Nihilumbra review (iOS / Universal)

July 8, 2012

“Love in a void, it’s so numb”

10 word description: 2D puzzle platformer. Paint surfaces to alter physics. 5 worlds.

The app store category tends to disagree

10 word review: Gets close to its targets; a mostly entertaining dark journey.

You will like this if you enjoy: Dark/serious themed platform puzzlers. Oscura, Limbo, etc.

Yay, a spike pit

The good news: The central game element – painting surfaces to change their physical properties – is very good and leads to some creative gameplay. Graphics are subdued and surreal, although I can see them being rather “love ’em or hate ’em” depending on your personal preference. Controls work well, although the directional slider looks a bit odd. Plenty of content. Weird and imaginatively designed enemies.

Pretty good advice

The bad news: Occasional typos and (probably) translation issues disrupt the atmosphere of lonely hopelessness that the game is trying to create. Levels are very linear, sometimes feeling like extended tutorials for a newly introduced colour. Some deaths are cheap and involve coin-flip luck or the old platform exploration favourite, “die and re-try”. The “you are being chased by the void” sections invariably become extended exercises of the latter!

That’s the “nihil” part of the name covered, then

Arcadelife verdict: Nihilumbra: Nihilism = life has no meaning. Umbra = darkness, shadow, etc. I think I can see where they’re going with this one and, to a certain extent, it works as intended. It’s an enjoyable game, with some nice touches of dark humour in the form of text statements that appear as you progress through the world.

Ha ha, I’ll just stand here and laugh at you for a few seconds

The standard platform game elements – running, jumping, falling onto spikes or being crushed by crushing things – are all present and correct, if not entirely unexpected. What lifts Nihilumbra above platform gaming by numbers is the very entertaining core game element which involves finger-painting different colours onto game environment surfaces to change the surface properties and either give your character some kind of advantage or deliver a serious disadvantage to your enemies. Green paint makes the ground or walls bouncy, blue adds ice for speeding up, brown paint is sticky, red burns…

Hot red stuff burns – who would have guessed?

Overall, a very competent attempt at a dark, intriguing platformer that mostly works very well. A lot of the puzzles are of the “I can see exactly what I need to do, but it’s going to take me a few goes to get it right” type. Some of the “success by repetition” sequences tend to feel a bit more frustrating than they need to, and learning by dying when jumping into darkness is hardly ever fun when it’s the only option available – good job it only happened once to me!

So I’ll just jump down here and … argh!

Arcadelife rating

Visuals – 8/10
Audio – 8.5/10
Controls – 8.5/10
Content – 9/10
Fun – 8.5/10
Final rating – 85/100

Rating categories explained here.
Version reviewed by Arcadelife is 1.1
iTunes link

Nihilumbra website link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
4th gen iPod Touch (iOS 5.1.1)
iPad (iOS 5.1.1)

You may not find this hidden place, as it goes against the game’s basic “follow the arrows” linearity


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