Retail Price: £7.95
Author: John M Phillips
Rising from the waters are mysterious stone towers, poking like fingers into the eye of the sky - and Pogo, a corpulent bug-eyed biped, is determined to reach the top of each.
So he uses a series of steps and platform lifts around the outside of the towers. As he toddles and leaps to the left and right, the tower rotates ('rotational 3-D scrolling', says Hewson) to reveal further steps, dead ends and doorways. By passing through these portals, Pogo can appear on the other side of the tower to take another flight of stairs.
But Pogo's progress isn't an easy ride, for the outside of this columnar construction is populated by bobbing balls, energetic eyes, and rotating stars, not to mention the occasional slippery step. A bubble gun solves some problems, but nobody thought to give Pogo a bucket of sand.
If Pogo tumbles to the base of the tower and lands in the choppy sea, one of his three lives is lost; but if he takes only a slight fall, landing on a lower stone step, he loses only time (there's a time limit) and can begirt) his ascent again.
Pogo gathers points by the pocketful as he ascends to higher levels, and if he's successful on one set of steps he can move on to conquer the next tower... Just because it's there.
Joysticks: Cursor, Kempston, Sinclair
Graphics: the intricately detailed towers create a strong 3-D effect; beautifully-drawn characters; monochromatic
Sound: excellent title tune, in-game effects
Though it would benefit from a bit more colour, Nebulus is one of the cutest things around on the Spectrum, rivalled only by Berk in Through The Trap Door (also reviewed this issue)! The idea of the revolving tower is original, and what's more it works. It's addictive and has far more playability than you'd expect from game that's fairly simple. The title music is good, too.
This is as original as programmer John Phillips's last game, Impossaball (89% Overall in Issue 37). Nebulus is essentially a maze variant, but more complex than that description suggests - and it's one of those delightful games that's more or less instantly playable, without complex instructions and banks of controls. You'll keep coming back for more. The title tune is well above average.
Nebulus has some fantastic graphics, like Hewson's recent games Exolon and Zynaps, and there's a blue sea at the base of the tower. Some levels are really fun, too, and the music is brilliant.
Reviewer: Rick Robson
It's wondrous and fantabulous - it's Nebulus!! Back in Spring those hoopy Hewson boys got together with programmer, John Phillips and megagame Impossaball was born. And that crack pairing have done it again with Nebulus, the cutest and most scheming platform game for aeons.
As the aptly named Pogo - you'll be jumping about everywhere! Your mission (not quite impossaball) is to destroy eight towers which have mysteriously emerged from the Sea. Assuming a cuddly frog form, you are the most amenable of amphibians with snowballs and wit being your only weapons of destruction. Like the fair Rapunzel's lover, all you have to do is climb the tower to ensure success. It'll then go on to destruct mode and you can swim on to the next tower.
Unfortunately, no-one's going to let their goldy-locks down to help you. Instead you have to follow a mazy series of spiral steps built around the outside of the tower. Which is where the mega-amazing rotational 3-D scrolling comes in. This staggering programming allows travel round and up the tower, entering and exiting various doors to emerge at different parts of the tower with utter smoothness without ever going to the edge of the screen. Instead the tower winds like a screw thread through your monitor.
The further up the tower you go, the more devilish the puzzles that need solving for progress to be made. And speed is of the essence too, as you've only three lives to play with and the on-screen counter rattles down from 500 to the frenetic beat of some faberoony music. Vigilance is equally crucial, as you can't predict what's coming round the next spiral turn. Flashing blocks and bouncing balls can be zapped to add on points (every 5000 earns an extra life) but silver spheres can only be momentarily stunned, whilst the snow crystals are immortal and master mashers of Pogos.
Nebulus has little to fault it, barring a lack of colour in the graphics and all that clambering back to the top when you've tumbled from a peak can be tiresome. But otherwise Nebulus is another tower of strength from Hewson.
Author: Jonathan Phillips
Reviewer: Graham Taylor
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?
Towering originality from Hewson.
Brave new game formats are rare things these days, and difficult to come up with too. That must make programmer John Phillips a pretty hot property: after the unusual true 3D and sideways motion of Impossaball, he's just delivered this strikingly unusual rotary masterpiece.
The basics of the game are simple stuff indeed: eight cylindrical towers project from the ocean, and you have to destroy them. To do this you must guide your little character Pogo to the top of each tower, causing it to telescope down into the sea. A spiral of platforms, ledges and lifts form your route up the outside of the tower wall, along with several tunnels directly through the tower's axis. It's no picnic: gaps between (and disappearing blocks in the middle of) ledges have to be jumped, and nasties in your path need shooting or dodging.
