In many ways, Nihilumbra, from BeautiFun Games,reminds me of Thomas Was Alone. It’s a puzzle-platformer that sees you switching between a unique range of abilities to overcome increasingly difficult environmental puzzles. But where Thomas Was Alone oozed charm and swagger, Nihilumbra is an oddly turgid affair that was just too pretentious for my liking and, in this regard, it doesn’t compare to Mike Bithell’s quadrangular classic.
You begin the game as a blob, born of the Void, who manages to break through to reality, take on the form of a scarecrow and then spend the entirety of the game fleeing the Void as it tries to bring you back into its clutches… or something. It’s a bit much.
Nihilumbra tries to explore the nature of existence and being, and its tale is spun by some disembodied voice that narrates your entire experience. It does not take long at all for this unearthly, monotonous tone and its ostentatious narrative to become overbearing. You can’t even escape it by turning off your sound as the script gets plastered across your screen in a desperate attempt to make every puzzle mean something. I honestly wished I could switch it all off and just get on with the game.
And it’s a good game. There is a really creative, fun and Vita-friendly system at play which sees you unlocking new ‘colours’ that can be finger-painted on the terrain with varying results. Cover the ground before you in ‘blue’ and it’ll become super slippy, allowing you to move faster and, as a result, jump further. ‘Green’ makes your platform bouncy, allowing you and your product of the void to leap to new areas and progress through the 2D universe. ‘Brown’ is sticky….
There are five ‘colours’ in total and to complete the game you’ll have to combine them in imaginative ways which can sometimes take a few tries, but that’s half the fun. The other half is making sure your fingers are fast enough to keep up.
This palette of abilities can also be used to dispose of enemy creatures, too. Lay a track of ‘blue’ under an enemy and you can send them sliding off into what I can only assume is a symbolically bottomless pit. Or your ‘green’ can be used to ricochet projectiles into unsuspecting foes. The lack of combat is a breath of fresh air; you’ll be kicking ass without even kicking.
The art-style, though different, is a bit disjointed. Your character, and the Void which created it, are this purple-black that stand out from the almost watercolour-like environments. The game is undeniably beautiful; it’s just a bit incoherent too.
Nihilumbra makes for decent few hours of puzzle-platforming on your Vita but only if you can ignore the obnoxious narration.