Towering above the competition.

Source // Wikipedia

Anyone who has read this blog for a while should know that I guess what a game is about by its title. They should be useful descriptors of a game and the themes found within, shouldn't they? It helps at least, and so I was getting ready for yet another something set in space when it came time to researching Nebulus.

Once again I'm proven wrong as - obviously - it's about a little frog-looking thing climbing and destroying towers. I guess we could say that the choice of title is... nebulous.

Don't worry, I'll be quick.

Fun Times

I'm playing Nebulus via its NES port (known as Castelian, making it even easier to not have a clue what the game involves before picking it up) and it is simple enough to get into. Left and right moves your character - that little green dude by the name of Pogo - but the camera stays fixed on him, keeping him in the dead center of the screen.

Around him moves the cylindrical tower that he climbs, including all the platforms and stage hazards he'll face, as well as the background behind them all, offering a parallax effect to give the whole game a bit of depth. At least there's more of an effect when you can actually see a background, as in the earlier Amiga version, for example.

Anyway, you've also got the ability to duck into doors which transport you to another part of the tower, use lifts when available, and shoot at some of the many varied enemies and obstacles you'll face. Getting hit means falling down or falling off the tower, so you best avoid what you can (though there is such a thing as strategic dying to increase your high score, if you're skilled enough for that).


Still, it requires some getting used to. This screen above shows the first level. You'll note that I've already lost a life and have scored 0 points. The reason being that the platform Pogo is staring at will collapse beneath you, causing you to fall into the purple waters below. That's bad. That's life ending. It's the fourth platform piece you can walk on in the entire game. The fourth.

So Nebulus has a bit of trial and error about it as you work your way up the tower. It gets annoying when there are more lessons in what will kill you than how many lives you start with, but they've got to give you some depth and longevity to the game somehow, I guess.

Final Word

And what longevity it has. Even today you can find games inspired by it, or else modern ports like Tower Toppler. You might even argue that the likes of Uncharted 4 or Any Ubisoft Open-World Game have been inspired by Nebulus. The route up here looks fairly straightforward at first, but like modern interpretations, you're going to find yourself in situations where upward progress is made by first dropping down to somewhere else.

It's puzzling, it's tricky, it got the better of me but it looks pretty good, it plays pretty good, it sounds pretty good. I've got to be honest that's a terribly bland way of putting things, but ever since I compared it to Uncharted 4 I want to go and play Uncharted 4, even though it's about much more than towers.

If you like puzzling tower sections in video games then, perhaps Nebulus is for you - especially if you're put off by rich stories, explosive set pieces, car chases, third person combat...

Fun Facts

Turns out I was actually playing as Julius in Castelian, not Pogo. No, I don't know why Pogo's name was changed either.

Nebulus, developed by Triffix Entertainment, Inc., first released in 1987.
Version played: NES (Castelian), 1991, via emulation.
PC (Tower Toppler), 2012.
Version watched: Amiga A500, 1987 (Zeusdaz - The Unemulated Retro Game Channel)