Nimbus – Review



Title   Nimbus
Developer  Noumenon Games
Publisher  Noumenon Games
Platform  PC (Steam)
Genre  Puzzle Based Racing
Release Date  25/10/2010

Nimbus is a bit hard to describe in all honesty as it’s one of those games that sits between a number of varying genres. It is actually described by the developers as a combination of a racing and a puzzle game, which is probably as close as you’ll get to finding the one true genre into which it fits.  The premise of Nimbus is simple: you have your little spaceship and, by utilizing the level itself, you have to make your way to the finishing point. Along the way you’ll be guided by nothing but gravity and, quite possibly, something in the form of cannons, swirly vortexes or bouncy walls.

Life starts out like many puzzle games: gradually easing you in and subliminally teaching you new tricks, but life for your little spaceship soon gets a lot harder and it’s not that long before the cogs in your head are soon called into action.  You find yourself just getting into a level and your speed increasing when, all of a sudden, the whole world is turned upside down: you thought you had to go left – you went right and now you’re currently spinning around in a washing machine style vortex, gaining more and more speed while, at the same time, staring precariously at the walls of spikes just below you that will only shatter your hopes and dreams.

Giant bouncing balls are another addition to the plethora of interactable objects found throughout the levels, while the trusty checkpoint also makes a much welcome addition. The checkpoints themselves will become one of the greatest allies you’ll have in Nimbus, and are the subject of the game’s varying difficulty levels. While on easy you’re gifted unlimited checkpoint retries, normal only grants you five and hard sees you all on your own, with none. It would have been nice to see the difficulty settings have more of an impact, perhaps by increasing the amount of obstacles scattered throughout the levels, but it’s not a major flaw by any means.  That’s not to say the game is easy or anything; it’s definitely a challenge and full of “oh why didn’t I think of that” moments.

Length is always going to be an issue with any sort of puzzle game, however, Nimbus has seemingly, once again, hit the sweet spot. With over fifty levels to play through there’s enough to keep you going but not too much to start questioning “are we there yet?”.  Along the way you’ll have the ability to find hidden exits, resulting in the unlocking of new levels, and with over sixty giant gold coins to collect there’s more than enough to keep you occupied well into the winter nights.

The elegant and soothing music chiming along in the background does little to hold back your frustration when you fail repeatedly, but when those moments of success occur you can’t help but get overwhelmed with a sense of relief, happiness and maybe even a virtual fist pumping to boot. The daft thing is, with all the punishment you’ll inflict on yourself, you’ll go back and do it all again.  Nimbus has that little spark that so many big budget games simply lack: the spark of addictiveness.  On more than one occasion I found myself completing a level, glancing at the leaderboards that pop up and instantly hitting the retry button, if for no other reason than to try and get my name further up the global rankings;  throw in some competition with your friends and you’re just asking for trouble.  Like an all you can eat buffet, Nimbus keeps you coming back for more and more; it’s very Trials HD in that sense, where repeated failure eventually makes way for that moment of crowning glory.

Playing for the purpose of beating levels as fast as possible is dampened slightly by the lack of time attack ghosts on offer but, according to a post on the game’s official Steam forums, it is a feature the developers, Noumenon Games – a new Indie studio based in Sweden, do have planned.  Let’s not forget either that this is a game that costs a minuscule £5.99 and for that price it boasts a hefty set of features: Steam achievements are all in place and so too are leaderboards, but it’s the cloud support that I’m particularly fond of -  being able to log into Steam away from home, boot up the game and continue where I left off that very morning was a very refreshing feeling.  There was no messing with downloading gamer profiles, faffing around with memory cards or USB sticks – just login and away you go.

Aesthetically the game is very pretty; your screen is always awash with colour but never too much as to give the feeling that you’ve just replaced your retinas with a bag of skittles. Considering the type of game that Nimbus is, the designers have nailed its visual presentation down to a tee; it’s as if you’ve been whisked back in time to play platformers back in gaming’s yesteryear.  That the world map is nothing more than a simple series of paths from a top down viewpoint particularly gets the nostalgic juices flowing but, amongst all the cries of nostalgia, Nimbus still retains its own identity – you never forget it’s that which you are playing and the game never tries to do anything that it isn’t, which is perhaps its biggest strength.