These immediate problems will have to wait for the first few games, because the chances are you'll just be staring at the screen in wonder. As soon as Pogo starts to move, you'll be struck by the startlingly odd way Nebulus handles his movement around or through the tower. As he walks along ledges the game keeps him in full view by rotating the tower behind him. platforms and all. This 'rotary scroll' is dazzlingly original stuff even on small movements, but Nebulus can do better: if Pogo steps into a tunnel, the tower spins through 180 degrees to show him popping out the other side.
Graphic ingenuity isn't enough by itself of course, but you'll find that the gameplay too is solid stuff. Though based on conventional timing and jumping problems, Nebulus has subtle twists to it that make for real addiction. For one thing, most nasties don't kill you outright: they merely knock you off your ledge, lift or whatever. If you're still fairly low down the tower (or just unlucky) you'll fall into the water and drown, losing one of your three lives.
Once you've climbed to a decent height the worst you have to fear is a tumble onto a lower platform forcing you to cover the same ground again - but this is quite bad enough. You scale each tower against a time limit, so the delay involved in climbing back up can cost you dear as well as drive you wild with frustration. There's a certain amount of slack in the time allotted for each tower, but a few falls soon eat this up and running out will cost you a life.
With practice you can get past (or shoot) the towers' nasties fairly reliably - though the timing can be very demanding in places, especially on the Spectrum version - but that still leaves you with airborne bad-guys to deal with. These flying nasties turn simple problems into death-traps if they appear at the wrong moment. Waiting on lifts or dodging into tunnels can save your bacon here, but you'll need to plan ahead a little.
Nebulus strikes a fine balance between frustration and addiction, and should keep you occupied for months even with only eight towers to climb. Add in the flair and originality of that rotary scroll and you've got a good-looking, playable winner of a game.
Reviewer: Andy Wilton
C64/128, £8.95cs, £12.95dk, Out Now
Spectrum £7.95cs, Out Now
Predicted Interest Curve
1 min: 80/100
1 hour: 85/100
1 day: 90/100
1 week: 80/100
1 month: 70/100
1 year: 20/100
Amstrad, £9.99cs, £14.99dk
C64, £8.95cs, £12.95dk
Platform games have always had a frustration element, and this tower-turning variant is one of the best at it. The whole aim is to get to the top of the tower, and everything is trying to stop you.
Imagine the horror that strikes your heart as you near the top of the tower, with time running out, knowing that one false move will send you tumbling a horrible distance back down again.
The puzzles and aliens can also have you chewing through your lip in mental agony. They have a knack of appearing just when it's most awkward for you, or putting a disappearing block where you least expect it.
You can easily spot Nebulus players because they eventually become resigned to these spirit-crushing disasters and adopt sad expressions, drooped heads and sloping shoulders. Then again, you should see them when they complete a tower - they would go down a treat on "The Price is Right".
MACHINES: CBM 64/Spectrum
PRICE: £8.95/£12.95 (CBM), £7.95 (Spectrum)
VERSION TESTED: CBM64/Spectrum
When programmers Steve 'RanaRama' Turner and Andrew 'Uridium' Braybrook suddenly quit Hewson back in September, it must have hit the software company for six. Turner and Braybrook were responsible for their most highly praised games. Would this mean the glory days were over?> Did it hell!
Even in the depths of their darkest hour (doesn't this tug your heartstrings?) a new star rises. With it comes what must be the most original game this month and what will probably be the most original game released this year.
And that game is Nebulus from the mind of 24-year-old John Phillips, who you may remember was responsible for Impossaball. That game attracted good reviews but probably didn't get the attention from the public it deserved. Well, hopefully, that won't happen with Nebulus.
So just what is Nebulus? Well the central feature is a 3D scrolling lower with steps around the edge and doorways which allow you to enter the tower and cross to the other side. As you enter, the towel spins to reveal the hidden face.
The idea is to climb to me top of the tower, avoiding the traps and monsters. Then into a sub-game before encountering another tower.
It sounds a simple concept but it is brilliantly executed, magnificently programmed and a sheer joy to play.
Okay, let's backtrack for the plot. The game is set on the planet Nebulus where someone or something has been building towers in the sea.
The character you play, Pogo, works for Destructo Inc. a demolition company given the job of demolishing the towers.And guess what? You've got the job.
