Nihilumbra

Nihilumbra, not a game I thought about getting* till I had a look at the screenshots. It reminded me a lot of a flash game that I was very fond of and played often several years back (around 2009). It had many similar elements; platforming, philosophical to a degree, bleak world with colors equating to different abilities. Now if only I can figure out what that flash game was….I remember it was on Newgrounds. I’ll edit this post when I figure what the name and the author of the game was. I remember he made about three of them in a series of sorts.

Unlike the flash game where you try to reunite with your true love, Nihilumbra will lead you on a journey. A philosophical journey that questions the meaning of existence and the delicate balances of life.

The game is also available on the following platforms: iOS, Android & Wii U

[Not a game I thought about getting, then again I ended up getting more games than I originally intended during this summer sale. Only planned to get only about 3-4 titles, and now I bought at least ten titles. At least it wasn’t overboard compared to last year, so I got that going for me *insert awkward laughter here*]Edit: The author is SilverStitch and he made about 4 games with the same mechanics and ideas (that I shall now dub as the ‘Color’ series). You can check out his work on his newgrounds profile [link]

The game starts off with you playing as a little blob called Born. An odd choice of name, I know but who are we to question the name choices of the developers? Anyways, you were born from an entity known as The Void. Somehow, Born is able to break free from the void and escapes, refusing to be absorbed by the relentless void that is now chasing you. The Void chasing you is not the only danger that Born must evade. The Void has also created monstrosities whose sole purpose is to end your existence. Oh, and the mysterious cannons that can kill both you and the Void’s minions. Don’t forget the spikes too. Always got to have spikes to dodge.2015-06-18_00003Your biggest aid is being able to “paint” the world. You find a total of five colors, all which have different properties. Six if you count the default color which represents the void. Not surprisingly, the colors also represent the environment you are in. Such as being in the frozen mountains, the color you find is light blue (or ice blue…I am not good with colors) which acts as slick ice. Allowing you to slide faster to gain momentum to jump over large gaps. Or use it to make enemies slide into spikes or chasms so you can safely pass them.

There are a total of five worlds, with seven levels and the eight level serving as a “boss” level. Meaning run for your life away from The Void as it attempts to reintegrate you into itself. The main focus of the levels are on puzzles which are often solved with the specific color (e.g green ‘paint’ with the Living Forest level).  However, as you gain more colors and progress further, the levels become more complex. Often requiring you to use combination of colors to keep going. Basically, a synergy of colors and their unique attributes. In the end, you will need all your skills to keep progressing in the 2D world.

Once you finish the game, there is a new mode unlocked called “Void Mode”. The levels are the same from story-mode except for not learning new colors and the levels are ‘infected’ by the void. In Void mode, your main goal is to survive the levels so the worlds may once more be free from the Void’s influence, enabling Born to gain his true freedom and live his own life. As well, absolving Born from his guilt. So think of story mode as Act 1 while Void mode serves as Act 2.2015-06-18_00004Some of the puzzles will take a few attempts to triumph over. In my case, it was mainly to do with bad timing on my part and needing to do some quick finger work. You can probably knock this game down within a couple of hours. While there may be players who will be frustrated with the simplicity, Void mode will certainly change that with increased difficulty in puzzles and requiring all the colors to help you advance.

Narration-wise, I have very mixed feelings in that regard. While the gruff voice of the narrator worked well in certain points; the narrator did a great job in delivering most of his lines. While I wouldn’t say the narrator committed a crime against narration/story-telling, I did not really need a gruff voice saying “fear” or “run” during a tense moment. I also felt that the narrator ruined the game by often telling you what is going on, not showing you. As my English teacher often said (and drilled into my head), especially during the descriptive writing classes to “show, don’t tell” which is something I think can apply to both writing and games.

Minus my gripe about the narration, I felt that Nihilumbra was a little hidden gem. The game was more philosophical than anything else. The sense of the journey as Born struggles to find a reason to exist and fighting for his right to live, to exist. I think that made a bigger impact on the game more than anything else. The puzzles were simplistic but steadily increased the complexity as you gained more colors. The Void mode was definitely much harder but I am hoping it will bring at least a satisfactory conclusion, as the story mode had a very superb conclusion. If I can beat it….I think from the first world alone, I died over five times on the first level alone. I did enjoy it though, which is the important thing although I felt the whole narrative on philosophy on the question of existence a little too heavy at times, but otherwise very enjoyable game.

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