Return of the towering infernals

Nebulus 2 logo Amiga Computing Gamer Gold

21st CENTURY ENTERTAINMENT * £24.99 * 1/2 meg * Joystick * Out now

There are many pills and potions which claim to be able to cure baldness. Strangely enough, there has never been a product which can actually accelerate baldness. Until now.
Simply play Nebulus 2 for a few hours and marvel as you tear huge chunks of hair from your scalp in frustration. That's right, Nebulus 2 is a platform game, and quite a nippy little number it is too.

We've all seen platform games before. Ever since Chuckie Egg flickered on to the screen of the BBC we've been inundated with them. Spacemen, miners, moles and hedgehogs have all appeared on our screens, and all had one thing in common: an uncontrollable urge to jump on to any horizontal surface with a merry beep. Pogo also suffers from this affliction, which is just as well - after all, it'd be a pretty boring game if he didn't.

As in the original Nebulus, Pogo must make his way to the top of the slowly rotating tower and claim them back from the evil Uncle. Scare name, uh? Once he has achieved this, he has to make his way back down again to repair all the damage inflicted by that nasty of Uncle.

Then he hops into a waiting chopper (settle down at the back) and flies off to the next tower, via the obligatory bonus level. There are eight towers, but as you have to go up them, then down, it's really more like 16. Now I may be being picky, but if you had to rescue 16 towers from a multitude of nefarious monsters, wouldn't you choose someone a little more, well, macho? Apparently not. The blokes in charge want Pogo, a small green blob with no arms. Who are we to argue? It wouldn't be Nebulus 2 otherwise would it? Which leads us, in a roundabout way, to the game.

For those who are familiar with the first Nebulus, it's similar to that. So go away and have a quick game while I explain the concept to whoever's left.
OK, imagine your standard platform game. Now take the platforms and wrap them round a tower. Add some tunnels from one side of the tower to the other and sprinkle liberally with nasties and traps, and that's basically Nebulus. You can make a model using a toilet roll and a Cornflakes packet if it makes it any clearer, but get a responsible adult to help.

Now, the rest of you can stop playing Nebulus and come back. From here on things are different. This time Pogo gets various power-ups to help him along.
Not really weapons as such, these bonus items are picked up from parcels along the way and bless Pogo with such essentials as a jet pack which rockets him round the tower killing everything in his way; magnets to lift him up to certain platforms; the spookily named All Seeing Eye which allows Pogo to have a peek at what lies in store; jumping boots which have Air Jordan-style soles to give that extra boost; and matter transporters which can teleport Pogo from one pad to another.

Also available are keys which, believe it or not, open locked doors. These icons add a much needed element of strategy to the game as they are hard to find and often essential to your progress.

This is what lifts Pogo-A-Go-Go above the morass of current platformers. There's always a way out of a fix, it just depends on careful selection and use of icons.

Nebulus 2 has been resurrected from the ashes of Hewson Software by Infernal Byte Systems and 21st Century Entertainment. They've stayed close enough to the original for it to be fun to play, but altered the gameplay to make it a little bit more 90s.

The graphics are clear and colourful with plenty of variety. All manner of weird and wonderful creatures inhabit the towers and no two towers are ever alike. On top of that there's a neat little picture of Uncle on the front end, getting more and more irate as you progress further through the game.

It's nice to see that the scrolling of the towers is beautifully fluid, as in the first game, which helps to make the game a little easier on the eye.
The sound is bright and chirpy, with some atmospheric howling winds the higher you go. The tune at the beginning is unremarkable but quite adequate given the quality of the sound effects. The lifts clank and creak, the magnets hum and give off metallic clangs when they hit a platform and the jet pack roars in a satisfyingly jet pack-like way.

But where Nebulus 2 really scores well is in the gameplay stakes. It's fiendishly difficult, but a password system means that you need not go through all the levels every time you play.
There is also an option to play only the 'up' towers, only 'down' towers or all the towers, which gives you a chance to at least try other levels apart from level one. However, be warned, before you begin playing pop out and buy a nice, smart wig!

Contact with monsters doesn't kill you, it just knocks you off your perch and sends you down a few platforms, just after you spent 15 minutes getting there. Aaaargh! But you soldier on, swearing blind that this is the sort of game that you'll love and hate.

