With so many television channels in the United Kingdom now dedicated purely to childrens’ viewing, it’s surprising to remember that back in the 1970s, cartoons on TV were strictly rationed. Typically there would be an occasional episode of Tom and Jerry, or if you were lucky, Scooby Doo. Once in a while, there would be very strange Czech cartoons depicting melancholy, dream like worlds which followed their own bizarre logic. Nihilumbra feels like being immersed in one of those cartoons.

Nihilumbra is an original platforming adventure which guides an enigmatic shadowy figure through a series of beautiful hand-painted worlds before they are slowly devoured by an all encompassing void. Bleak poetic phrases are scattered throughout the game, providing atmosphere as well as instruction. English isn’t the developers’ first language, but that works in their favour, the occasionally foreign grammar enhancing the other worldly feel.

Running and jumping is controlled through either virtual buttons or tilting the iPad, but the game’s strongest feature is its use of paint. Using colours from a gradually expanding palette, the properties of surfaces can be transformed to become slippery, sticky and more.  Each worlds introduces a new colour, and part of the enjoyment in the game is discovering the new properties as they are introduced. It’s a variation on mechanism that worked very well in Portal 2, but which is given a far greater degree of control on a touch pad. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine how it could work on other platforms, although PC and Mac ports are in development.

The sound design is minimal, but effective, and the screams of the occasional nightmarish creatures that block your path are genuinely chilling. The soundtrack itself is majestic, with overtones of folk and even the subtler moments of early seventies prog. Although busy, it has enough variety to avoid becoming grating over time.

The game is extremely generous with its levels, and maintains its quality to the end. As a final bonus upon completion of the game, a set of ‘remixed’, much tougher versions of the levels becomes available. Not only is Nihilumbra one of the most haunting adventure games on iOS, it is incredibly good value for money.

Available for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch

Price: £1.99 / $1.99

Developer: Beautifun Games


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