Nihilumbra is a puzzle game with a sense of style. That style is a bit dark and mysterious, but it only serves to enhance the experience.
What is it?
You have just managed to escape from the “void” into the real world, and now you have to learn to survive.
As you travel—in part to escape the void which is following you in an attempt to capture you and in part because the game would be really short if you just stood there—you encounter new environments and new colors. The colors can be collected and incorporated into your survival tool kit. The visuals are dark, stark and well rendered; the music is suitably lonely and haunting—a very nice effect indeed.
How does it work?
There are two movement controls: the left thumb controls left to right movement, the right thumb controls “jump.” If you prefer thumbless movement you can change the settings to use “tilt” (accelerometer – universal app). Additionally, there is a sphere at the top right of the screen. Tap the icon to bring down your palette of colors. One the options on your palette is a Void swirl which can be used to erase any colors you have applied. Each color you apply to the environment creates a different effect: blue will make a surface slippery, green makes a surface bouncy, brown makes a surface sticky, and red makes a surface hot.
Use the colors alone or in combination to solve the “puzzles” or obstacles the game presents so you can keep on keepin’ on. Nihilumbra will provide hints in the early stages and, as you acquire a new color, will provide an in-game tutorial on how to utilize the color you just acquired. Now all you need to do is keep moving and stay alive (if you really are alive…).
The game has its bad guys in the form of monsters the Void has created and sent after you. One touch and you’re toast. The good news it when you die you respawn at the last waypoint, ready to try again. This is very handy because the screen advances one background at a time. The scenery doesn’t scroll by, it moves on to the next view only after you reach the edge of the current view, like a slideshow. The bad news for you is you don’t know what’s just around the figurative corner until after you get there, and if that something is not friendly, then get ready to say hello to the last waypoint.
There seems to be limitless lives, so you can take your time to formulate your strategy to get past the next puzzle.
Is it contagious?
Quite so. Part of the intrigue is you don’t really know where you are going, what you are doing (other than surviving) or what you will find along the way. When I started playing the game, it was a bit odd not knowing any of the rules, objectives, etc. After the first couple of waypoints it became more “discovery” than just “reacting.”
The only faults are there are some spelling and grammar errors scattered about, and the game has an annoying tendency to be overly sensitive to left thumb shift on the direction control. The movement control is about 1” long, but I ran into some instances where the slightest shift caused a reversal of direction. This was particularly annoying when trying to jump away from something only to have the direction reversed sending my character plummeting toward certain death (hello again waypoint).
All things considered, Nihilumbra is a great game. If the next update fixes the direction sensitivity and the spelling and grammar errors, the game will be darn near perfect. Even as it is, Nihilumbra is well worth the $2.99 price tag.