Probably the world's first rotating 3D tower computer game. Quite technichally advanced for its time, this puzzle/platformer was released by Hewson Consultants in 1987, and was eventually converted to almost every system available at the time. The ones I know are: Amiga, Atari, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, Game Boy, NES, PC and ZX Spectrum. At least on NES and Gameboy, the game was renamed Castelian.

The hero, Pogo (called Julius on the NES), is a small, green, two-legged creature who must climb and destroy the eight mystical towers which have suddenly appeared in his oceanic backyard.

As you move the joystick, the seemingly-3d tower rotates incredibly smoothly while Pogo walks in one spot, giving the impression of a rotating camera. This is when the player is impressed by the skill of programmer John M. Phillips. Pogo must jump, shoot and dodge his way up eight increasingly difficult towers to finish the game, as well as catching fish from his submarine between levels.

Only eight levels, you say? Not a problem. You must fight off bouncing enemies, jump chasms and avoid traps as you ascend the towers, sometimes going through doors in the structure and out the other side (hopefully). Even the first level can take a while to finish, and this game has you hooked from the start.

With a very nice title tune, the C-64 version of this game ranks very high in my list of Best Games I Never Had the Patience to Finish.

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)
Year: 1987
Platforms: Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Commodore Amiga, Atari ST, Acorn, Atari 7800, NES, Nintendo Game Boy
Genre: Platformer
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.

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