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Review: Nihilumbra (Wii U)

You are Born, a blob that escaped the void to enter the world. You don’t belong in this world, the void wants you back, it needs you back! It’s cold outside, you’re weak, you’re nothing. How will you survive? Lucky for you, you’re smart, maybe you do stand a chance in this world.

Unique experience

Nihilumbra is by far the most unique indie game that appeared in the eShop lately. It tells the story of Born, a meaningless blob from the dark void. Born escaped to void to enter the world, but the world isn’t as friendly as he thought. Soon after entering the world, he mimics a scarecrow to look more at his place in his new environment.

Although this story is rather unique it wouldn’t be any special if there wasn’t a narrator speaking directly to Born. This voice often gives you hints on how to advance in the world but also questions your moves. It’s this voice that makes Nihilumbra so unique. The constant questions such as ‘Why are you here?’, ‘Are you going to destroy this world?’, ‘What is your purpose here?’ and many more, cause a feeling of doubt and even sadness at certain points. The developers tried to write a strong narrative and in our opinion they really succeeded. The voice and its meaning is very crucial in the game and really make it stand out.

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Unique gameplay

Aside of the story, the game starts off rather traditional as a platformer. As Born, you need to jump from platform to platform in order to advance. Besides platforming you also need to solve easy environmental puzzles mostly consisting out of moving a box on a switch. Nothing new right? Well, everything changes once Born finds its first color in the world.

The colors are very important for the game. Once you discover a color, you can paint the world using your GamePad. Painting the ground blue for example, will turn it into a slippery ice field. This is handy to built up momentum to increase your jumping distance. Paint it green on the other hand and the ground will transform in a giant trampoline. The game features a set of five colors to discover and use in the world.

 

Nihilumbra works like a charm on Wii U

 

It’s this mechanic that turn the gameplay into something new. Not only do you need to move Born around, you also need to paint the world in the right color. At first this all starts rather easy. Painting and running is rarely combined so during the first levels you really have enough time to paint the world. The more you advance however, the more complex the puzzles will become. Where you first started using just one color, you’ll need to be able to make combinations with different colors in the later levels.

To make it even more complex, the game introduces enemies at a balanced rate, making it harder and harder to survive. The enemies you face in the more difficult worlds ask a lot of strategy to take down. The game really builds up this difficulty so you’re ready when you need to be.

Unique world 

Just like other platform games, Nihilumbra is divided into different world. The first ones are dark and cold but grow warmer and more colorful the more you advance. This is a metaphor for life itself. Life starts dark but the longer you live, the better and warmer it becomes. In Nihilumbra you’ll start in an icy world but pass trough a forest, desert, volcano and more thrilling environments later on.

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The meaning and order of the worlds is unique and the way they are designed is as well. Every world looks like an interactive painting. It really is interactive since you can add colors using the touchscreen. Some might say it’s a boring or plain look but we really liked it. It is designed to look like something completely different and it is without a doubt.

Also pay attention to the way Born acts in the world. Where he’ll shiver in the ice world, he’ll sweat in the volcano world. It isn’t much but it’s in those details you recognize a great game.

Unique co-op gameplay

New in the Wii U version is the addition of an asymmetric co-op experience. This is a local co-op but works surprisingly well. In co-op mode, one player will use a Wii Remote to control Born while the other will use a GamePad to paint to world and help Born. Communication is key in this co-op mode but once you get the hang out of it, it’s probably the most fun way to play. The addition of this mode offers the gamers more for the money they spend.

Unique unlockables

This brings us to our final point, the unlockables in the game. During your adventure you’ll unlock some gorgeous artwork. This artwork can be displayed in the starting menu any time you want. We really advice you all to check it out since those are really some great pieces.

Once you complete the main story you’ll also unlock Void mode. This Mode makes you able to revisit the locations but with a lot more puzzles and enemies. The Void mode is the true challenge for die-hard gamers. It’s like the developers held back during the story mode to go all out in the Void. This mode really increases the replay value of the game.

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Conclusion: 

Nihilumbra is a very unique indie game and it feels right at home on the Wii U thanks to the interactive GamePad. It’s a game that many of you will overlook or might think they’ve played something like it before. Don’t be mistaken however; this is by far one of the most unique and fun games that appeared in the eShop. We strongly recommend everybody to give this game a chance and enjoy its beautiful atmosphere.

8/10

Got interested in games since I could read. Started with Nintendo but evolved into an all-round gamer. I love all kind of games; triple A games to Indie. If the vibe is right, I'll enjoy playing it.