Racing and puzzling – now there are two genres that you don’t often see lumped together. Nimbus attempts to duct tape the two together, throwing a small bouncy vessel around a series of mazes at speed.
Calling it a ‘Racing’ game is stretching the truth a fair bit – if this is racing, then so is Super Meat Boy – but the puzzling elements are definitely something special. The controls can feel a little fiddly at times, but in general this is a cheap and cheerful experience definitely worth partaking in.
Taking control of a missile-like object, the idea is to navigate increasingly difficult mazes and reach the goal at the end of each. Holding left and right causes the missile to turn in a clockwise or anticlockwise manner and initially this feels quite confusing, especially when moving in a downwards direction. A few levels later, however, and you’ll be powering towards the finish with full understanding under your belt.
The main concept is that your vessel cannot stay airborne on its own – it needs to touch a bouncy wall or fire from a cannon or use other assorted useful appliances. Here’s the thing, though – using one of these objects does not push your craft, but rather it gives your craft a boost of energy. In other words if there is a bouncy wall on the ceiling and you touch it, you won’t be catapulted towards the ground – instead, you’ll earn a boost which can be used to then move in any direction you wish.
It’s a difficult idea to grasp when saying it outloud, and you really need to try it out to see how it all works. If your craft stops moving and rests on the ground, you become stranded and die – hence, you need to keep moving until you reach the end. Of course, it’s never as simple as that, thanks to lots of obstacles and spikes in your way.
It’s all really enjoyable and we found ourselves whizzing through the whole game in one sitting. Every new level is fun to explore, and there are secret exits and hidden coins to find that really boost the replay value. Then you’ve got global leaderboards to top and lots of ship customization to mess about with. In other words, you’ll easily get a good several hours of play out of this bad boy, and then some.
What makes Nimbus really addictive is the quick stop-start elements. When you die, you’re instantly respawned either at the start of the level, or at the latest checkpoint cannon. This means that dying isn’t such a huge hassle, as you’ll be back at that point within seconds. It’s like an airborne version of VVVVVV in a sense, especially when you start messing around with gravity later on in the game!
Only a couple of niggles threatened to ruin the fun. While the controls are perfectly reasonable, later levels get incredibly difficult. This isn’t a bad thing – in fact, we love a challenge – but the lacklustre feeling of control can be a little too much when faced with tight spaces and sharp corners. It’s nothing a few dozen attempts can’t solve, but it can still feel quite frustrating.
The other issue is the lack of indication as to where all the coins are. We don’t mind hunting down collectables, but since many of the levels are pretty big, it would be nice to know which ones we should be looking in! We wouldn’t mind all that much if we knew that there was one coin in each level, but we found quite a few levels in which there were multiple coins! A small symbol next to each level that has a coin in it would do wonders and definitely make us want to grab every single one.
There’s a lovely visual style throughout Nimbus, with bright colourful backdrops and a wonderful variety of objects to navigate. However, it does all being to feel a little samey towards the end, as every world is the very same, but with a few colour changes.
The world map is set in a Super Mario World style layout, with levels joined together and secret routes seemingly out of reach until you find the special goals. The feeling of progression is really great, and leaderboards are loaded on the fly so you can check out your top times against the rest of the world in a very easy fashion.
The Nimbus soundtrack is a mix of good-to-great tunes, and every track fits well with the general feel of the game. Throughout each world you’ll hear the same track repeated, which can become a little annoying, but we still found ourselves humming the tunes afterwards.
The Steam description for Nimbus states that the game is ‘Light on story, but heavy on gameplay’, and it’s not wrong there. There is some intro about a girl vessel thingy being snatched away by a big nasty robot, but really it’s all just an excuse to zip around some cool-looking mazes and beat all your friends’ times.
With plenty of Steam features integrated into the game, including Steam Cloud, leaderboards and achievements, Nimbus has got tons going for it. Fun? Check. Addictive? Check. Plenty of reasons to keep playing once it’s all over? Double check. This is a game that looks good in trailers, and plays even better.
There’s no demo available at the moment which is a bit of a bummer, but honestly, for the $10 asking price, it’s not exactly a huge risk to take. Nimbus is charmingly unique and immensely entertaining, and will keep you going for a good six hours or more.
Nimbus on Steam