Not really a game for beginners, but veteran platform fans should lap it up. If you're looking for a new challenge, and don't really mind going prematurely bald, Nebulus 2 should fit the bill quite nicely.

Nebulus 2 logo

The first Nebulus was a success thanks to a new graphics system revamping an old game style. Have 21st Century done it again?

Much like its predecessor this is a platform game where you, once again, take control of Pogo (the hero) hopping from platform to platform, in a mission to save the galaxy from The Evil Uncle (and you can assume he's not the hero) who has taken control of the mighty Towers of Life. These colossal constructions are built on various planets and they extract oxygen from the ocean and pump it into the atmosphere, so that life itself can flourish. Unfortunately, the evil Uncle is blackmailing the inhabitants into paying him extortionate amounts of money to perform this process.

Mission Control
With 16 levels to plough through, Pogo must recapture and reconstruct all eight of the towers. Options are available to play only the towers which need capturing or those which simply need repairing. In a normal game you take turns to do both.

Just to put the pressure on, though, each level has a time limit and running out of time causes you to die! Losing a life just as you are about to complete a level has to be the most painful experience in gaming history, it would be acceptable if the levels were a reasonable size and you knew how far there was to the end of each tower, but in Nebulus 2 they're too big and you are never sure how far up the tower you really are.

Pogo, after being transported to the lowest level of the first tower, must use the various lifts and platforms to rise to the top. As he does so the screen scrolls vertically, bringing more of the tower into view. Walking left or right, rotates the building, thus bringing the other side into view. Scrolling is smooth and the tower spins around solidly. As in the predecessor, tunnels run through the centre of each construction which, when entered, can transport Pogo around the tower, the difference in the sequence is that some of the tunnels are locked and so Pogo requires a key to unlock the door. (Wow!)

If you reach the later levels Pogo's task is to repair damaged towers. He achieves this by walking on at least 80 per cent of the platforms as he travels back down towards the sea. What's confusing, though, is that gravity has now been reversed, so when he's hit he falls upwards! To a higher platform, or even worse falls from the planet.

Collect and conquer
It's a good job for Pogo that sprinkled around the towers are some helpful parcels. Collecting one of these allows him to select an assortment of strap-on utensils. Keys, magnets and rockets can be selected from the menu and stored away for later use.

The boots are the most useful, granting him the ability to execute a single high jump: used with care this can often free him from countless traps. Pulling down on the joystick, while on a platform, activates an inventory menu, allowing Pogo to use equipment already collected. Once an item is chosen, it is only a matter of pushing up on the joystick to use it. Some of the features are almost useless, the all-seeing eye (which allows Pogo to see the rest of the level) is simply a waste of time.

In-between levels you get the chance to play one of the three bonus games on land, sea or air. The most playable of the three is the land level where Pogo rides an alien donkey, collecting time-awarding parcels whilst dodging rocks, bombs and killer beetles. Any bonus time that is gained here is added on to the next level and so improving the chances of your success.

Nebulus contains some neat little touches: the characters are cute and well defined and the scrolling is smooth.

Spin those spheres
The demons that plague you take various forms. On the first tower they are bouncing skulls, beating hearts and rotating spheres. Fortunately, many of these can be taken out by simply pressing fire and letting rip with a lethal plasma-bolt. Although this destroys some of them, the majority of monsters are indestructible and have to be avoided at all costs by either walking under or jumping over them.

When Pogo's hit by a monster he falls down the tower until he can grab hold of another platform. If this happens near the bottom of the tower then Pogo takes an unfortunate dip in the sea, causing a loss of one of his four lives. This happens all too often and forces him, painfully to start the level all over again.

Towers also contain some special platforms which come in the form of lifts and transporters which help Pogo along his way. Glue and slippery platforms, though, affect your control of the hero, often causing repeated death on the trickier stages of the level. A tower is only captured when Pogo enters the highest doorway. Once this is done, Pogo simply presses the self-destruct button and flies off to safety.

Huge, slow and hard...
The most annoying part in Nebulus 2 is the loading system. It is much too slow and because of the length and difficulty of each level, you will be constantly waiting for the disk drive to stop, it will also try your patience severely. It does, though, contain some neat little touches: the characters are very cute and well defined and the vertical scrolling is nice and smooth. The sound effects, while Pogo bounces along, are good. The music on the other hand will soon have you reaching for the volume control to turn down.