So the game opens as you emerge from a Mk 7 Minisub at the foot of the first tower - the Tower of Eyes.
This character reminds me in some ways of that other Hewson creation Gribbly from Gribbly's Day out. Remember him?
Anyway, you have to climb the tower in the set time limit.
The towers are covered with various ledges, tunnels and lifts. Some of these ledges dissolve when you stand on them and slippery ledges which will push you left or right.
Flashing blocks and bouncing balls can be destroyed by shooting them but the silver rolling balls can only be stopped in their tracks for a few seconds.
All other creatures are indestructible if hit by a creature, you tumble off the ledge and land a few levels down. If you fall in the sea, you lose a life.
Entering the final door at the top of the tower sets off the destruction sequence. You are awarded bonuses for the time left and for technique and the tower will crumble into the sea.
When a tower has been destroyed you get back in your submarine and travel underwater to the next tower, in the Commodore version you can pick up bonuses by catching fish. This is done by shooting air bubbles to capture the fish, which are then collected.
The points are 100 for a bouncing ball, 50 for a flashing block, extra points for climbing the tower and an extra life every 5,000 points.
I have a feeling that from just reading the straight forward description of Nebulus you might say it doesn't sound all that thrilling. But it really is. This is a game you have to play.
The graphics are stunning, the sound effects brilliant - the sound of the characters feet is a wonderful feat I (ha!).
I have no hesitation in whole-heartedly recommending both the Commodore 64 and Spectrum versions of the game to you. There may be an Amstrad version released later on but the word from Hewson is that will depend if the programmers can speed up the action.
Spectrum 48/128 Cassette: £7.95
Commodore 64/128 Cassette: £8.95, Diskette: £12.95
Despite Hewson losing the major Graftgold service of Andrew Braybrook and Steve Turner, who have signed up with Telecomsoft-Firebird, Hewson are still well stocked with some excellent programmers such as Raffaele Cecco (Exolon), Mark Kelly who is currently working on Marauder and John Phillips, responsible for Impossaball and now this, his latest top-notch offering Nebulus.
The planet Nebulus is having problems - with the Nebulus Planning Permission Committee (NPPC) having taken off several millenia for a holiday, buildings have sprung up like nobody's business. Worst of all are the aliens who, having tired of intergalactic marauding, have settled down as illegal immigrants and built eight towers in the middle of the ocean.
The people of Nebulus want them pulled down and call upon Pogo - a one-green-thing destruction force - to clamber to the top of each cylindrical tower by means of precarious ledges and then set off the destruction mechanisms at the top.
Phillips has opted for a novel solution to describe the towers in 3-D, and it works exceedingly well; Pogo stays centrally placed while the tower scrolls smoothly around him, and it is the revolving ledges at different heights that create a sense of depth. The illegal aliens, who come in many guises, have different set movement patterns, mostly revolving around the towers. Some, however, drift across the screen and, although not particularly vicious, knock Pogo from a ledge if he collides with one. The others don't kill either but, like drifters, knock Pogo from ledges, and if he does not land on a lower ledge, then he ends up in the drink and drowns.
It is possible to hide from alien depredations in the tunnels, which periodically cut through the tower diameter leading from one side to the other though their real use is for traversing the width of the tower to reach higher ledges.
As few aliens can actually be killed, Nebulus is more a game of timing and pattern learning when to walk under, or jump over obstacles is important. Learning the law of the ledges is also vital; some disappear, some elevate to a higher position and some act as conveyer belts. Any lack of concentration, or memory leads to Pogo's downfall, literally.
Surprisingly for a Hewson game, the front-end presentation isn't very good leading to a rather weak first impression; although the title screen music is competent, there's no define keys option, or joystick selection on the Spectrum. The opening screen just provides the title and credits, with high-scores that pop up occasionally.
Playing Nebulus late at night, which is quite possible because of its addictiveness, with bleary eyes is not recommended as too many mistakes can lead to hideous frustration - especially when you've got eight towers jammed full of compelling gameplay and beautiful graphics.
Available only on the Commodore is an intermission level between towers. This involves Pogo's underwater fishing trips in his submarine which transports him from tower to tower. As the sevenlevel parallax scrolling background flies past, fish spin towards you. With the aid of the sub's cannon, Pogo fires at them and traps them in a bubble so they can be collected. The amount of fish caught determines your bonus score - it's also quite a relaxing break before commencing the next vertiginous feat of destruction.
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