Developer(s) – Nastycloud
Publisher(s) – Hidden People club
Designer(s) – Ignacio Rud & Federico Segovia
PEGI – 3
Released on Steam in early 2020 to a mixed critical reception of gamers and reviewers, Nubarron is a semi-open world 2D side-scroller following the adventures of a Gnome being persisted by an ever-changing cloud, tasked with recovering the pages of a magic book. For the first hour of playing, it seemed like a pretty generic platforming game; I can best compare it to Chronology by Bedtime Digital. But after getting past that initial period, it did become progressively better, and I ended up enjoying it very much.
Graphics – 8.5/10
To begin, the game’s hand-drawn visuals are quite stunning; almost on par with the best games to use this graphical style, such as the Ori games, Dust: An Elysian Tail and Hollow Knight. It takes place in a fantastical forest home to many weird and wonderful creatures, with a blend of both medieval fantasy and science-fiction elements. The reason I say that this game is almost on par with the aforementioned games is that it doesn’t quite stand out as much on the conceptual level, but nevertheless, it is one of the better-looking indie games developed in 2020.
Gameplay – 7/10
The game is a semi-open world puzzle-solving 2D side-scroller that requires some tracking back to previous areas to complete quests. Gameplay is made as variable as possible with acquiring new abilities throughout and the unusual combat system. Combat is engaged through the cloud that follows the player character. It can be used to subdue enemies, but in certain sequences throughout the game, the cloud can become either more difficult to control, or out of control altogether, with the player having to avoid being killed by the cloud when it becomes uncontrollable. Aside from the combat element being wonderfully outlandish compared to other games, the puzzle-solving element is also pretty well-executed with some of which, especially towards the end of the game, being particularly challenging.
Controls – 10/10
One of the main reasons why I would still most closely compare Nubarron to Chronology is because the controls are almost the same; nearly to the point where you would think both games were made on the same engine. The movement controls are somewhat wooden compared to other side scrollers, but with so much more functionality and abilities to take advantage of than the former, it’s a far better game to control. The slowness of the movement commands is also not hindering enough to be considered a significant problem. The game’s control scheme poses no unnecessary complications, as any good game should be made.
Lifespan – 5/10
The aspect which lets this game down, however, is in its lifespan. The problem being is the games I have compared this to in terms of graphics are Metroidvanias, and therefore require far more backtracking. I can’t help but feel that if this game was made in the style of a Metroidvania, then it would’ve been made to last far longer than what it does, but since there is only a minimalist amount of backtracking to be done, the game clocks in at only around 5 to 6 hours, which in this day and age, is pretty underwhelming.
Storyline – 8/10
What wasn’t underwhelming, however, was the story of Nubarron. It follows a Gnome, simply named Gnome, who one day has not only, unfortunately, lost his lucky hat, but is also persistently followed by a cloud, whose behavior changes on a whim. Wanting to get rid of the cloud and find his hat, he enlists the help of a magical omniscient owl who requests that Gnome recover all the missing pages from a spellbook called the Nubarron, and so Gnome sets out on his quest. At first, my first impression of the game’s story was that it’s quite typical; a bog-standard fantasy story if you will. However, as the game progresses, it becomes something far better than that. Without spoiling the details of the ending, it’s perfectly poised for a sequel to happen, and I’m very much hoping that it does happen; there’s a lot of scope to expand on the mythology of the series, as well as the gameplay mechanics and the lifespan, so here’s hoping that this game gets the follow-up it deserves.
Originality – 7/10
It’s not until after the first hour or so that players will be able to fully appreciate the depth and the unconventional aesthetics that this game truly has to offer players. So it is something that will have to be borne with at first, but when that initial period passes, there’s so much to be had in terms of uniqueness. Sure, I was left thinking to an extent that if a little more effort was put in, that this game could’ve ended up being even more than what it is, but for what there is here, it’s still a pretty standout experience.
Overall, Nubarron was a game that I looked at and thought was going to be a very generic gaming experience. It turned out to be anything but that. It’s enjoyable to play with a surprisingly in-depth narrative, and I would advise anyone looking at this game to ignore the mixed reception that it has received. It’s certainly worth at least one playthrough.