#139 Nebulus

Posted: 23rd February 2013 by Jeroen in Games
Tags: , , , ,

219th played so far

Genre: Platform
Platform: Various
Year of Release: 1987
Developer: Triffix Entertainment Inc.
Publisher: Hewson Consultants

As, in Pong and Beyond time, holidays draw to a close and we get ready to get back to fruitful work. It’s been fun, but we’ve got to make money (if only because we need to get more games to finish this blog). With it, we move from one reason for not gaming to another – where before we were out doing other things instead of gaming, we will now be too busy to do so. Don’t worry, we’ve got a big backlog built up (we’re not talking about the Christmas holidays here!), so we’ll keep posting, but we’ve been using some time to catch up on our gaming. The big change is that I have started my NQT year which means goodbye and so long to the time during the weekend that I would have usually been able to devote to this blog. It’s a bit of a blow of me, especially since we have made over two years worth of posts and we are so far in (and have spent what must be getting into over one thousand pounds) that we need to make the best go of completing this that we can. Once summer comes back around and I have written a lot of lesson plans things will start to get easier again… but that is such a long way away.

Partially that manifested in tackling some big names, such as recently Mass Effect. Another part is that we’re trying to play a number of smaller games, so we can increase our backlog in a shorter amount of time. Nebulus is the latter.

Nebulus is an interesting game, one that aside from looking nice and colourful has its own peculiarities. The world scrolls around you, while you stay steady on the screen (reminiscent, for me, of a couple of Kirby’s Adventure levels), with it being a tower attack game, rather than tower defense as we’ve seen more often recently.

Our Thoughts

As we’ve seen before, such as with Plok and Eledees, cute, friendly graphics don’t always say much about the difficulty of a game (similar to The NewZealand Story and Raving Rabbids which have both induced tantrums). Something similar partially applies here – while the enemies are fairly scary, standard fare and the towers are boring, you play as a rather cute green hippo thing. It soon won’t be, but the initial view is misleading.

 This game is tough. Frustratingly, controller-throwing tough. It doesn’t necessarily need to be, but that’s how it ends up being. First, most important, throughout the game you’re on a time limit. You’ve got 100 seconds to make it up the first tower, gain 20 more for the second tower, and that goes on. That may sound like a lot, but it isn’t. You see, when you get hit, you don’t die straight away (that’d be too much), but you do fall down the tower, having to climb back up – yeah, past all the obstacles and tricky jumps you barely made before.

And that’s where the frustration comes in. You see, the game doesn’t play fair. Your first death – I can nearly guarantee this – is at the start of the first level. You go three steps to the right, just past a door, and the floor disappears under you. As you’re on the lowest floor, you fall into the water and die. That’s it. Try again. At least restarting doesn’t matter much at this point.

Still, that’s all memorization. More difficult, though, are the more random events. You can avoid your enemies and all, but every ten seconds, a sort of diamond ball thing launches from the side. It travels faster than you, you can’t jump over it, so the only way to deal with it is to get to a different level before it gets to you. Not easy if you have a long straight path to cross.

One more flaw, though, at least in the original versions – thanks to the limited number of buttons, jump and fire share the same ‘button’. This means you can’t fire when you’re moving, and can’t jump if you’re standing still. It feels a bit inconsistent and hesitant though, making you miss several jumps due to its flakiness. Incredibly frustrating.

A unique selling point of this game is how you move… or that you really don’t. Much like the Planet Express ship in Futurama your character never really seems to move; instead the scenery moves around you as you remain in the dead centre of the screen. A bit of an oddity but worth mentioning nonetheless.

It pays off in the end though. If you can sit through the frustration and persevere long enough (and if you’re as stubborn as I was when playing), you’ll make it past that first tower. It takes memorizing the route and a lot of work, but it’s an awesome accomplishment. It’s one of those games where you feel like you can win and when you do, because of the unfairness at times, you feel like you really won. No handholding, no help, just awesome. Worth it.

It’s a sign of the times, but the game is its own kind of amazing. It may not look like much and very much trades in old-time difficulty, but that makes winning it a proper reward. And the scrolling graphics, circling around the tower, with all the work done to make it look nice and slightly 3D, it looks nice and ahead of the times. Awesome game, absolutely. Just give yourself the time and don’t get too frustrated.

Final Thoughts

Yet another game in the genre of ‘harder than it looks’. If you can get the timing correct this is not a long game since the number of levels are in the single digits. However, the seeming unfairness of this game prolongs it’s playtime in an almost exponential (mathematical impossibility I know) fashion. If only these games were not so addictive…