Indie games seem to have found their home on the PlayStation Vita, and as AAA support for the handheld has been all but abandoned we’re at a point where we seemingly rely on indie games to keep us playing. Indie games come in many shapes and forms, and while most of them are interesting and unique, some indie titles really do stand out from the crowd.
Nihilumbra is the first game from Beautifun Games and was originally released on Apple devices back in 2012. It won several awards as an iOS title and with that success in hand, the developers decided to share the game with a wider audience – and in honesty, I’m glad they’ve brought it to the PlayStation Vita.
The game starts off with you controlling a blob, and poses several strange questions at you, such as who are you? Why do you exist? Where do you belong in the world? and so on. When you encounter a strange statue, the blob takes the form of the statue and the adventure begins.
Next you perform some simple platforming – such as climbing up ledges and navigating around avoiding enemies – until you unlock your first power. This first power is an ice power, which essentially makes the ground slippy. The player will benefit using this power by being able to speed up and increase jump distance, but the ability can also be played to your advantage as it can cause enemies to slip and fall into various dangers and traps.
The several different enemy types introduced in the game are all unique and are an utter joy to defeat, with each setup requiring thought and strategy in order to defeat them. You can’t just rush into an enemy encounter as you’re likely to wind up dead and annoyed at yourself for doing so.
The most enjoyable thing about using the ice power and any subsequent powers you unlock is that they require use of the Vita’s touch-screen or you to use them. By gently scrubbing the area of land that you want to affect with your finger you will see that the power appears on screen. You can also use the touch screen in order to swap between power-ups.
While the touch-screen powers play a rather big role in the game, so does the games main enemy – simply known as ‘the void’. Throughout the game’s various environments you’ll encounter a mass of the void which is intent on chasing the traveller until they consume not just him, but the entire world.
Completing levels in Nihilumbra unlocks the ability to play them again by accessing the level select feature on the main menu, but this is where the true nature of the game can be discovered – Nihilumbra is essentially a mobile title ported to PSVita and the level select screens reveal chapters and star ratings for each stage. While I’m not frowning upon this too much I thought it is certainly worth pointing out.
Nihilumbra is a rather beautiful game and the graphics look great on the Vita’s screen – no two environments look the same and each of them are a joy to look at. Also rather enjoyable is the game’s soundtrack, which is incredibly atmospheric and adds to the eerie tones and questionable themes of the game.
The most negative thing about Nihilumbra is that at times it feels too much like an experiment than an actual game. While it’s all about questioning the meaning of your existence it can sometimes leave you confused as to what on earth is actually going on in the story, and this can be extremely off-putting.
At a price point of £7.39 and a 3-4 hour run time on the initial playthrough, it’s definitely value for money. There is also an unlockable challenge mode for when you’ve finished the main campaign, which adds a lot more variety and interesting and thought provoking puzzles to the experience.
Nihilumbra is a cheap and interesting experience that certainly kept me tense throughout my time playing it, its often dark and interesting mechanics are a dream on the Vita but the experience may not be for everyone. Pick this up if you’re looking for something unique or experimental, but be warned, the game itself may leave you questioning your own existence by the time you’ve completed it!