Sadly it could easily have been an excellent game, if the loading system had been faster and the gameplay less frustrating. As it stands, Nebulus 2 Pogo-a-go-go is a fairly average little game, which will appeal only to the real die-hard platform freaks.

Nebulus 2: Play screen explanation
1. SWITCHES. Flick the switch and something wonderful will happen, such as a parcel appearing!
2. DYNAMITE PLUNGERS. And just for you, here is the friendly chap. Pressing fire while over a plunger activates the fireworks.
3. MOVING PLATFORMS. These differ in appearance because of the big left and right arrows which flash on their side. They are operated by pushing up on the joystick, as long as Pogo is situated upon one.
4. LIFTS. Lifts are used to carry Pogo from one level of the tower to another.
5. PARCELS. Each tower contains several parcels which Pogo can turn into one of six power-ups.
6. POGO. The main man in this little platform-based adventure. You'll find Pogo has the capacity to walk, operate weapons and do anything except swim. Damn.
7. SKULLS. These bounce around the platform on a fixed flightpath knocking you off your platform. Only skulls that block your path can be shot.

Linker Hüpfer

Nebulus 2 logo

Der Vorganger war ja ein echter Geniestreich, der Hand und Hirn gleichermassen forderte - was darf man da erst vom überarbeiteten und ausgebauten Nachfolger erwarten? Alles, nur kein besseres Spiel...

Nach wie vor dreht sich (wortwortlich) alles um Pogo. Wer oder was ist Pogo? Nun, Pogo ist ein... ah, also sagen wir mal er ist so eine Art "Schweinefrosch". Sein Lebeszweck besteht jedenfalls im Erklettern von "Dreh-Türmen", sechzehn Stuck (2 X 8) davon sind vorhanden.

Im ersten Teil ging bzw. hüpfte er dazu immer von unten nach oben, jetzt sind auch einige dabei, die man oben nach unten aufrollen muss.

Auf den einzeln Stufen findet sich allerlei Klimbim, manches davon ist recht nützlich oder gar notwendig zum Weiterkommen (Schlüssel, Teleporter, Magneten), anderes soll Pogo bloss ärgern (Vögel, sich auflösende Stufen, etc).

Ein paar der Turme schafft man nur mit viel Geschick und Grips vonnoten. Als Belohnung für die erfolgreiche Turmbesteigungen warten schliesslich noch Bonusspielchen.

Klingt doch gut, warum in Pogos Namen dann dieser merkwürdige Hinweis in der Einleitung? Nun, beim Vorganger haben die strapaziosen Turmwanderungen auf grund der guten Spielbarkeit tatsächlich viel Spass gemacht - leider hat sich das grundlich geändert! Der Schwierigkeitsgrad ist von Haus aus ziemlich hoch, aber dank viel zu vieler linker Stellen ist der Frust hier schon vorprogrammiert.

Schade um all die neuen Features, schade um die schöne Grafik und den feinen Sound, schade um die verpasste Chance, einen Klassiker würdig fortzusetzen. Verdammt schade! (mm)

Nebulus 2 logo

Pogo is back in another towering platform adventure. Visually stunning, but as far as this game is concerned, less proves itself very much to be more.

It's a rare and beautiful thing when a sequel is anywhere near as impressive as its predecessor. Operation Thunderbolt, R-Type II and Speedball 2 are debatable successes, but that's about yet lot. SO why does anyone bother? Well, because you can cash in on the success of the original, that's why. There is no other reason. This doesn't explain why anyone other than those who seek to benefit financially should invest in sequels though. Experience is more often than not simply thrown out of the window by the lune of more of the same.

And so to Nebulus 2 - more of the same, with plenty of new features, but not from the man who made such a sterling jab of the original. Ah ha! So there's chance that fresh blood could make a difference.
Some hope.

This time around Pogo's got caught up in some superfluous storyline concerning a chubby criminal called The Uncle. This fat felon has taken control of the Towers Of Life (so-called because they provide oxygen for the planets on which they stand) and has placed dozens of nefarious creatures on them to keep the Space Police at bay. Now, The Uncle has the towers in his possession he's blackmailing the planets for money. And he'd get away with it to, if it wasn't for Pogo.

