Nubs’ Adventure

A game by IMakeGames for PC, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android, originally released in 2015.
Nubs’ Adventure stars a little white antenna-topped fellow named Nubs who is roughed up by a pair of brown-colored ne’er-do-wells named Wiley and Marv. The pair break into Nubs’ house, throw him outside, and then kick him off the side of a cliff where he tumbles to what should be his certain doom. Just before he reaches the bottom, however, a huge worm emerges from the earth and arcs through the air, seemingly set on a course to devour him.

Moments later, Nubs regains consciousness, apparently none the worse for wear, but his house has been burned to the ground. Nubs falls to his knees and cries until a yellow wisp named Ally picks him up by his antenna and flies him away. Not long after, Nubs has a another run in with Wiley, who attacks him with a boomerang before being run off by the same giant worm creature. Nubs grabs the boomerang for himself and sets off across the world.

The game is an open world platformer where the player has all of his abilities at the start of his adventure. This is a rare design choice in an open world action game, as most such games fall into the metroidvania category, requiring that players earn new abilities along their journey in order to backtrack and access new areas. Here, access to new areas is blocked by locked doors and monolithic stones, requiring that the player seek out the necessary keys and runes to open the way.

Nubs has a floaty 2x variable jump but very touchy midair directional controls, which makes it challenging to line up landings on the game’s many narrow platforms. His boomerang automatically locks onto the closest enemy (or the occasional switch) and pressing the ATTACK button sends it flying toward the reticule. The reticule tracks moving targets but locks in place the moment the boomerang is tossed, making it possible to overshoot the intended target… although a second chance is offered on its return trip.

When using this unusual weapon, the player must account for enemy movements and wait for the proper timing to strike. For instance, an enemy moving horizontally along the ground is best attacked from the left or the right, as overshooting the target will often still allow the boomerang make contact. Aiming from above or below is tougher because the enemy will move out of the target range, so the player needs to watch its patrol pattern to see when it will turn around.

Flying bees can be hit from a distance by skilled players who are mindful of their patrol routes. Or, the player may press on and wait for the bee to attack, whereupon it hovers in a stationary position and fires stingers in the player’s direction. At this point, hitting the bee is easier, but the player must also dodge incoming projectiles, and bees take two hits to kill, unlike the 1-hit enemies that populate most of the game world.

Hopping enemies appear in caves and are best attacked while they are falling down toward you, as their arcing movement makes them difficult to reach otherwise. Standing directly below them allows the player to toss a boomerang into the air so that it intersects with the nearly-straight trajectory of the enemy as it falls back down. Birds are able to dodge your boomerangs when they’re first tossed, but you can hit them on the return trip, or sometimes catch them off guard. Crawling spiked enemies can only be stunned and spring back to life moments after, with lighter colored ones returning to life more quickly.

While there are many flavors of enemy, much of the game’s challenge comes as a result of platforming. Nubs must deal with a number of long jumps, and falling from too great a height causes him to slam into the ground and die. Still, this is very forgiving, and Nubs can survive some pretty long falls without being killed. In a nice touch, Nubs gets a look of panic on his face if he falls farther than he is able to survive, although he may yet live if he touches down in a pool of deep water.

Nubs sinks slowly underwater, and players can move him upward in spurts by repeatedly pressing the JUMP button. Staying underwater for too long causes him to turn blue and eventually die. However, there are a few challenges that center around moving beneath the surface, and exploration is key to making your way forward.

In the early going, Nubs meets a fairy named Lily who offers to use her magic to create a new house for him. However, she finds herself low on fairy dust, which can only be replenished with gems. Each time the player brings back 30 gems, the fairy is able to build a little bit more of his house, staring with a foundation and working her way upward. Gems are spread all over the game world in various denominations (as denoted by their color), and they may be collected in any order.

The world is entirely open in its design, with only the aforementioned doors and stones blocking the player’s path. The world map shows a star in the upper right corner of each area to indicate whether the player has collected everything that can be found there. Whenever the player collects a key or rune, the map interface shows which areas have new branches available, clearly indicating where the player should go in order to reach new parts of the world.

