Puzzle platformers are pretty hit n miss on the iOS. There’s not too many that really nail the platforming gameplay with a good mix of the puzzling mechanics. Beautifun Games SL first AppStore release, Nihilumbra, definitely does a good job of mixing the two, as you guide Born, a strange creature, unfamiliar with the world around him, while he tries to escape The Void. A darkness that is chasing him, as well as sending out weird and complex creatures after him.
The first thing that really caught my attention with Nihilumbra were the graphics. Surprisingly beautiful, the developers have managed to make the hand-drawn environments fit in with the artificial graphics, while keeping everything incredibly life-like. As you begin your journey, you find out that Nihilumbra isn’t you’re typical puzzle platformer. Not only do the levels run consecutively, but it also focuses on telling a story as well. Actually, a major part of the game is the story telling. Some screens have nothing but a flat path and text instead of platforms and enemies.
There are two control options, virtual controls with left/right and jump buttons, and tilt controls, which have you flip your device upwards in order to jump, leaving no buttons on the screen. The physics and inertia, like all platformers, are also incredibly important, though with Nihilumbra, the game focuses on using these two mechanics to drive the gameplay.
As you progress through the game, you’ll come across areas where you’ll unlock new colors, with a total of 5. You’re able to choose these by touching the icon in the top right corner, and then can color the platforms of the environment. Each of these has a different property, for example, blue; Blue is like ice. If you make the ground blue, you’ll go a lot quicker while sliding on it. Green is bouncy, and carries the inertia that you have when you hit it on forward, so if you jump from a high platform onto green ground, you’ll bounce back up to that same height. Brown is sticky, and lets you stick to surfaces. You also have a certain amount of these colors which you are able to use between checkpoints. At every checkpoint, the colors will be returned to your orbs. You can also use the ‘void’ color to erase any colors that you put down.
However, all of the colors don’t only effect you, they also effect every moving object within the game. The enemies, boxes, projectiles… everything, and Beautifun Games has done an outstanding job creating puzzles centered around enemies, their projectiles, boxes, as well as the environment.
The game’s description in the AppStore says that it has 10 hours of gameplay. But chances are, you’ll be able to complete the game in about 2-3 hours. Where the real challenge and 10 hours of gameplay comes in is after you complete the game, and unlock Void Mode. Here, you have less amounts of the colors, and the puzzles become incredibly difficult.
Nihilumbra is priced at $2.99, and is Universal. The controls are re-sized on the iPad, so you won’t have to worry about dealing with controls that are out of reach. There is no GameCenter support, but this isn’t really a game that needs it. With the game focused around the story, and just completing the game, there is no score, and no time limit. It would have been nice to see some achievements, but the feeling you get when completing Void Mode is definitely worth more than 50 GC points. Beautifun Games has definitely made their mark on the genre with Nihilumbra. It’s fantastic graphics, and great gameplay make it a puzzler unlike anything else in the AppStore. It may come off a bit preachy at times, but it does an incredible job of creating an immersive gameplay experience, one that all fans of puzzle and platform games should not miss out on.