Nihilumbra (Wii U) Review

By Az Elias 16.05.2015

Review for Nihilumbra on Wii U

Previously designed for iOS devices back in 2012, the swipe-to-paint mechanics of Nihilumbra naturally found a home on PCs and PS Vita - the latter version of which Cubed3 reviewers gave two rather separate opinions for. BeautiFun Games hasn't overlooked the touch screen embedded into the Wii U GamePad, though, with the narrative-driven puzzle-platformer now released on Nintendo's home console's eShop service.

There is a trend happening in many indie games of late: narration. Supergiant Games' Bastion is probably the most notable example of this unorthodox form of videogame storytelling, with the same team's more recent Transistor following a similar method through its voice-in-a-sword concept, and Mike Bithell's Thomas Was Alone is another that embraces the idea to speak for the blocky silent protagonists that are controlled.

Whereas some are more accepting of this design than others, it has to be executed in the right way, and not just for the sake of it. Nihilumbra treads shaky ground with the deep masculine voice overlaying the side-scrolling platform gameplay. With the "Void" chasing a piece of itself throughout five thematic worlds, the narrator is somewhat annoyingly blurting out capricious phrases or words on almost every screen. Clearly, the intention is to deliver an underlying hidden message of life and death, light and darkness - but in trying to tell players how to feel, it ends up having rather the opposite effect. It can't be helped thinking that scrapping the speech and text altogether may have functioned far better. Furthermore, the narrator fails to keep up with the action on occasion, as his sentences cut off as transitions to other screens are made. Thankfully, the option to mute the voice is there to stop the pace from falling, and to give the ears a rest.

Screenshot for Nihilumbra on Wii U

Beginning as a small blob of the Void to begin with, and morphing into a scarecrow not long later, Nihilumbra is standard platforming fare, with the main draw being the ability to paint different colours onto the land with but a mere swipe of the finger on the GamePad, as new colours are picked up in each world. Painting ice onto the floor allows the blob-turned-scarecrow's movement to speed up, paving way for a long jump, plus helps enemies and objects slide along into pits; the green paint creates a trampoline effect, enabling high jumps onto platforms; red gifts the power of flame to burn enemies. A total of five coloured paints can be found throughout the course of the game, of which each must be used to solve the puzzles within and to get through each left-to-right stage. Bar the odd case of trial-and-error and one or two tricky sections, the main story mode is miraculously easy, and can be flown through in less than three hours flat.

What unlocks at that point is Void mode: essentially the "Nintendo hard" Nihilumbra experience, and a huge wake-up for pretty much everyone who blitzes through the game initially. This is a true test of skill, and indeed patience, as pixel perfect jumping, quick reflexes, and a whole lot of luck are needed to clear this unforgiving part of the game. Just as in the story mode before it, a slight awkward grip in holding the GamePad is required, so as to efficiently and briskly slap paint and jump with the A button to dodge traps, hit switches, activate lifts, land jumps, and deal with the sometimes problematic screen transitions… with not a single extra hit to play with; it's back to the lone checkpoint to do the motions all over again if failure occurs. It isn't comfortable, and it isn't very enjoyable.

Screenshot for Nihilumbra on Wii U

Cubed3 Rating

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

What should be the core appeal in Nihilumbra is less than three hours of extremely simple platforming, with an admittedly rather predictable storyline that tries too hard, presented through what might best be described as a fad in its invisible narrator. Some tough and frustrating platforming can be found if prepared to hammer through the initial easy-peasy main mode, but it never finds that middle ground of fun and balanced gameplay. Check Nihilumbra out if feeling deprived of some 2D platforming on Wii U, but it is a forgettable experience.

Developer

BeautiFun Games

Publisher

BeautiFun Games

Genre

Adventure

Players

2

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10 (1 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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