An astronaut is lost in space, sucked through a wormhole and spat out somewhere he doesn’t know. No, it’s not Farscape, it’s the latest puzzle game Nebulous.
Developer: Namazu Studios
Publisher: Namazu Studios
Release Date: August 2016 (Early Access Feb 2016)
Played: All levels
Purchase At: Steam
Source: Review Copy provided by Publisher
When I received the code for Nebulous, the release mentioned it was a VR puzzle game. When I first launched the game, it became instantly apparent, with its overgrown menus with extreme levels of zoom that force you to pan the camera just to press “Start.”
Once you do start the game, you meet our extremely unfriendly protagonist, an annoying and overbearing astronaut constantly berating his colleagues. A wormhole then pops up and sucks him in, cutting him off from home and blasting him into the puzzle galaxies you play with.
Puzzle games never have much in the way of a story, but the premise in Nebulous is flimsy even by the genre’s standards. You have to complete several puzzles per galaxy by rolling the protagonist across platforms, through mini wormholes and many more movable puzzle parts to get him to the end. The character himself is in a transparent bubble, bouncing around inside of it, grunting and groaning with every tumble.
Each level consists of a room with different environmental hazards and movable platforms, propellers and other tools you need to use to get the annoying astronaut to the exit. If he dies, he respawns instantly and you can try again at the press of a button. As you progress, you start coming across multi-tiered puzzles, where the challenge spans multiple rooms, which are somewhat interesting.
The gameplay for Nebulous isn’t bad, if my above statement makes you think that way, but it’s generic. I’ve seen it many times before, particularly on mobile titles. Your main ‘item’ starts out at a fixed point and you need to set different elements in their path to get them to the exit. Nebulous doesn’t stray even an inch from the formula. The astronaut in a ball thing in its premise is just for an attempt at humor, but it soon becomes tiresome, especially since there isn’t anything appealing about the character and he just constantly insults you for your failures. The character itself is so bland that you can’t even get a little schadenfreude out of his situation.
It doesn’t help that the music is so mind-numbingly repetitive, with pieces that mostly just have the same two or three notes repeated over and over. As I played, I often muted the game’s music just so I could focus on the puzzle without the droning music.
I can’t comment on the VR element, because I don’t have goggles, but I can’t see how looking at rooms with puzzle pieces could be a good virtual reality experience. There’s nothing appealing about it. But maybe that’s just me.
Nebulous is a completely bland puzzler, with nothing original about it. I’ve seen it done before and better and the only thing it has going for it is the VR aspect, which I didn’t experience, leaving me with a game that is decidedly mediocre.
2/5 – Mediocre!