Review: Nimbus

Developer: Noumenon Games

Publisher: Noumenon Games

It’s not often that puzzling and racing are combined in the same title but this is what Noumenon Games have gone for in their first offering, Nimbus, in which you must navigate your ship around a series of levels packed with puzzles and hazards. The twist is that your ship is always at the whim of gravity, thus you are required to use the environment and game physics to your advantage to keep moving. Moving vertically upwards will quickly slow you down, whereas moving downwards will cause your ship to accelerate and gain velocity. Getting to grips with these basic mechanics and their intricacies is essential if you want to progress, but it’s extremely easy to pick up and you’ll be a master of it in no time.

Puzzles in Nimbus are fairly standard, most of which you’ll have seen multiple times before. Progress is often blocked by coloured walls and you’ll be required to search around for the correct key to move on, although the walls are sometimes linked to coloured-coded switches. Flying over these will toggle the presence of the wall and allow you to continue, or in some cases trap or release objects. Spiked mazes make an appearance and accurate control through them is key. Your ship does come equipped with a brake, however, so you can always slow down to avoid hazards. Certain stages also necessitate interaction with the environment in other ways, such as nudging objects out of your path or into switches you’re unable to reach. It really feels like a racing version of Chip’s Challenge.

Most levels include features that are there to aid you in your progression and puzzle-solving. A staple of these are bouncy pads on surfaces; hitting one of these will send you flying off and are a blessing if you’re losing momentum. Levels also regularly feature boost pads that speed your ship up, cannons which can fire your ship off in a direction of your choice, boost strips that force your ship to travel along them in a specific direction and teleporters that will transport your ship from one area to another. Larger cannons act as the checkpoints which you can start from again should your ship come to a rest or you collide with something nasty such as spikes, fireballs or lasers. You’ll even encounter gravity-switching pads later on in the game. Flying over these alters the direction of gravity and can give your ship motion in a new direction – it’s slightly disorientating to begin with but a lot of fun once you get your bearings.

There are over 50 levels available split between four main ‘worlds’, each with a different visual theme. Level selection is very Mario-esque, with an overview of them connected together with branches. Some contain multiple exits which allow you to access other levels off of the main branch, so playing through certain ones more than once is advisable. Level design on the whole is great and while they range in length from a few seconds to a few minutes, each is laid out well and makes expert use of the game mechanics. The majority can be passed first time, with some that may require multiple attempts. Each one is timed and once you hit the finish your final time is uploaded to the leaderboards, so there’s incentive to have another go, shave your time down and climb closer to the top. Added extras are thrown into levels in the form of gold coins; collecting these unlocks new ships and trails for you to use.

Accurate movement is crucial to progression and is ultimately down to the control scheme. Ship control is accomplished through the WASD or arrow keys, as opposed to the mouse. After playing for a while the reason for this decision becomes clear, but at times it feels somewhat twitchy. In a narrow spike maze this can lead to crashes if you’re not perfect with your movements. The challenge posed may sometimes give way to frustration, but persistence usually prevails in the end. There are three difficulty options available to cater for a wide range of abilities, though, which affect the number of times you can retry from the last checkpoint. On easy you have infinite lives, on normal you’re given 5 and on hard you’re given none.

The visuals are top notch, being crisp and bright throughout. As with the level selection inspiration coming from the Mario games, the look of the game feels inspired by Sonic the Hedgehog. The first world in particular screams Green Hill Zone (or Splash Hill Zone if you’ve been playing Sonic 4) but this isn’t a bad thing as it looks great. The accompanying music is quite good, with various synth tunes to compliment the gameplay and the overall feel of the game. The same track plays for each level within a world however, so if you’re not too much of a fan they might grate slightly.

Nimbus offers a lot in a small package, with many well-designed and lovely-looking levels for you to puzzle and race your way through. Leaderboards, multiple exits and unlockables add a substantial amount of replayability, so there’s incentive to play well past the main levels are over, alongside the fact that Nimbus definitely has the “one more go” factor. It may not be totally perfect in the control department, but for £5.99 you’re getting an expertly-crafted experience which will satisfy the majority of gamers out there.

Pros:

  • Loads of levels.
  • Large amount of replayability.
  • Lovely visuals.

Cons:

  • Controls can be twitchy at times.
  • Same music used over and over.