Version Reviewed: 1.0 (iPhone OS 3.0 Tested)
Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS
Graphics / Sound [rating:4.5/5]
Game Controls [rating:5/5]
iPhone Integration [rating:5/5]
User Interface [rating:5/5]
Re-use / Replay Value [rating:4.5/5]
Developed by 1337 Game Design, Dark Nebula is one of those titles which you look at it, and you can almost smell the amount of work which has gone into making it what it is.
Set in a futuristic environment, the game is based on tilting a 'disc-like' ball through a maze of hazardous obstacles, in order to reach the finish point. Episode 1 in the series will bring you roughly an hours worth of gameplay.
The game consists of 10 individual levels. These include; Ascension, Speed Zone A, Leap of Faith, The Grindhouse, Kinetics, Speed Zone B, Crossfire, The Abyss, Nemesis and The Mainframe. Each of which bring different challenges for you to overcome. You are a disc like object, surrounded by a glowing neon shield. By default you start off with 3 lives. Your aim is to collect all the energy orbs you can within a level, while trying to avoid potentially hazardous situations, and all the while trying to keep your shield in tact. Collecting 100 of these energy orbs will result in you gaining another life, which could be very precious (and useful) to you in a future level.
But it won't be a clean ride, far from it! Progressing through each level you'll come across various coloured laser fields in which you have to pass through, in order to continue. To be able to do this though, you'll have to find and reach certain coloured ports scattered about. These ports will make your surrounding shield change to the corresponding color on the port. Your shield must glow the same colour as the laser field(s) in order for you to pass through. In certain levels, you may find yourself having to change colours multiple times, in order to get access to other colour ports.
As well as trying to pass through these fields - as expected - Dark Nebula's levels are also littered with unparalleled danger. From shooting robotic turrets, to spike covered walls, to rotating deathly stars, to sliding blocks and even .. sheer drops, the game will have you sliding, slowing down, avoiding, meandering, bouncing around - and more.
Each time you manage to complete a level, you'll be graded on your performance in three areas. These include: The amount of orbs collected, completion time and the amount of shields lost during gameplay. Each of these factors are ranked from sliver, to bronze, and if you're really, really, good - Gold. But it's the visual aspect of Dark Nebula which really sets this game apart. You can just tell a lot of time and effort has gone into it, and although a $0.99 title - it feels worth it. Two fold.
With realistic sound effects and immersive environments, Dark Nebula: Episode 1 evolves the user, bringing challenge and fast paced action to the iPhone. Having fully completed all 10 levels of the game, I can honestly say that while the game was short in length, actually playing it was a joy. I really couldn't find a fault with this game. In fact, I still find myself wanting to play it, again. And, again. And again. I put this down to the star awards, and wanting to complete each of the 10 levels to a 'Gold Star' standard. It somehow adds re-playability to the title.
Here's a quick gameplay video I put together:
You have to give it to the guys at 1337 Game Design. Dark Nebula: Episode 1 is elite - Pun intended. It's in a completely different league to anything else that I've personally come across on the store. The gel of user intuitive controls, with detailed visuals and challenging gameplay makes for a seriously great gaming experience.
You know when an app comes along, and you feel that you just have to include it in every iTunes sync? GeoDefense managed to do it, and I feel Dark Nebula: Episode 1 is another one of those titles you'll just want to have on your iPhone (or iPod touch). To think this is just episode 1? I cannot wait to see what the developers have in store for the sequel, and beyond!