or the mouse scroll wheel will cycle through colors. Born will glow with whatever color is currently active. To use a color, click and mouse over the ground. It will turn that color and gain whatever properties that color has. For example, blue makes the ground icy and slick, allowing Born to move faster, while green makes the ground bouncy. You will need to master each color to make it through the world and escape the void.

AshDesert-3

Both the artwork and music of Nihilumbra are absolutely gorgeous. The environments have a hand-painted look that is very organic and in no way skimp on the details. Objects that the player can interact with are set apart by looking sharper and more like vector art. Born’s Void pursuers have unique and creative designs that emphasize exactly what they are built to do. Even Born’s character design itself can be seen as symbolism. Themes of the self, existence, and how our actions affect the world are important parts of Born’s journey. How he acquires his form to explore the world is a simple, but powerful and symbolic scene. No spoilers here, but check out the first ten minutes of the game to see what I mean. In addition to the art, the music is extremely well done. Each piece compliments the area Born is exploring perfectly. It is in no way intrusive, but adds to the immersiveness of the experience. However, the one exception is The Void track, which is played at the end of a world, when the Void is trying to chase and consume Born. That track features more ominous and urgent melodies to convey the need to escape. The musician responsible for composing the soundtrack is Álvaro Lafuente, with remastering done by Furius Music.

FrozenCliffs-2

Born contemplates taking a new form to fit in with the world and separate from his identity of being a creature of the Void.

 

There is very little that this game doesn’t do right. One thing that may be surprising to some is the length and difficulty of story mode. I was able to finish story mode in about three hours, which was a little shocking. However, once story mode is complete, Void mode offers new levels in each of the five worlds with additional puzzles to challenge the players and improve replay value. The difficulty of the puzzles in story mode is also questionable, but overall a positive choice. Puzzle platforming games that incorporate a story can be frustrating when the puzzles are too difficult. Many times, players will get stuck on a puzzle and give up or resort to watching someone else play through the game on YouTube in order to see what the story was all about. Braid is one game that comes to mind that may have been a little too difficult to play through in order to get the full story. By lowering the difficulty of story mode and adding more challenging puzzles in Void mode, Beautifun Games achieves a good balance of both giving puzzle platformer lovers an optional challenge and giving more casual players a compelling narrative.

The Void_ENGLISH

Regarding the narrative, it is voiced to the player as he or she guides Born through the world. Players that tend to rush through this type of game may miss out on narrative points. Others, like myself, may stop and wait for each passage to be read before continuing on, as to not miss anything. This could be seen as either positive or negative, depending on the player and whether they value the story or the puzzle challenges more.

One thing that could stand to be different is the menu system and pause screen. Each button is done as an image with no optional text, making the intended effect sometimes obscure. This is especially true for the pause menu. For the most part, it’s easier to figure out the settings menu because it contains things that people expect to be there (mono or stereo sound, for example). The problem is, each game tends to have different things in its pause menu, relating specifically to that game. Players are forced to click each button to get a text explanation and confirmation of what it does. Menus should always provide information quickly and concisely, not leave the player guessing.

Nihilumbra Review
Overall, Nihilumbra is a gem of a game. Any fan of platformers should pick it up, as well as people who enjoy a more philosophical and introspective story. It is currently on sale on Steam for $7.99 until November 1st.
Pros
  • Beautiful artwork and soundtrack, with an excellent narrative
  • Simple, easy to learn controls
  • Two game modes: one for story and one for more challenging puzzles
Cons
  • Menus use pictures to convey information, making it harder to decipher what certain things do
  • Story mode puzzles are not as challenging as some players of platformers may be used to
  • For players not interested in the challenging puzzles of Void mode, the game may seem too short
4.5Overall Score
Reader Rating: (1 Vote)

About The Author

Contributing Writer

I've been into the gaming and tech world since I was little. My current favorite games are Path of Exile, Dota 2 and Pokemon XY. I also dabble in writing board game reviews, making arts and crafts and writing stories.