Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Pocket Review - Nihilumbra

Nihilumbra is a neat little puzzle platformer making its console debut on PlayStation Vita. As the game begins, players control a nameless being who is attempting to escape the Void. The emptiness takes offense at one trying to leave and begins pursuit into the living world in order to reclaim this refugee. Players must outrun the Void and all of its evil minions that have come with it.

While not a verbose narrative, much like Bastion before it, the player's journey is chronicled by an unseen narrator who details and often questions the reasoning behind the escapee's exodus. While not completely necessary, it helps add a bit of personality to this otherwise blank adventurer as he ventures across this world's various stages. There is an ice area, volcano, and abandoned forest to name a few. Each level fits well with the game's progression, as players gain new abilities that fit the theme of the stage.

Though not a groundbreaking platforming experience, Nihilumbra does handle the puzzle aspect quite well. Instead of simply focusing on jump timing and the like, players gain the ability to manipulate surfaces using different colored orbs which grant special skills. The blue orb is the first one obtained, and it allows players to turn the ground to ice. This can be helpful in gaining momentum for a long jump or can be used to trick enemies into sliding off the edge of a platform.

Each stage offers a new ability, which often needs to be combined with older ones to progress through the area. One example is using the green orb to create a bouncy surface to reach new heights and then using the brown orb to be able to stick to a wall. Further in, players will have to be able to quickly combine more abilities to make it through some of the more challenging areas, which is not necessarily supported by the game's control scheme. It's easy to use the Vita's triggers to swap between skills, but it's not always easy to quickly cycle to the right one in time. Thankfully, Nihilumbra offers reasonable checkpoints with no other penalty for failure other than having to try again.

The whole experience is brief enough to not wear out its welcome, only lasting around three hours for the main story. These hours are filled with some truly outstanding music and beautiful environments, which really leave a great impression. Those looking for more content and a greater challenge can go back through every stage in Void mode once they've finished main story. These levels are brutal and pull no punches, as they are considered an homage to classic arcade game difficulty. The Void mode's challenge is not as problematic as is the aforementioned control scheme makes it. Regardless, it's a nice optional addition.

The main game is a pleasant experience and pulls off the environmental storytelling better than many other games have. Last year's Murasaki Baby tried for this same sort of feeling, but failed. Nihilumbra succeeds in many ways, though is still fairly one note. While enjoyable, it just didn't do enough new to really stand out. If you enjoy puzzle platformers this one is definitely worth your time, though it won't take up much of it.

TLDR A solid platformer with a fun, puzzle elements in its short story mode.
Enjoyed By? Puzzle platformer fans should definitely check this out. Hardcore platformer fans should check out the Void mode.

This game was played on Vita via digital code provided by publisher.

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