Dark Nebula is a tilt based platformer, where the object of the game is traverse a mechanical installation orbiting a nebula in space, and shut it down by destroying the mainframe computer.
It comprises of ten levels of increasing difficulty. You are in control of a circular craft and must reach the end of each level by tilting the device in the required direction. Levels consist of maze like platforms, which feature various obstacles designed to knock you off into the nebula or destroy you entirely. Some areas are walled off by beams of energy, and you must activate the colour coded floor pads to allow you to pass. Other gated areas require you to push other objects into slots to activate them. More deadly obstacles include rotating spikes, laser cannons, and sliding walls. Platforms also feature jump pads to clear large expansive areas across the nebula.
Most of these hurdles can be cleared through careful timing of when to move forwards.
Should you take hit, you will lose your shields, take one more hit and you’ll lose a life and be sent back to the last checkpoint. Shield generators are available throughout the levels, generally after a particulary hard section of the level, which when rolled on will re-generate your shield. Dock your craft at the end of the level and you will be transported to the next.
Complete all ten levels and you will enter a bonus 11 level which transports you into a Tron like virtual world of the mainframe, here you must destroy the firewalls before the mainframe itself, but I won’t ruin the experience for you and tell you how.
Presentation and graphics
The game looks very polished. It’s all presented in a 2D, top-down perspective, but it has a great techno-punk look to it and the background nebula passes slowly beneath the platforms giving a great feeling of depth, and dread of falling off. The bonus 11th level steals the show though visually.
A little disappointing that there is no music in the levels themselves. The sound effects though do a good job.
As ball-tilting games go, it does a good job. The challenge ramps up as you progress, with each obstacle you encounter adding to the next, until the last few levels throw everything but the kitchen sink at you. Controls are very responsive. However, a year into the AppStore and you would expect some calibration options, meaning that, for now at least, you will get a crick in your neck from looking down towards the floor.
Unfortunately, just as you get into the game, it comes to an abrupt end. 10 levels (plus the bonus) just isn’t enough these days, even when the game only demands 59 of your well earned pence (or $0.99). The developers promise to bring more episodes, however these will be extra games in themselves, and not free updates. Once you complete the game its all over. You can beat it in one sitting in around 45 minutes. You can replay the levels for a better rating for time and precision… but I think you’ll feel the same way as I did, and simply want more, newer levels, not have to retread the same 10.
Dark Nebula – or Extreme Labyrinth as I like to call it – is one of the best budget ball rollers out there, but even at it’s low price, you still yearn for more, which other similarly priced games deliver on. I feel that had it been released at a slightly higher price and triple the amount of levels, with the option to purchase more levels through in-game transactions, the game would be far more appealing. Dark Nebula is out now for 59p ($0.99).