February 5, 2015

First Impressions: Nihilumbra by BeautiFun Games (Review)



I am Born, and I am alone.

O'er these frozen cliffs and living forests, I am alone and I am hunted. I am occasionally found, but I will not stop. I will never stop. This is my home now.

Since the year began, I've been in possession of a copy of Nihilumbra for Steam. Developed by BeautiFun Games and designed by Kevin Cerdá, I've found it to be one of the most pleasing, intriguing narrated puzzlers that I've yet played. In my two-part reviews, the first portion is that of first impressions of the game's design, mechanics, and what appears to be the plot or purpose. I've been very excited to cover Nihilumbra. Let's leap in.





I didn't wind up taking a ton of screenshots.
The Void is Coming for Me

I'll start with the plot. So far, I know very little about Born, who I'll call a 'he' to keep things organized. Born has successfully escaped from the Void, his homeland (land?) by means of plain running from its power. He wound up on a set of frozen cliffs, left to figure the world out for himself while escaping the perils of the Void's efforts to get him back.

Oh, and Born discovered color. Personally, the importance of Born's new powers simply described as discovering colors was a rather poignant, touching point of the game. Color is something so many of us take for granted, and Born had to escape a world of darkness and despair to be at last exposed to something bright and colorful. Of course, that isn't to forget that the darkness is still chasing him. Wherever he goes, he finds a smattering of blacks and violets sent after him by the Void itself, snapping its jaws or blasting spikey terribleness at him. He's got a long way to go before he can call this scary new world home.

Nihilumbra Press Kit
The Narrator

There's one other obstacle that Born seems to have to mentally overcome, and that's the narrator, source of my "SHUT UP! I haven't died yet..." moments. I imagine it's difficult to create a consistent internal conflict in a single-player game (or a game at all), and Nihilumbra's doing a good job at that with a dynamic and highly stand-alone narrator. He degrades Born's efforts as he continues to escape from the Void, reminding him of how difficult his mission is. The narrator also causes some conflict within the hard-working player.

Of course, Born is rewarded with a shocked reaction when he succeeds and occasionally a little bit of encouragement mixed into the slew of degradation, but the narrator is oftentimes the...how do I say it? Yes, the Insightful Navi. "Hey, listen! Hey! You're going to fail!" Nice touch.

NPK
Design, Music, and Mechanics

Nihilumbra is, in a phrase, adorable. The vivid colors make for a very enjoyable experience with the art and interaction, things glowing, swirling, and interacting with Born. Though simple on many aspects, it feels like the character designs of not only Born but of the Void's sentries were well-thought out not only in design but in reactions to certain things like seeing Born, attacking him, and realizing their own peril when he outsmarts them.

One thing that I absolutely love about Nihilumbra too, without a doubt, is the music. The score is highly orchestral-inspired and is rich with emotion and depth. My favorite track has to be that on the title screen, but so far, they've all been amazing and incredibly suitable for the various atmospheres. Besides the point of the plot itself and the design, the music is really what adds a splash of color to the game.

NPK - Run, Born, RUN!
Speaking of color, let's quickly talk about the mechanics. As Born, one can start spreading colors everywhere to make certain effects on the ground. Initially, this for speed and more effective jumps, but I've also discovered something that will help me bounce around besides the purple, Void-y color-getter-ridder-of. (Think Portal 2's Propulsion/Repulsion/Cleansing gels.) The importance of this to the plot is a nice touch. If it were me, I'd think twice about letting players 'double up' colors on a surface. Since no two colors can be laid over each other for multiple effects, it's counter-intuitive to let players go over a surface twice in the same color; It depletes the supply, too, even if only by a little.


Overall

Coming to a conclusion about a game I've only scratched the surface of is difficult. There will be another part to this post after I finish Nihilumbra detailing my extended thoughts on the game. I'm a rather positive person, so my opinions can expected to be like so, but I really do think Nihilumbra is worth its full price. I post this just a little after Nihilumbra was on sale in the Humble Bundle, but anyone who has it now is encouraged to play!

Nihilumbra is available for $7.99 USD for Windows, Mac, and Linux! Also available on Steam and/or Desura. http://www.nihilumbra.com/


TL;DR - First impression: 10/10 Yelled at the narrator and scared the cat 

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2 comments:

  1. I read the whole thing and appreciate your insights, but I'll be honest my favourite part is the TL;DR summary. Surprise laugh! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Amy! The TL;DR had been written into the end of the post just to make myself laugh while I was writing, but I ultimately found a way to keep it to share the fun.

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