Saturday, January 14, 2017

Nebulus

Nebulus was released in 1988 by Hewson and features an armed frog with big eyes - Pogo - who doesn't seem too excited by the thought of eight sea-based towers. He considers it his personal mission to climb 'em and blow 'em up! Essentially, this is a platformer with some interesting mechanics that provide a pretty unique visual style within an ingenious game design. It's class.

The world certainly revolves around little Pogo. During gameplay, he always remains at the centre of the screen with horizontal movements causing the screen to scroll in a "three-dimensional" circular motion, thus turning the tower around. All are cylindrical in shape with several platforms dotted all around the outside and nifty tunnels which offer a great way quickly access the opposite side whenever your current pathway is a dead end. However, getting to the top won't be easy! There is a barrage of unusual nasties to either shoot or avoid with one that frequently flys by to conveniently get in your way, usually at the worst possible moments! Access to the top will involve careful strategy because your route is broken thus forcing you to use opposite sides of the tower depending on where you are. So always consider the option of using these tunnels to quickly nip through to the other side... they might also come in handy to avoid those flying obstacles!!

Nebulus may sound easy but it's actually intensely challenging and a brisk time limit allows little room for error. Bumping into an enemy will drop you down to the previous ledge, which is fantastic because it doesn't necessarily mean a loss of a life, nor will it impede your progress momentum. However, if there isn't a ledge to land on then you might fall even further down thus requiring lots of hefty backtracking, which could prove too much because of that time limit. Sadly, falling further still and into the water is strangely fatal for our little froggy, who will die. Interestingly, a bonus game features between each level as Pogo travels to his next tower and is a nice horizontal shooter featuring lots of Psygnosis-busting smooth parallax scrolling. It's very simple, and it should have been longer, but I enjoyed it.

Throughout your adventure, the visuals are utterly tremendous. Nebulus is programmed by legend, John M Phillips, who treats us to a colourful display of great artwork and smooth framerates. It's amazing just what the ST could crank out - when programmed by somebody with talent and commitment. All audio is equally impressive with gorgeous sound effects, some of the best samples, and a beautifully unique chiptune I can leave running all day!

However, please don't consider this the usual mini-review but more of a kick up the backside because I imagine it's been a while since you last played it? So wait no longer and power on your Atari ST right now. Okay, it can feel a little finicky at first, with a learning curve that's a little steeper than most expect but, with lots of practice, I guarantee many hours of addictive arcade action. This is a retro gaming firecracker which perfectly integrates both action and strategic elements with a fascinating visual style far ahead of its time. Nebulus is an icon of the awesome 16-bit era and is a truly wonderful game.

LINKS

 - A hard drive installable version can be grabbed off the 8BitChip website.
 - Stonish has it on floppy disk and Chaos Crew #56 is a great choice!
 - JMP made many technical demos ... all listed on Demozoo.
 - The only Nebulus cheat I know is this :
          > On the title screen type in HELLOIAMJMP and press keys F1-F8 for your tower of choice.