Pogo uses the arrangements of platforms placed around the sides of each tower to make his way to the very top. When he gets there, the tower is destroyed. But of course, there's more to it than that. For a start, the evil Uncle's creatures are patrolling the platforms. The platforms themselves present problems, too - some disappear, while others are unpleasant to the touch.

There is a twist, however: not only does Pogo have to topple the towers, he also has to repair them afterwards by walking over at least 80 per cent of the crumbly platforms. The story reveals that the platforms are in fact solar panels of sorts which are used by the towers to produce oxygen for the planet on which they reside. That's why they need to be fixed. Well whoopy-bloody-do.

Fortunately the creatures (or bad platforms for that matter) don't kill Pogo on contact - he's simply knocked back down the tower. This is more often than not frustrating enough, but to make matters worse some of the creatures and platforms knock Pogo so far down the tower that you are left wondering why you bothered. Only when Pogo is knocked into the water below or his time limit expires does he actually lose a life.

Between towers Pogo has the chance to earn bonus points and some extra time via one of three sub-games (see THE SUB-GAMES). Unfortunately, the sub-games last too long and the incentive to succeed isn't strong.

But what of those new features? Apart from the creatures and platforms, Nebulus 2 has six special features, all of which have to be used at some point during play (see THOSE OH-SO SPECIAL FEATURES). Sadly, few of Nebulus 2's new features have much worth. I get the impression that they were introduced purely for the sake of it. Take, for example,the Tower Pusher. It's effectively a bad platform in a different guise with a switch in the form of the Dynamite Plunger which has to be found and detonated to explode the beat or turn it off. Fine - in principle it's a reasonable puzzle to have to solve. But more often than not the bombs are situated immediately before the creature and so little skill is required to pass it.

The towers simply aren't as well designed as they were in the original Nebulus, which isn't surprising given the quantity of new features that have had to to be implemented somewhere along the line. It's a bummer though, as the puzzle element - i.e. figuring out how to ascend the platform arrangements - isn't anywhere near as apparent as it should be. There do seem to be some circumstances where towers are seemingly impossible to complete, and there are too many instances where you have to wait around, stuck, with nothing to do until Jetty Jetpack arrives.

It's not only during play that you get stuck - it happens on the front end with delay after delay and disk accessing galore. There's a plethora of options but most of them can only be activated at a certain point in the front end, which seems a bit silly to me. And yet the programmers have found the time to implement such stupid options as being able to change the colour of Pogo and the skyline. Ah yes, and before I forget - the password system. To save you have to play through to the later towers, the programmers have implemented a password password system. Unfortunately, the passwords have to be entered like 'type-in' cheat modes - very user-friendly I don't think.

Sound-wise, Nebulus 2 is a bit of a mixed bag. There are many tunes in evidence (you can hear them all via a simple Special Music Show, but don't because you can't quite and have to reload) but none of them rises above plain dull. The spot effects however are far more interesting. Not only are there lots of them, most are top quality and used to good effect. For example, when Pogo's negotiating the lofty heights of the top of the tower there's a neat tall building-type wind noise to be heard.

Nebulus was a single disk and a single load. For some bizarre reason Nebulus 2 comes on three disks and loads... well, loads. At first you spend more time watching the drive light do its thang than actually playing. Every level is loaded individually, which wouldn't be so bad if the first was always resident. But it isn't - even with a memory expanded Amiga. 'BONUS RAM DETECTED - FILLING UP!' the program proudly declares. Filling up with what? Nothing to minimise delays, that's for sure.

Nebulus 2 offers twice as many features as the original but sadly only half the fun. Far too much effort is required of the player for too little reward. What a sad lack of appreciation for the original Nebulus' fine qualities. I suggest you buy a copy of the first game instead.

