Saturday, April 21

Review: Nihilumbra [Nintendo Switch eShop]


Even for Nintendo fans I don’t think it is much of a secret that the WiiU was a troubled system with some aggravating limitations. For whatever failings it may have had though, it did act as a sort of prototype and precursor to the Switch and one of the most key features it had that has carried over is the touchscreen. While there are obvious abundant numbers of tablets out in the world, some obviously as powerful as the Switch (if not more), the big different is that Nintendo’s console features both the touchscreen and dedicated physical controls. Putting the two together, as demonstrated thoroughly by the WiiU port of Nihilumbra, creates a platform for games to do things in new and interesting ways.


Playing out as puzzle platformer, Nihilumbra is all about making use of a variety of abilities you’ll acquire as you move through each world to survive a variety of scenarios and try to escape the ominous Void. While when you only have a limited number of abilities this plays out pretty simply, as you accumulate more of them the collective mechanics and lessons you’ve learned in using each of them will continue to be leveraged in new ways. The result is an often-clever series of challenges that will challenge both your brains and your dexterity on through the end.

Layered on top of the action and puzzles what’s also notable is the style of the presentation. There’s a great amount of polish here from the hard-drawn and quirky art to the narrator who waxes philosophical as you make your way through the world. While I was a bit surprised that there wasn’t more specificity to the nature of your character’s story, and the things you’ve been trying to run away from, it’s still a nice layer of effort that helps everything seem to have purpose.


If you would think that getting to the end may be too easy what really gets crazy is the Void mode you’ll then unlock, which will remove any doubts on whether or not these ideas can be combined to make something difficult. It goes from moderate challenge to extreme aggravation right from the beginning. The removal of friendly checkpoints and upping the ante on the demands for being precise  in your movements really serve to point out that the main game was being somewhat nice, and if you want to test yourself this is going to be where you meet your match.

Overall there’s a lot to like about the creative mix of cerebral and action-oriented elements in Nihilumbra. While you’ll be forced to play it handheld the ease with which you can be holding your joystick to move while you’re making the surface ahead of you icy so you’ll slide is satisfying. At each step of the way the nature of the challenges you’ll face continues to evolve and require more of you on all levels, leaving you satisfied once you’ve completed them all. If you then really want to dig in then the Void Mode then turns the challenge up to 11 and you’ll be able to test how good you really are.


Score: 8

Pros:
  • Mixes clever puzzle mechanics with satisfying platforming
  • As you acquire new powers in each area the complexity of the puzzles continues to grow
  • The Void mode is very difficult and should satisfy even the most hardened gamers looking for something to sink their teeth into

Cons:
  • The overall pace is pretty slow and deliberate
  • After the narrative build-up I was expecting more from the story’s ending
  • A few puzzles can be awkward to control as you manage precise movement and manipulation together