It's no secret that storytelling has had a renaissance of sorts in video games, where the tale being told is arguably as important as the actual gameplay – and Nihilumbra is cut from the same cloth. While this PlayStation Vita puzzle platformer may not be as moving as the likes of The Last of Us, though, it can still be thought provoking and beautiful. Originally available on the PC and smartphones, it's now made its way to Sony's handheld, providing a short and sweet experience.
You are the void, created by the void itself, and your purpose is to outrun a ghastly purple entity. You'll be traversing different landscapes along the way, as the title attempts to relay a message that's moving at times, and touches upon the idea of destruction as a means to survive.
Gameplay-wise, the release is fairly simple. It's a standard 2D platformer with a twist, which arrives in the form of colour-based powers. Along your sombre journey, you'll encounter flowers, which provide you with unique abilities. You'll start out slow, frail, and unable to attack enemies, but as you soak up these vibrant skills, you'll find yourself able to bounce off the floor, slide on ice, and much more.
These introduce fun ways of interacting with the environment and the enemies that you encounter, turning almost every situation into a kind of puzzle. The catch here is that you must use the touchscreen in order to paint the aforementioned colours into the environment. Fortunately, what could have easily been a gimmick actually works perfectly here, as you'll maintain access to all of the physical controls of your character, while still being able to directly affect the world by reaching over to the system's sizeable display.
The puzzles are never overly challenging, but they do force you to use all of your abilities. The game's at its best when you're up against the clock, and you need to use all of your techniques to escape your pursuer. The pacing's good, though, and by the end of the campaign, you'll be combining powers to progress.
It's atmospheric to boot. The game's got a great look to it, and it has a foreboding atmosphere that suits the story that's being told. In this instance, the plot is what ties the gameplay and the art together. The whole tale is relayed through a sombre voiceover, but the words are also integrated into the world which gives the whole thing a story book quality.
Furthering this, the tale is not especially long, and if you solve the puzzles promptly, you'll probably be done in less than five hours. While this may sound disappointing, though, we actually felt that the shorter running time benefitted it, as it enables the game to get its message across properly without any real padding. Furthermore, there's plenty to see outside of the core narrative if you want to return, and these extra levels tend to push your skills a little further.
Nihilumbra is not the biggest game, but sometimes great things come in small packages. The puzzles are not especially difficult, but there's a nice plot and some decent presentation here which will push you through to its conclusion. If you're looking for something a little different for your Vita, then make sure that you don't a-void this one.
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