Inside Pulse 12

Review: Nihilumbra (Nintendo Wii U)

Nihilumbra
Developer: Beautifun Games
Publisher: Beautifun games
Genre: Adventure/Action (read as: Puzzle with platform elements)
Release Date: 04/14/2015

Ted: We’re both stumbling around together in this unformed world, whose rules and objectives are largely unknown, seemingly indecipherable or even possibly nonexistent, always on the verge of being killed by forces that we don’t understand.
Allegra: That sounds like my game, all right.
Ted: That sounds like a game that’s not gonna be easy to market.
Allegra: But it’s a game everybody’s already playing.
eXistenZ

nihilmenuNihilumbra tells the story of a little blob who escapes from the Void, hops around, disguises itself as a scarecrow, learns about colors, and embarks upon a journey of self-discovery. Along the way, the Void creates monsters to attack our little friend, before deciding to just chase the blobby guy itself and destroy worlds in the process.

It’s a puzzle game.

The game starts as a traditional platformer wherein the main character moves right in a two dimensional world. Each of the five worlds introduces a new color into the game. Colors are applied to the world via the stylus on the gamepad. The first world, being an ice world, introduces blue. Blue acts like ice, well, sort of. It makes things slippery, allowing the blobby guy to move with more momentum and jump farther, which makes enough sense for a video game. The slippery blue can also be used to make enemies skid into pits. Green from the forest world makes surfaces bouncy, brown from the desert world makes things sticky, red burns, and yellow is used to complete electric circuits.

The platforming in the main game is all fairly standard and fairly simple. It plays smoothly most of the time, but there are a few problems. Most of the puzzles are fairly easy to solve. Once you have multiple colors, you start to see multiple ways to solve them. I mean, free will is obviously not a big factor in this little world of ours. It’s like real life. There’s just enough to make it interesting.

All in all, Nihilumbra plays like baby’s first existential crisis. The main game is only a few hours long and easy enough that my twelve year old completed it with little frustration, all while the narrator reminded her that life is basically meaningless and that she should just quit.

nihil3I should say that I don’t really understand the point of the narrator. Sometimes, he seems to cheer you on, other times he is antagonistic. I’m not sure if he is the main character’s internal monologue or if he is just a third person narrator. He doesn’t really seem to add anything to the game aside from over-explaining the games thematic elements. Personally, I don’t care for the line readings either.

But you can turn him off, so there’s that.

All in all, the game is fine. It is quite pretty, with the art for the game itself looking better than the ending cut scenes. While I don’t care for the voiceover, the music is nice. The difficulty curve is a little too gentle, but beating the game unlocks “void mode” which offers a more significant challenge.

There is an option for co-op mode with one player controlling the colors with the gamepad and another controlling the blobby guy with the Wii-mote. Co-op platforming is a fight waiting to happen, but maybe like-minded people in loving relationships would enjoy that sort of thing. I don’t really see the point myself.

Short Attention Span Summary
Nihilumbra is a cute little puzzle game. It’s got some philosophy 101 going on, wherein the main character essentially earns a soul through struggle and hardship. But none of that gets in the way of the real story, which is about killing monsters with pretty colors.