Hardcore racing for casual gamers
By Harry Hughes
Price: USD $9.99 (AUD $9.99)
Nimbus is a title which is quite hard to describe. Not because anything about the game is particularly confusing, but because whatever way you try to describe the game's gameplay or genre, it ends up sounding quite disgusting - which most certainly does not justify what this game has been able to achieve.
It is essentially a mix of platforming, puzzling and racing, with the emphasis quite heavily on the latter. Players jump in a ship and have to solve puzzles in gravity-based levels to reach the finish. To put an interesting twist on the puzzle/platform genre, the developers have made the game all about speed rather than exploration. That said, there are some elements of exploration with some bonuses hidden around the place.
The most surprising thing about Nimbus is the way that all of the basic platforming elements fit in to the hybrid that this game is. Cannons, trampolines, boost-pads, teleporters and more all serve to help you throughout your journey, while various spiny objects, lasers, crushers and more act as obstacles, slowing you down at every corner.
Perhaps the reason the game performs so well is because of the brilliant design. Speed is not based entirely on line, but also on smarts, and it will be up to the players to figure out a route which will work and allow them a fast time.
The game would not be nearly as successful as it is if it weren't for the addition of the leaderboards. As you achieve a time on each of the levels (of which there are well over fifty), you'll be given the chance to look at the times of others in three different sections. Firstly, the 'Global' section allows you to see your current ranking and that of nearest eight competitors. The 'top' section shows you the times of the world's fastest racers. Finally, the 'Friends' section allows you to compare your times to your mates' and battle it out to become champion.
The level of competition this brings into the game is amazing. There's nothing quite as satisfying as pulling off a big run to put yourself at the top of the world. There's plenty of replay value here, because you'll often be wanting to reclaim that world record that some sneaky rat has stolen off you. It wouldn't be uncommon for a player to spend hours working on a time for a single level in order to become top dog. Multiply this by the amount of times a record will change hands, and the amount of levels in game, and you have some serious replay value.
As well as this, there are numerous bonuses to be found in the game. Through discovering secret routes in some of the levels, you can come across coins and secret finishes. The coins are used to unlock more ship parts - players can customise their ship by selecting a hull and also the trail which is emitted from the ship's muffler. Coming across a secret finish will unlock extra levels and routes on the level-select map. This is a system reminiscent of Super Mario World and one that works surprisingly well in this setting.
Unfortunately, not everything is smooth sailing in this game. There are a few flaws which come to mind. Firstly, the HUD is incredibly dull and boring. While heads up displays in racing games don't need to be anything spectacular, we see only a timer in Nimbus. It'd at least be nice to have the top few times in each section show up so players could have something to aim for.
Secondly, despite some beautiful presentation on the visual front, one can't help but be disappointed with the soundtrack. The quality of each track is undeniable, but the fact that each plays on a continuous loop until you get to a new world is incredibly annoying. A little more variety here most definitely would not have gone astray.
Finally, the controls can be quite awkward at times. At first I was hesitant about this sort of game relying on the use of keyboard. After practising, it's clear this is the right choice and any involvement of the mouse would be questionable. That said, players might struggle to keep control of their ship when numerous elements come into play at the same time. Having a knowledge of how each obstacle works is essential throughout the game, and even more so as you progress through the later levels - especially if you want to be the quickest player around.
In honesty, these flaws are quite small and don't impact too much on how the game plays. An appropriate learning curve ensures all players will be able to complete the game and be competitive on the leaderboards, and practice ensures the controls do not become an issue. The other two problems mentioned could both be easily fixed, so as of yet, there's no knowing how successful the game could be.
The Final Verdict
Nimbus is completely different to what you'd expect of this sort of video game mash-up. It's simple, competitive and addictive, and though there are some issues with sound, the presentation makes the game feel that little bit more polished. It's a racing title which will appeal to those of us who aren't petrol heads, and the in-game competition could push anyone out there to be successful.
A very solid title, and well worth the $10.