This game takes on a psychological perspective.
Nihilumbra capitalizes on its beautiful and haunting atmospheric approach upon existentialism. You are an empty ‘being’, born into creation with no destiny in mind. Yet, due to curiosity and unbridled evolution of building self to become something, you explore the World with fresh new eyes.
To give you an inkling of what to expect from Nihilumbra, this game will use prevalent dialogues that will remind you of certain phases in your life. That, of finding yourself, what you are meant to do in this world, and what others had possibly negatively told about you.
Sounds deep? Quite. But expect to be delighted by this hauntingly beautiful world of finding oneself in the intriguing world of Nihilumbra.
Do you know where you belong?
You will be ‘Born’, a shapeless nothingness that came to life in The Void. Everything in The Void is dark, heavy and gloomy. You started there. You don’t know who you are. The Void is also curious about your existence. The Void tells you that you will forever belong there. Yet, another World beckons of from the Edge of the Void. Being the curious entity that you are, you make your way to the Edge. The Void knows of your plans and tries to keep you in its world. You ignore the Void’s words and you jump off the Edge, landing in another World. You start to explore. Although The Void doesn’t have complete dominance in this new World, it can still chase after you.
That’s what it does.
It sends out your “brothers” and “sisters” to bring you back to The Void. They will hurt you if they need to. You will need to kill your “siblings” if you want to continue the journey. You will always hear the Void’s Voice undermine your capabilities in every possible way. It will do what it can to break you down. The Void will even manifest its vastness into the World (in this case, the whole left part of your screen), just to bring you back.
How to survive constant degradation of your existence.
In exploring icy mountains, forests, caves, deserts, and a city, you will be constantly be bombarded by the Void’s voice. It will endlessly taunt you, saying things such as:
“You are nothing. Nothing at all.”
“You are not fast enough.”
“You are not agile enough.”
“You are not strong enough.”
While exploring the World, you will discover ‘colors’. Each color are imbued with specific properties. For example, the blue color makes any surface slippery. A slick ground helps in increasing momentum so you can jump higher.
This game for me is a combination of 2 bipolar game genres.
One, it reminded me of Mario Bros. Though Nihilumbra is nowhere near to showcase adorable visuals of 1Up mushrooms, colorful challenges, and towering castles, it connotes a memorable adventure that will take a lot of “smarts” to push through. Better, there is variety of ways to solve a challenge so replayability is assured. Even without any special effects for interludes or theatrical emphasis, the desire to continue playing is imminent. It will beckon you – and that is the a great feat not all game developer can overcome.
Two, Nihilumbra is hauntingly beautiful it reminded be a lot of The Room and YearWalk. These mentioned games are legends on their own. They both don’t have adventures to finish, no princess to save, no items needed to collect, no status to maintain. But no game can encompass their storytelling value, superb esthetic presentation, and puzzle platforms that will make your brain muscles weep.
To survive in Nihilumbra, you have to listen to what The Void tells you. Yes, it may demean you but it gives you hints on what to do next. It can warn you of upcoming danger. Despite The Void being extremely selfish of its possessions, it still worries over Born’s adventure. It tells Born to run when monsters are chasing after it, or it tells Born to find the right timing as to not be blown off a dangerous cliff. Also, you can’t help but admire The Void’s voice quality. It can rival any commercial voice over.
Also, be aware of the music. Although used to give a surreal feeling onto the game, the music can also give cue to environmental changes, such as a strong gust of blizzard that could push you to dangerous sharp cliff spikes or a monster starting to chase after you. The music is something worth to collect.
Additional tip: You need to choose the control option that best fits you. There are three control set-ups. First option, left, right and jump buttons are available. Second option, you can just tilt your device for said movements. Third option, combination of both. Being the old timer that I am, I picked the first option. I felt more control in that.
If I’m to summarize Nihilumbra, I would describe it as an existential adventure of oneself. At first, I was merely leading Born on its mission to explore. I wanted to know what lies ahead. I wanted to reach the next level. I wanted to know if The Void will forever chase poor Born.
Then I realized how apt The Void talks to me as a person. I perceive The Void as a voice always in your head. It is a voice that puts you down and tests your confidence in different moments of your life. As I progressed through the game, I realized I was helping in Born’s growth as an individual entity. And that as a person, I am also on the same journey. I am still pursuing the answer to the age-old question of “What am I supposed to do in this world?”
For such a perceptive and beautiful puzzle game app, I’m giving this game a perfect 5. It’s one of the most meaningful games ever made.
Nihilumbra website: nihilumbra.com