Whether you’re playing as an orange bandicoot or a Persian prince, platform games are one of the most beloved genres in the videogame industry. What’s more, I believe that in most cases they don’t even feature any sort of gruesome violence, which is one of the age-old arguments that has plagued the gaming industry ever since intellectual properties such as Mortal Kombat and GTA started making waves in the mainstream media.
Perhaps because platform games never really centered themselves around that aspect of gameplay, platform puzzle games have continuously cropped up every year as an interesting mixture of genres as well as an alternative in a market that usually favors competitive and micro-transaction-ridden live-service games.
Indie games have recently strived in this genre because they tend to be more accessible from a development standpoint. At least much more than AAA franchises. Take games like Braid, Limbo, or A Short Hike as examples. Games that rely on both fast and accurate input while also providing a nice built-in puzzle-solving mechanic.
Thus, in my search for this week’s game review, I was presented with Nubarrón: the adventure of an unlucky gnome. Nubarrón is an argie-developed puzzle platform game by the people from NastyCloud where you play as Gnome, a…gnome (well, of course) with a big round nose who’s lost his lucky hat and must find it. However, he finds himself in a bit of a pickle: he’s been cursed to be followed by a stormy cloud at all times. Without spoiling much of the story, our unfortunate protagonist must recover the pages of a magical book called Nubarrón (get it?) that contains the secret that will allow our little fella to not only lift his curse but also find his hat.
Look and feel
From a presentation standpoint, Nubarrón pulls out all the stops. The world feels whimsical and lived-in with huge creatures roaming in the 2D rendered distance of the different stages you progress through. The score has that Final Fantasy-esque ring to it and fits really well as the story moves forward, especially during boss encounters.
I was eager to solve all the puzzles the game was throwing at me just to see what the next area’s artistic direction would look like and that is a truly refreshing feeling. I also love how the cloud that follows you and the enemy adapt too, so not only will you be facing new challenges but you’ll see a noticeable aesthetic change in your cloud frienemy.
The cast of characters is pretty varied but I feel like they are not as fleshed out as I was hoping. While the game’s visuals and soundtrack are astonishing, I would have loved to be able to be immersed even further in this fantasy world. The hand-drawn aesthetic makes the characters look even wilder, which really left me wanting to hear a voiceover for some of them, even if it’s just for their first lines like many C-RPGs often do.
Nubarrón’s gameplay loop is pretty simple. You’ll be jumping around a few platforms and using your cloud’s lightning strike to light up control switches and/or incapacitating enemies in order to use them as stepping stones in certain areas. They don’t really pose a threat other than adding difficulty to certain platforming sections. In most cases, you’ll have to solve some logic puzzles by activating circuitry or pulling levers to open up certain sections of the game. As you advance through the stages you’ll be introduced to new gameplay mechanics such as gliding and a mechanic that allows your cloud to gather some water for different purposes. I had loads of fun during instances where your cloud turns hostile and starts zapping you if you are not careful enough. This added a layer of depth to what was seemingly just some simple platform hopping.
I was pleased to have played Nubarrón. Its ability to breathe some fresh air into a genre that can sometimes be filled with cookie-cutter Mario clones was a nice change of pace. Its astonishing art direction and its moderate difficulty got me hooked during most of my playthrough. Perhaps a little bit more polishing in terms of design and could have made it into a bonafide classic. Still, Nubarrón showcases indie talent in its rawest form: It’s a simple formula that works but is nuanced enough to throw you and your conventions through a loop for a couple of hours. Hats off to the developers.
Nubarrón: the adventure of an unlucky gnome is available on PC, Mac, and Nintendo Switch.