John M. Phillips
1987
Arcade: Platform
£7.95
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

32,33
Graham Taylor
Chris Bourne

It seems Hewson can do no wrong at the moment. For me anyway.

I have a feeling that Nebulus won't be as universally acclaimed as Zynaps and Exolon, mainly because its a touch cute. Personally I love it. The game as astonishingly inventive.

The basic element of Nebulus is a tower. A seemingly endless tower in the middle of empty space. You control a cute frog like creature and somehow must ascent to the top of the tower. This is the sum total of the game idea and it works brilliantly because getting up there makes for a classic arcade game.

There are ledges forming steps up the outside of the tower and between them are gaps through which you will tumble time and time again, perhaps down to a lower level from which you'll have to climb up again, perhaps into empty space.

For every gap there is a way past. This sometimes takes more than your standard fast reactions - though you'll need those too, in abundance, to get anywhere. In some places a tunnel takes you through to the other side of the tower, in others a lift platform raises you to a higher level, you can also jump some gaps - it took me a good while to figure out how so I'm not going to reveal what you do!

In this sense then Nebulus is a puzzle but in another it demands some classic joystick jiggling.

There are assorted alien um things... which zoom around the tower or guard tunnels or bounce up and down or. Anyway, they kill you if you let them touch you. Good job you've got a laser. Problems are a) some of them won't die but will merely be frozen for a while gaining you time but not safety and b) some are surprisingly difficult to hit.

Sometimes the solution is just careful timing. At the bottom of the very first tower is a simple example of this: enter the tunnel entrance too soon and you'll emerge in perfect time to bash straight into a passing alien. On the other hand if you leave it too long the same alien will get you on die other side of the tunnel.

Eventually you find routes up the tower and solve the problems. Seemingly impassable places never are - you just have to think. Not too long though, because there's a time limit. A very short time limit which gives you very little time to make mistakes.

And if you do get to the top? On to the next tower with another set of puzzles. It's hard to pin down what makes the game so special. Perhaps it's the tower in space idea - it looks very solid and the illusion that it's turning as you step around it is superbly done.

The game is obviously helped by the fact that, this being Hewson, the programming is absolutely A1. No attribute clash, absolutely smooth graphics, above average sound.

In the end, inevitably it's the sheer relentless addictiveness of the game that makes it a winner. The learning curve is just right - just when you've fallen down for the hundredth time and want to give up you get an idea - maybe if I try... and you're off again.

If it isn't clear by now. I think Nebulus is superb and would make a fantastic coin-op. Buy! Buy! OK?

Label: Hewson
Author: Jonathan Phillips
Price: £7.95
Memory: 48K/128K
Joystick: various
Reviewer: Graham Taylor

Brilliantly original arcade game. Demands fast reactions and thought and looks great. Rush out and buy it.

10/10

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PROGRAMMERS

JONATHAN PHILLIPS did both the highly original game design and the coding for Nebulus, his second published game.

SOFTOGRAPHY: Impossaball (Hewson, 1987)