Amiga Power1st September 1991
Published in Amiga Power #5
Nebulus 2: Pogo-A-Go-Go
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 yer 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 that 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 lure 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 job of the original. Ah ha! So there's a chance that fresh blood could make a difference.
Towers Of Life, The Universe, Everything
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 plants 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, too, 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.
Spring In The Step, Twisted Tale
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 percent 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 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. Unfortunately, the sub-games last too long and the incentive to succeed isn't strong.
New Improved Features-A-Go-Go
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. 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 beast 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 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 having to play through to the later towers, the programmers have implemented a password system. Unfortunately, the passwords have to be entered like 'type-in' cheat modes - very user-friendly I don't think.
Soundwise, 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 it 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.
The Bottom Line
Uppers: Some pleasant visuals, smart sound effects and a few interesting puzzles of sorts. The memory of the first Nebulus makes you expect great things.
Downers: Rank music, a frustrating front end, and far too many superfluous new features. The towers are often designed with little regard for the poor sap who has to actually play - and attempt to enjoy - them, while you are asked to play the sub-games far too often. The storyline doesn't make a great deal of sense either.
A missed opportunity for more of the same but in a different vein. Attempting to add to the first was a mistake. Hew... (ahem) 21st Century Entertainment have simply drowned the joyous simplicity of the original Nebulus, its fans are in for a disappointment.