Dark Nebula – Episode One, a terrific new labyrinth-like game from 1337 Game Design, has just been released in the app store. We had a chance to review the game early and can tell you that it’s quite an intense marble-rolling experience.
Dark Nebula contains 10 fast-paced levels of marble-rolling fun where you’ll need to make your way through each level, picking up items while avoiding the many pitfalls. First, the entire level takes place atop a series of platforms floating in space, so falling off of the platform will cost you a life. There are barriers to work around, barriers that require you to perform a certain action in order to open them, cannons that fire projectiles across the board, jump pads to cross gaps, spinning spike strips, and more. If you have a shield, you can take a hit from one of these objects and survive. Once your shield is gone, you lose a life. There are checkpoints throughout each board that look like manhole covers. Roll past these and you’ll start from that point if you lose a life beyond one. You have three lives to start, but you may come across a free life during the course of a level. Also, if you collect enough items, you can earn free lives, too. You’ll likely need them, as there are a few points that can be pretty troublesome.
There are a couple of speed levels where the ball moves quickly through the board and you must follow the arrows and attempt to stay on the yellow lines to pick up items and avoid pitfalls. There are so few levels because this is the first episode in a series for the game. More episodes are planned for the future, but there is no indication at this point how often these will be made available.
The graphics are terrific, showing great polish and appeal. We found ourselves as enthralled with the gameplay as with the look of the game. There really isn’t a soundtrack to speak of, but the sound effects are decent. Controls are strictly tilt-based, save for tapping on menu options. The controls are actually very good, better even than I expected, although you must hold the device parallel to the floor, with not option to change the calibration, so playing in bed is not as easy as you might like.
There are a handful of labyrinth games available in the app store, but Dark Nebula takes the genre to a new, exciting level. We were hooked from the get-go. The entire game can be finished in under an hour, so you’ll need to decide if that is enough gameplay to justify the price. There is some replay value, as the game tracks the number of item you pick up in each level, the amount of time it took to complete the level, and the number of deaths you endured to rate your performance with bronze, silver, and gold rankings. Often, we were able to pick up all items (except on speed levels, where we’d usually miss one or two) and suffer few to zero deaths, resulting in gold or silver rankings. We never got above bronze for time (except on speed levels), so you could replay to try to get your time down, but beyond that, there isn’t much to keep you coming back again and again. Well-priced at $0.99, we expect to see this 5-Dimple puzzler, and its subsequent chapters, make a big splash with gamers.
Dark Nebula Episode One gets our AppSmile 5-Dimple rating: