Nihilumbra Review

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Overview

You solve the puzzles, deal with various purple monsters and progress by painting parts of the platform with 5 different colours, each of which has its own property: slide, bounce, sticky, burn and electricity. There are 5 areas in the game, each with its own environment and colour scheme. Within each area you can take your time until the last level which is always a speed run where you are chased by the Void (a purple wave covering the whole screen).

The graphics are beautiful and the gameplay itself adds to the beauty as you paint the scenery. The devs are clearly proud of their work, and rightly so, as their gallery of rough sketches and gameplay development is gradually unlocked throughout the game.

Steam trading cards and achievements are included and it’s cross-platform (I’m a Linux user so that’s a big plus for me).

No performance issues or glitches at all. Very stable and smooth.

Nihilumbra

In Nihilumbra You are Born.

Early Game

Nearly all of the negative reviews of this game show less than 4 hours of gameplay, which means they are only reviewing the Story Mode part of the game, of which there are 41 levels that seem endless. The gameplay at this stage is very easy, I would say the first 70% is child level. The whole time you are subjected to an extremely irritating narrator droning on about hopelessness and death and giving clues to the gameplay, as if it wasn’t easy enough already. I was sorely tempted to throw in the towel like so many other reviewers but I wanted to get all the achievements so I carried on. I’m so glad I did!

Void Mode

As it turned out, this is a ‘game of two halves’. Void Mode is properly challenging, one of the best puzzle platformers I’ve ever played. I’m talking 50+ attempts at some levels involving timing and accuracy, and that’s after you’ve worked out how to solve it in the first place which isn’t easy either. The narrator has disappeared by this point too, replaced by a subtle background tune, just what you need for concentration. Many of the solutions took a lot of brainpower but none were impossible if I thought about it for long enough.

Aftermath

After beating Void the ‘polyglot language’ is unlocked. All the menus etc are slang/internet speak. You can play through Story Mode again and this time there are funny comments from the developer and interesting insights into the game concepts. It’s strange because after Void Mode it seems to take no time at all to speed through the entire game (this is the same playthrough that seemed to take forever the first time!) If you reach the ‘True End’ you will find out what the Void represents.

Finally, I cleared up half a dozen of the remaining achievements which, having completed Void, were entertaining but not too difficult (but would have seemed impossible without all my previous experience).

In retrospect the Story Mode is nothing more than an extended tutorial. If the developers left Void Mode open from the start instead of forcing you to play through the entire Story Mode to unlock it then players who were getting bored of Story would attempt Void and go scurrying back to Story because they would realise they need the practice and that there is a decent game ahead. I’m sure doing this simple thing would prevent most of the negative reviews.

Minor Cons

Fullscreen only, no windowed mode.

No controller support, although this may have been left out deliberately. It would be better for moving around but the painting side of it just wouldn’t be feasible with a controller, it needs a mouse.

64-bit Linux doesn’t upload achievements to your profile but there’s a workaround – it’s Linux, of course there is 🙂

Conclusion

This is excellent value considering the low price vs amount of gameplay. Apart from the initial Story Mode section (which I now understand was a necessary evil), the vast majority of the 32 hours I’ve spent playing this game have been fun and rewarding. I highly recommend it as long as you have the patience to work through the 2-4 hours at the beginning before you get to the meaty part of the game.

Hot tip: use right-click to quickly erase – it’s much easier than selecting it and you will need to know this for some of the quick-fire later levels.

Good

  • Medium/hard, challenging puzzles in Void mode
  • Beautiful visuals
  • Unique paint mechanic

Bad

  • Compulsory Story Mode is too easy and lengthy
  • Narrator in Story Mode is irritating
8.1

Great

Jim Deadlock - 8.6
Warwick Janetzki - 7.5