With a parcel collected, Pogo can choose which Special Feature he requires. He can hold a maximum of five of each Special Feature, using them whenever he sees fit. I wouldn't bother with them if you didn't have to use them to get anywhere. But, unfortunately, you do.
Nebulus 2: Key icon KEY - used to open locked doorways.
Nebulus 2: Rocket icon ROCKET - Well strap a rocket to Pogo's back and race once around the tower, knocking out any creature in his path. Oh, you did.
Nebulus 2: Magnet icon MAGNET - Some platforms are magnetic, in which case Pogo can use a magnet to pull him up. Sometimes.
Nebulus 2: All-seeing eye icon ALL-SEEING EYE - Allows Pogo to check out the situation by flying up, down and around the tower.
Nebulus 2: Jumping boots icon JUMPING BOOTS - Puts a spring in Pogo's step and allows him to jump a little higher - but only once.
Nebulus 2: Matter transporter icon MATTER TRANSPORTER - Allows Pogo to use the Transporter Platforms.
Nebulus 2: Spiking birds in the Air sub-game The original Nebulus had one pun-believable subgame - collecting fish from the confines of a small submarine. Nebulus 2 has three, all with the same objective: to collect extra time for the next tower he tackles. Seen here is the Air sub-game. Pogo pedals his special helicopter and attempts to spike the birds which fly past. They then drop clocks which are collected for... you guessed it: extra time. But wait! The birds eventually rumble Pogo's game and so drop bomb-loaded balloons. Nebulus 2: Spiking balloons in the Air sub-game Spiking the balloons before they reach the bottom of the screen stops the time Pogo has gained from being lost. In the Land sub-game, Pogo rides on the back of a stupid-looking donkey thang, avoiding obstacles and collecting parcels of time. The Water sub-game sees Pogo in the seat of a small submarine which is armed with a gun. Mine-bearing fish have to be shot to gain time, while sharks, torpedoes and air-bubbles are best avoided.

Nebulus 2 logo CU Amiga Screenstar

As in the movie world, it is very rare that a game's sequel is actually better than the original. Take John Phillips' , for instance. Its unique rotating scrolling and addictive gameplay breathed new life into the platform genre, making all other platform efforts look decidedly dull. It seemed unlikely that a sequel could possibly better it.
But by following the tried and tested method of expanding on the original in every conceivable direction, Dutch programmers, Infernal Bytes, have achieved the impossible and actually improved on Phillips' original.

The first game set its amphibian hero, Pogo, the unenviable task of ascending a series of towers and planting an explosive at the top of each one.

The reason for these unusual demolition duties was that the towers had been built illegally by an ecologically-unsound builder by the name of 'Uncle', and had subsequently fouled up the crystal clear seas of Pogo's home world.
In the sequel, the entire planet is under siege from a new set of alien-infested constructions built, as ever, by the unrepentant 'Uncle' and sorting even more hazards than before.

Adding insult to injury, a series of generators built by the planet's Government to supply solar power to the rest of the world have been sabotaged by the evil builder and must be repaired between jobs. This allows the vertically-scrolling towers of the original to be updated, and a new series of reversed towers to be added.

On first sight, any new additions are scarcely noticeable. Pogo is beamed down onto the base of the tower and, once again, the player is left to guide him to the top.
However, no sooner has the little green reptile taken his first faltering steps than the first additions become apparent. The most obvious are the assorted meanies which are dotted throughout each stage. The lifeless balls of the original have been replaced with a series of missile-lobbing creatures and more intelligent skulls, penguins, and the like. These are supported by a wide range of equally deadly platforms, which will disappear under Pogo's feet or send him sliding into a nearby alien-inhabited area.

The sheer number of nasties has nearly doubled, too, making Pogo's quest even harder and much more frustrating. However, to aid our pug-nosed friend in his task, little gifts have been scattered along his route and, when collected, can be added to his utility belt. Six items grace the belt, including keys which allow Pogo to pass through locked doors, a defensive missile, and a Gyrohat which allows him to fly up and reconnoitre the forthcoming attractions.

One of the problems with the original Nebulus was that, if anything, it was a trifle over-difficult. Although the towers were easily scaled, random elements and nasties often sent Pogo hurtling to his doom and there was nothing the player could do.
This facet remains in the sequel, and it's every bit as annoying the second time.

With sixteen constructions to explore, some of the towers would have benefited with being slightly easier to get into. That said, once progress is made and use is made of the new weaponry, Nebulus II proves every bit as playable as the original - in fact, more so when the new puzzle element offered by locked doors and the like are found.

I do feel it is perhaps a little too difficult to progress and that the gameplay can prove rather hit 'n' miss, but it is every bit as addictive (frustrating?) as its predecessor.

