By: Jeff Cater
Nebulous is a small, physics-based puzzle developed by a group called Namazu Studios. In it, you will be assisting an astronaut that was assigned to a space-walk mission but was sucked into a black hole.
In order to rescue them, you’ll have to place platforms and ramps in various locations on each puzzle board that lead to a black hole, which doubles as the level exit. Once you’ve placed everything to your liking, press R1 to “engage” gravity and the astronaut will tumble down, hopefully along the path you’ve laid out for him.
After just a few levels the puzzles become multi-screened nightmares that are almost impossible because of the game’s performance issues. Your camera is centered on the cursor in the middle of the screen at all times, and moving it around is done by moving the right stick.
Pressing “X” will pick up or place objects and also be the button responsible for attempts at pressing the big blue arrow on the side of any puzzle that, when clicked, shifts the perspective to the next frame of the puzzle.
This proves terribly difficult because the dead zone of your look-stick isn’t adjustable nor is the sensitivity, and at its current default it’s extremely high. With barely a nudge to the stick you’ll send your cursor far past where you intended it to be, and with the trial-and-error nature of the multi-screened puzzles it results in inflated difficulty.
Nebulous is also optimized rather poorly, so the frame rate absolutely tanks and skips at random times, though mostly when switching frames. Coupled with the super-sensitive cursor, this leads to crap loads of wasted time retrying generally easy puzzles because you slipped past the blue arrow button again or the game hiccupped just as your astronaut perished off-screen and you couldn’t pinpoint your mistake.
Aside from the frame rate being shoddy, the graphics are otherwise fine. The game presents itself in a very light way, both visually and aurally. The astronaut is constantly making remarks on his own greatness, and your progress through the game and the lines are actually very clever and delivered quite well.
It’s just weird that this type of gravity-based puzzle game is combined with the space theme, because, ya know, obvious reasons. The astronaut falls to the bottom of the screen, in outer space. You must guide him to a black hole that has absolutely no gravitational pull to it whatsoever.
I’m not picking it apart because it doesn’t make sense in reality; games aren’t really supposed to. It’s just that the theme doesn’t fit the intended mechanics in my opinion.
There are plenty of challenging levels in Nebulous, but the performance issues destroy most of the fun. With a few patches this could be a fun little time waster, but as it stands right now it’s a challenge just to play it effectively.