by Matt Porter
reviewed on PC
“Ew, a mobile game getting a PC port? No thanks!” You might say. But wait! Not all portable titles are games with simple yet addictive mechanics looking to take your money. Nihilumbra is a neat little puzzle platformer from Spanish developer Beautifun Games, currently on Steam Greenlight. You take control of Born, a creature created by The Void, who escapes to the real world. Relentlessly pursued by that which created him, Born treks across new and strange environments, discovering what it truly means to be alive.
Paint in colours
He isn’t the only being from The Void that has crossed over however. Every now and then you will encounter a new enemy, each more dangerous than the last. These, combined with various environmental hazards provide much of the challenge outside of the platforming. The jumping itself isn’t complex, but as the game progresses you will discover new colours which can be painted on the walls, ceilings and ground of the levels. The game has five separate worlds, and there is a colour tied to each of them.
The Frozen Hills grants you blue, a colour to make surfaces icy, helping you run faster or push previously unmovable objects. The Living Forest gives you green, allowing you to make surfaces bouncy. The Ash Desert provides brown, which makes anything you paint it on sticky. The Volcano grants you red, which heats up surfaces to burn objects and enemies alike. Finally, The City unlocks yellow, which conducts electricity, allowing you to link electrical objects together. It is easy to see how the game worked as a mobile game, and thankfully the controls translate to keyboard and mouse perfectly. Painting is as simple as left clicking and dragging, and doing the same with right click acts as an eraser.
Although the game is 2D, the first two colours in particular have a very Portal 2-esque feel about them. You will be using momentum to jump and bounce your way to new platforms, and although it sometimes lacks precision, it isn’t all that frustrating. You will often use multiple colours in the same puzzle. For example you might use yellow to activate a powerful electromagnet, lifting your enemies into the air. Using brown on the floor in front of you allows you to walk along underneath them without being attracted yourself. There are a good amount of well thought out puzzles here. None of them take particularly long to figure out though. The game as a whole is not all that hard, and can be completed in a few hours at most – an unfortunate leftover from the fast paced mobile platform it was born on.
Nihilumbra employs a simple, yet effective art style. Each level has its own colourful theme, often attempting to give you a feel of the heat of the area. The icy areas are very blue, and the volcano is red, for obvious reasons, but this also related to the story. As Born uncovers new colours he begins to feel warmer inside, as if The Void inside him is being filled. The main character himself begins as an amorphous blob, but upon entering the real world he decides to change himself to try and blend in. The first thing he encounters is a scarecrow however, so you spend the rest of the game naively jumping around as a cute, raggedy old shadow creature. The character design of the Void enemies is good too, with weird plant creatures which launch projectiles at you, and a huge snail-like thing that erases any colours it slithers over.
At the end of each world, there is a fast paced platforming section where you are being chased by The Void. Ever encroaching from the left of the screen, you simply have to stay ahead of it and reach the end. These are some of the weakest sections of the game, as it shows off the lack of accuracy the platforming has at times. Switching between colours quickly is cumbersome, especially when attempted at speed. I would have liked the action to pause when bringing up the colour menu, as I often got caught out without the colour I needed. You can scroll through them using the mouse wheel, but this isn’t much quicker, especially when you haven’t learned what order they’re in. Thankfully the game is liberally checkpointed, even in the normal levels, so you never lose much progress. These checkpoints also seem to return all of your colour to you. It feels as if you are using some sort of resource when painting, but this was never explained, and I never ran out, so I can’t be sure.
All in all, Nihilumbra is a short, but fun, puzzle platformer. The puzzles you encounter aren’t all that difficult, but they do require some thought, particular in later stages. The platforming itself isn’t all that good, but the unique painting mechanics make up for it. Mobile games are becoming more complex, and simply better overall, and it is nice to see that some of the higher quality ones are making the switch over to PC.
Unique use of colour as a game mechanic. Cool art style and fairly interesting story.
Platforming lacks accuracy. Puzzles aren’t all that complex.