It also rates as one of the most graphically stunning games I have seen. From the rippling water at the bottom of the towers to the detailed markings on the buildings themselves, the game is a real treat to look at with the Amiga's palette used to maximum effect.

The sound is also of a high standard, with each building boasting its own tune and supported by a full range of effects. An excellent game, Nebulus II is a worthwhile sequel and equally worthy of your attention.

Towers are essentially made up of a series of platforms which Pogo must use as steps to the top. However, our pug-nosed hero will come across a series of devices which will either help or hinder...
LIFTS - Self-explanatory, really. Simply push up to ascend to a higher level, but don't stay on them for too long as they retract after a while.
SWITCHES - Activated via the firebutton, these alter the tower slightly. For instance, they can make presents appear or create a new door.
PUSHER - These hide within the tower's walls and pop out to push Pogo off the ledge. The only way these can be destroyed is with a plunger, which can be found in the nearby area.
MOVING PLATFORMS - Indicated by small arrows on its side, these ferry Pogo across previously impassable gaps.
WARP PLATFORMS - Beam me up, Scotty! These act as teleports and ar a quick way up the towers. However, nasties often lurk at the other end, so use them wisely.
SPRINGBOARD - These wobbling ledge propel Pogo further tahn his jump normally allows.
DISSOLVING PLATFORMS - No sooner has Pogo landed on these than they disappear. However, a quick-footed amphibian can use them to reach a normal safe point.
BUBBLING PLATFORMS - These are coated in glue and impair progress.
MAGIC PLATFORMS - These appear as if by magic when Pogo appears to have no route open to him.

Nebulus 2 logo

Used to things spinning around him, David McCandless felt that... no, too corny. It has been said that Macca's thought process are pretty nebulous... naaah, crap. What about... David McCandless reviews Pogo-A-Gogo, the sequel to Nebulus (You're sacked. Ed).

Big cylinders streak upwards into the neon sky - hollow testaments to technology and phalluses the world over. Humming with bridled energy, these mammoth posts funnel oxygen to the whole planet. Without them, the colonists will die. But the evil person, Uncle, has captured the towers, populated them with his evil minions, and is blackmailing the world with its destruction.
The world needs a hero - to infiltrate the towers and restore air to the rapidly asphyxiating world.
Thus goes the scenario. But what you really want to know is a) is this a 'cute' game; and b) if so, where's the sick bag. Well, a) yes; and b) here (blurp).

Yeah, Nebulus 2 is another cuddly cotton-wool cuteso game (as if the world needed another one). If you haven't already thrown-up enough rainbow juice over (beurgh), (blurp), and Nebulus 1 (hueeey) then keep a little corner of your stomach contents reserved for Pogo-A-Gogo, the latest multi-coloured (i.e. pink) excursion into 'My Little Pony, no genitals land'.

This twee game, however, is a little different from its fluffy rivals. Firstly it's set on a cylinder and you have to go upwards to reach your goal. Secondly, it doesn't scroll - it rotates. Thirdly, it's not half as crap.

Eye your fat, bug-eyed, armless hero dubiously. Wonder why these cute heroes are so deformed. Jump between platforms. Leap yawning gaps. Clamber on lifts. Do all that platform palaver, but also collect a selection of weapons. Be balked by forcefields and doors. Fall for ambushes by a horrible selection of Plasticine monsters. Watch the clever water reflections. Admire the 'multi-coloured sky effects'. Feel dizzy and sick at the rotating effects. Wonder if it's the bright colours and Play-Doh graphics. Decide it's both. Throw up.

Amiga reviewMacca: Pogo-A-Doofer is a cuteso game with a difference. It requires a modicum of thought. Planning. Strategy. Call it what you want.
Normal schlacketly-plap-plop games require you to run willy-nilly across the set of the Magic Round-about, collecting yum-yums and slapping nasties on the bottom. In Pogo you kick ass - a good enough sentiment for any game, frankly.

But combine this ass-whupping with a real platform-thought experience, original rotating graphics, and those 'multi-coloured sky effects' and you've almost got a ZERO Hero. Almost. It's pretty engaging, pretty addictive, pretty this and pretty that, but it's not really a big enough step up from the original Nebulus. But those 'multi-coloure sky effects' - phew!