Video Game Review: Nihilumbra (iOS)

You are not of this world.  You are of the Void.  Something malignant, something evil.  Nih_600x200

The amorphous entity from which you separated yourself lives to consume whole ecosystems and entire planets.  Yet, you are undeniably different.  You long to be free of your own essence, to rid yourself of the evil from whence you came.  The pathway to Hell however is paved with good intentions.  In your search for true identity, the Void continuously hunts you in an effort to reclaim you.  In its wake, because of your selfish longing for identity, the world succumbs to the Void until nothing is left.

Nihilumbra was deservedly named one of Apple’s best hidden gems of 2012.  With its ominous and occasionally oppressive tone intertwined with rays of hope as you gain new abilities, Nihilumbra‘s story telling style is similar to titles such as Limbo and Braid.  While not providing anything mechanically unique, Nihilumbra combines the classic elements of 2D side-scrolling platforming with Portal 2’s array of multi-functioning gels.  As the player progresses, he is introduced to a variety of locals and ecosystems.  Each of these contains unique platforming obstacles, enemies and enemy abilities, and a new gel type which is required to be used in conjunction with previously obtained gels to successfully navigate the level.

At the conclusion of every level, the Void will reappear to gobble up everything you have left behind in an attempt to catch you.  Using what you’ve learned up to that point will allow you to navigate your way to the safety of the next level.  This is where Nihilumbra‘s pacing shines.  New elements are introduced in an interval that allows the player to become comfortable with its use so that the final escape portion of each level becomes a fun pulse-quickening memory test.

For the hardcore audience desiring more of a challenge, a similar function to New Game+ and unlockable hardcore mode becomes available after the first successful play through.  In this mode, the player plays from the Void’s perspective which not only drastically increases the difficulty level, starts the player out with all available gels, but also changes the aesthetics to a degree that makes this mode almost an entirely new game.

Though a single play through can be easily finished in a single day, the story, art direction, music, and gameplay can be thoroughly enjoyed by the casual gamer while the Void mode will be equally appreciated by the hardcore audience.  Though clearly meant to highlight the dangers in conforming to society and save-the-Earth undertones, these are hardly overt and don’t at all diminish the overall quality of the experience.  I highly recommend Nihilumbra to anyone looking for an enjoyable indie departure from the main stream app game.

Pros

  • Great soundtrack that sets effective tone
  • Artistic storytelling similar in style to Braid and Limbo
  • New Game+ replay value

Cons

  • Minor grammatical errors
  • Does not make use of the iPhone 5’s 4″ screen

Specifications
Price: $3.99
Players: 1
Platform: iOS (iPod, iPhone, iPad)

Links
iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/nihilumbra/id500161349?mt=8
Metacritic: http://www.metacritic.com/game/ios/nihilumbra
Official Website: http://www.beautifungames.com/p/games.html

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