Pros
  • Refreshingly addictive.
  • Beautiful level design.
  • Good balance between puzzle, time and physics based gameplay.
  • Extremely good fun.
  • Delightful soundtrack.
  • Will last for many hours.
Cons
  • Lack of time attack ghosts.
  • Difficulty level could offer more variety than just checkpoint lives.
Summary

There’s a lot to be said about a game that can leave you so angry that your spouse has to remove any sharp objects within an arm’s reach, but yet at the same time, amongst all that anger and frustration, leaves you with a delightful feeling of euphoria when you make it to the end of the level that has caused so much pain and anguish.

Nimbus can fill that five minute gap during your lunch hour but is just at home being your companion for the entire evening. While it does miss out on some core components, what it does have it does right, the end result being a charming puzzle game that will keep you occupied for hours on end.

Good old fashioned puzzle based gameplay at its very finest.


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10 Comments

  1. Lee says:

    Oh man this looks like it should be on the iPad – ben please tell me there is an iPad version on the way. no disrespect to the devs it just looks amazingly good fun like angry birds except better and not as bloody annoying

  2. Knikitta says:

    Ooooh – This looks load’s of fun, and something that I am sure will also give hours of frustration too! I can easily see that it’s one of them “one more level” games that sucks away your time quite easily because your gaining so much enjoyment from it.

    Only on Steam at the moment, but I think if enough of us do something random, maybe it’ll eventually move across too the iPad/Phone/Pod.

    Fabby review as always Ben.

  3. Ben says:

    @Lee – From what I’ve read by the developers a Mac version is next and then a possible iOS release, may just have to wait that little bit I’m afraid.

    On another note: I’ve just received a patch for the game so I’ll check to see what’s been added and then add a note accordingly.

  4. Edward says:

    Argh, this game looks like it’s one of those crack-cocaine games to me. If I gave it a chance, I’d soon find myself not being able to play anything else and I’d lose my life to it. As well as that, I don’t need another difficult game in my life right now. I’d probably get too frustrated and give up, so you have way more guts and patience than I do, Ben.
    A great job, well done :)

  5. Lorna says:

    The game looks stunning and utterly addictive. That will be another one added to my swelling Steam list, however, it looks like it will swallow all available time! I love how colourful it looks and I think Lee’s right, it may actually work well on the iPad.

  6. MarkuzR says:

    I wanted to review this as soon as Lorna showed me the trailer for it… I was captivated, utterly captivated, both by its charm and the obvious frustration that it spawns!! I’ve watched people spend 30 minutes trying to get past a level in Trials HD when it’s really only a 50 second level, and I reckon this game will be the same. I can see me getting very frustrated with it, yet loving how frustrated I’m getting at the same time.

    I WILL buy this… it’ll be my first purchase on Steam (as everyone knows I don’t get on with Steam, and have never given in to the urges to buy) and you’ll likely not see me around for ages. I adore the graphics too, they’re so… innocent? It’s a beautiful game.

  7. Samuel says:

    This looks utterly fantastic. When most games seem to be getting darker and more realistic, it is occasionally very refreshing to see something charmingly colourful and simple bouncing onto the scene and being addictive enough to last there for a while. The bargain pricing just makes it the more irresistible, with money being fairly tight.

    This is a definite future purchase. Great write up Ben.

  8. Adam says:

    Solid Review Ben, enjoyed reading this having looked forward to hear some good honest response from it.

    Looks like a lot of fun, its amazing how many games have picked up on the crack like nature of games like Trackmania, TrialsHD and the like and managed to reproduce it in so many new forms. Nimbus seems to have those qualities and I wish the dev’s every success with it

  9. Rook says:

    The game looks very colourful and I enjoy puzzle games so hopefully this will make it to XBLA too.

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