Title: Nebulus (home computers), Castelian (consoles in Europe and the USA), Kyorochan Land (consoles in Japan), Tower Toppler (Atari 7800)
Developer: John M. Phillips (original home computer versions), BITS (consoles)
Publisher: Hewson (home computers), Sales Curve (consoles in Europe), Triffix (consoles in the USA), Hiro (consoles in Japan)
Platforms: Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Commodore Amiga, Atari ST, Acorn, Atari 7800, NES, Nintendo Game Boy
Players: One or two players (taking it in turns)
Nebulus is kind of like the eighties equivalent of Donkey Kong Country: it's a good game that shows off a great graphical trick. When playing the game, your character stays in the centre of the screen, and the background - which is a large, cylinder shaped tower that you're walking around the outside of - rotates in a convincing 3D fashion. This is a very neat trick that screenshots of the game don't do justice to - the breathtaking part is in the smooth and realistic animation.
A cunning idea that makes eight bit computers look impressive can only fascinate the player for so long, though, which is why it's a relief that the game is also enjoyable to play in its own right.
The object of the game is to get to the top of each tower, using stairs and lifts which are strewn about the platforms attached to the outside of the towers. There are also doorways which lead straight through to the other side of the tower. To make your job difficult, there are several types of baddies rolling, jumping and flying around. You can shoot some of them, but others are persistent, requiring you to duck for cover inside the tower at just the right moment. There's also a tight time limit, which means that being knocked down to the last platform you were on is usually just as bad as losing a life.
Like many other games (oddly enough, Night Trap is the first that springs to mind), you have to remember what you did before, work out what to do next, then remember that as well on your next life. For example, the first thing you're likely to notice is that the ledge just after the first doorway collapses as soon as you try to walk on it. The second time you come to that doorway, you go through it instead. The whole of the game is like that, learning what to do next, one step at a time.
Having said that, it's still a fun game. The main character is certainly cute (the baddies are eyeballs and simple geometric shapes), the rotation looks very impressive, and the gameplay is good enough to keep you coming back to work out that next bit. It's definitely worth a look, although it's admittedly more of a novelty than a classic.