Life. The universe. Everything. All of the above come from nothingness. You can add the shadowy, shape-changing hero of iOS adventure Nihilumbra to that list. He may come from the void, but the character that starts off a little glob stars in a very special mobile gaming experience.
That aforementioned void isn't just conceptual, either. Nihilumbra starts off as a tiny piece of inky blackness sprouts off from a larger monolithic mass and begins exploring a world much like our own. As it assumes humanoid form and moves from environment to environment, text will pop up on the screen that ties the jumping and movement to a larger struggle of the character's quest for independence and self-awareness. The writing is these passages strikes a ponderous and sometimes bleak chords but does an excellent job of motivating you to surpass the traps and enemies lurking on each screen.
Created by indie dev studio Beautifun Games, Nihilumbra shares the stark minimalism that made Limbo so hypnotic but it also offers colors for the player to paint over parts of the gameworld. Swiping a swath of green on the ground makes it bouncy, for example, and blue reduces friction allowing for a slippery speed boost, much like the gels in Portal 2. The puzzles that you'll need to solve to progress make clever use of the physics manipulation mechanics. You'll need both logic and reflexes to keep your shadow hero alive.
Moreover, the haunting mood of the game seems to dare you to press forward, almost mocking you for wanting to achieve something on your own. Part platformer video game, part storybook fairy tale, Nihilumbra does more than just offer a fun, darkly charming game experience. It also makes you think about identity and evolution. Not bad for a first effort.
Nihilumbra [$2.99, iTunes]