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Nebulous – Review

Nebulous aims to take physics based puzzlers out of this world.

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Nebulous is a physics based puzzle game from developers Namazu studios, releasing on Xbox One, PS4, PC and Mac, it is of course the Xbox One version we’ve been playing, but I can’t help but think, It would have been so much better on a PC with a VR headset.

Levels are split up into enclosed boxes, with a side view, you need to guide commander Dash Johnson to the exit, afterall, when you’ve got an astronaut trapped inside a giant box, in the middle of space, it’s only natural he’ll want to find the exit.  By moving and placing all manner of objects, you can manipulate the astronauts path.  Soon enough levels grow in size, but instead of increasing the size of the box, there’s simply another added alongside, with the goal initially to teleport from the first to the second box, before proceeding onto the exit.

It’s a novel idea, and this really encourages the user to concentrate on one area at a time, fail and you can re-spawn Dash back at the start of the level, however Nebulous has one major issue, and this is where a VR headset would have come in handy, there’s no quick access button for switching to the next section, nor does the game encourage you to move, unless you’ve tilted the screen in the appropriate direction, and then you need to select the arrow to switch areas, before centralising the screen once again,

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Using a VR headset, this (we pressume) would be as simple as looking to one side, and as more areas are added, you could litterally focus on each with a slight turn of the head, however with a pad, this just doesn’t work so well, and leaves Nebulous feeling like a Virtual Reality project that’s been ported to a game pad.

This doesn’t mean it’s a poor game, because there’s a varied selection of puzzles on offer ranging from kinetic movement, to obstacle avoidance, but controlling this is just made so awkward it really starts to detract from the fun.

Graphically, there’s certainly soom room for improvement, while many of the death inducing obstalces are clear to see, the size of Dash Johnson means he’s not quite as easy to locate, and this makes precise judgement of his falls and movement more difficult than it needs to be, especially when there’s no guidelines to show how he’ll fall.

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Much of the time, this is helped by a shift in gravity portrayed on screen by a scrolling ‘flow’ effect in the background. This isn’t always clear to see, but after you’ve died a few more times you’ll soon learn to pay attention to these details.

Whether it’s the clarity or the size, the graphical presentation play some part in making Nebulous reliant on plenty of trial and error, and it’s a shame that this then brings us back to the view management that get’s more annoying when you’re regularly having to switch the view back and forth, because you misjudged where Dash would fall by a few pixels.

Audio isn’t terrible, there’s plenty of effects, and the lush star-packed backgrounds are accompanied by suitabel music that sits in the background without ever becming a problem, or a highlight.  There’s little to no voice acting, which makes your voyage feel even more isolated.

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As much as the overall presenation didn’t really grab me by the testiculors, I have to admit, Nebulous was still a pretty good game, more zoom options and a refined area-selection method could massively improve things, and thankfully these could be added via a patch/update.

The core gameplay, puzzles and movement certainly aren’t bad at all, but it’s just a shame the game pad navigation seems to have been overlooked.

For Value, there would probably be just enough to keep you entertained past the first day or so, progressing through the galaxies is fun and challenging and will eventually increase your play area to 5 panels, (left, right, up,, down and in front of you) Playing these in VR and easily switching between them would be a treat, but on the game pad, there’s no D-pad support to quickly switch panels, so frustration is likely to set in causing the fun to wear off far sooner than it otherwise would.

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