The world is divided into four themed environments. These include grassy plains, dark caves, and a cloud-based sky area, with many locales offering their own theme-specific enemy types and environmental obstacles. For instance, the pastoral areas focus on pulley-driven platforms and doors, as well as wooden platforms that shake and fall with a set timing.

In addition to the pulleys, a number of ropes appear throughout the area, with horizontal ropes that may be walked across hand-over-hand, as well as vertical ropes that Nubs can slide down Montezuma’s Revenge-style. Ropes and pulleys are interesting from a design standpoint, because they occupy Nubs’ hands when in use, preventing him from attacking.

Underground areas offer green moving platforms that often move over pools of lava, and the sky area has floating mines and endless platform generators, as well as momentum-preserving teleporters. Interconnected between many of these areas are huge water tubes that push Nubs along in a given direction, often with no clear indicator of where he will emerge.

Themed zones are arranged logically, so players will occasionally travel through a short underground section and then return to the surface before moving underground again, as opposed to simply having the game split into separate themed areas. Only the orangish sunset zones are set apart from the rest, often appearing as challenge rooms that are tougher than the areas around them. These rooms are filled with oddly-shaped platforms, pools of acid, disappearing platforms, and floating mines, as well as mines that can pursue the player around the environment and which are shielded against his boomerang attacks.

One of the more interesting facets of the game is that Nubs can control two additional creatures at certain points. One creature is the yellow wisp that carries Nubs away at the start of the game. Whenever Nubs encounters a beehive hanging from a platform, he can activate it to cause the wisp to emerge. The wisp is able to pick up certain physics-based objects, as well as Nubs himself, setting up challenges where Nubs may need to be carried to a higher point in the area, or where an object may be needed in order to open the way. Carrying objects weighs the wisp down, making it harder to ascend, and challenges center around navigating the environment while avoiding dangers (Nubs is killed if the wisp is killed) and finessing the controls to drop off crystals in specified receptacles.

The second controllable creature is the giant worm from the beginning of the game, which offers an entirely different experience. The worm moves continuously and players can only adjust its heading to the left or right. It tunnels straight through solid earth – including ground that appears as a background element – and it moves very quickly. When it emerges from the ground, it flies through sky in an arc, being pulled back down by gravity, and the challenge is to build up enough speed while underground to get the worm where it needs to go on the surface.

The player is tasked with using the worm to collect white wisps that open giant stone doors, and in one area, there are bottomless pits that must be avoided, lest the challenge be repeated from the start. In an interesting turn of events, the worm is actually used during one of the game’s boss fights, and players must get the timing right to leap out of the ground and attack the engines of a jet-powered craft flown by Wiley and Marv. In this sequence, players must avoid explosive mines that wear down the worm’s health meter.

Nubs dies instantly when touching an enemy or spikes, but checkpoints are frequent – appearing as glowing spots on the ground – and sometimes multiple checkpoints appear in a single area. Screen transitions and some gem pickups also act as checkpoints, and warp doors act as checkpoints as well. Warp doors allow the player to move between specific sections of the map without requiring him to physically traverse the entire land in order to backtrack. Players must locate and activate the doors before they can be used, per genre conventions.

Despite the large scale of the world, not much happens from a narrative perspective. There are only a few interactions with the bad guys, a couple of discussions with NPC’s, and a bunch of repeating dialogue with the fairy who is attempting to rebuild your home. The rest of the time, the player is out on his own, with only his wits and his map to guide him.

Visually, the game is presented in a chunky retro style, but environments are crafted to be natural, with very few flat surfaces. Adding to this natural aesthetic are swaying flowers, birds that fly off when disturbed, and tiny little beetles wandering around minding their own business. The game is accompanied by a chilled esoteric soundtrack.

Nubs' Adventure was developed by IMakeGames, a studio based in Vienna, Austria. The studio is headed by Maximilian Csuk and was founded in 2011. Music and sound design for the game were done by Mat Dwyer. The developer also created the acrobatic grapple-based actioner Rifter, as well as Planet Wars and Rico - A Tale Of Two Brothers.