Nebulous (PC) Review

Developer/Publisher: Namazu Studios || Overall: 7.5

Space has always been of interest to man. Back when we could only look at the stars, we still dreamed of someday reaching out and touching those twinkly little objects in the sky. Then those dreams were subsequently dashed when we later learned that those beautiful night lights were actually exploding balls of hydrogen and helium that would burn our bodies to a crisp if we ever got anywhere near one. Still, that endless sky continues to capture the hearts of man to this day, whether it is in a galaxy far, far away or aboard a starship in some far off Stardate. Our eyes still fill with wonder and our hearts still yearn to explore a place many haven’t and hardly ever think of the danger that comes with it. Neither does Nebulous, it pokes fun at the whole “lost in space” bit.

 Though it’s hard not to with how meme-able Star Trek can be.

Though it’s hard not to with how meme-able Star Trek can be.

Nebulous is the latest puzzle game to leave Steam Early Access and vie for your attention. Developed and published by Namazu Studios, Nebulous takes the horrible prospect of being lost in space and makes it a lighthearted puzzle game instead. With space as your backdrop, the player must drop, bounce, push and pull the lost astronaut to safety in a number of complex levels to eventually complete the game. That being said, it’s not easy.

 Okay, sometimes it can be easy.

Okay, sometimes it can be easy.

Stop me if you heard this before, Nebulous is a simple concept with a complex design. The simple part is getting the astronaut, Dash Johnson, from point A to point B, and the complex part is all the stuff they put to hinder that. At the end of every puzzle, there is a blue wormhole that takes Dash from one level to the next, from there the player has to avoid touching the outer walls of the course and the hazards set throughout it. These could be anything from electricity to even lasers, but touching any of these hazards makes Dash explode into a shiny green light. To avoid his explode-y demise, each level grants several items to guide Dash to safety. There is quite the assortment too, including objects like ramps, simple walls and even object that bounce Dash. They’re also well needed because the game is quite hard.

A lot of the difficulty comes from the repetition. Especially in the later stages, it may take several tries to finally land Dash on the exit point. Even the slightest miscalculation can send him careening off course and right into a hazard or the edge of the map. It may take several readjustments before you land anywhere near the target zone. There is good reason for that too, the stages can get pretty complex. Often the stages are composed of several screens, each linked via multiple worm holes that can be flipped through with the WASD keys. So, not only is the player responsible for a single puzzle, but they have to keep track of several smaller puzzles that all combine to form Voltron… err I mean a giant puzzle with many layers. Add to that several other mechanics like switches, altered gravity (meaning that you may fall up or even sideways), and conveyer belts that run Dash either right or left. That doesn’t even take into account the grading system…

Stages are graded on a 3-star grading system, spilt into three categories based on the number of attempts, the time it took and if all the collectable stars scattered throughout the stage were claimed. For every objective you either meet or go under, the game offers a star for that course upwards to a complete three. While a pretty standard grading system, the problem lies in the fact that the first two grading points I mentioned are nearly impossible to get on the first try. A lot of this game requires both pre-planning and repetition to beat a stage and more often than not, you’ll go way past the limit on time and attempts very easily. It doesn’t help that the limits are pretty strict too, sometimes giving as little as half a minute and only one try to complete a course. At points, it almost seemed like the only way to get all three stars would be to do the course normally and then quickly mimic the placements on the subsequent attempt to achieve the time and attempt limit. They really weren’t joking around when they set up the grading system.

Alright, figure this out. You got a minute and two tries.

Alright, figure this out. You got a minute and two tries.

Thankfully though, they weren’t joking around when it came to the humor of the game. To put it bluntly, Dash Johnson, is a pompous ass who is so full of himself that it wouldn’t be surprising if he were a living and breathing Matryoshka doll. With a slight resemblance to Sterling Archer in attitude alone, the Astronaut will berate your intelligence with every failure and pump up his own ego with every bit of hot air that leaves his mouth. It would almost be too much if it weren’t for the fact that his fate is entirely in the player’s hands, giving them plenty of opportunities to kill him. Though, it is hard to feel bad for him and his plight, considering he seems to deserve whatever bit of bad luck that came his way. Regardless, if you don’t mind a bit of deprecation on your part, his quips are enjoyable.

The sound effects are also enjoyable. The music is a mixture of a fittingly sci-fi beat with the same repetitiveness of the Jeopardy theme; so it serves as pretty good thinking music. The sound effects are also fitting, especially the painful grunts and groan of Dash Johnson as he bounces around each level. The graphics aren’t all that fantastic but the simple designs are more than enough for this game. That’s pretty much all that needs to be said about both of those subjects.

Though, amid all of the talk about the game mechanics, difficulty, sound and graphics, what needs to be said is whether or not the game is actually fun. For that, it’s a resounding “Yeah, sure…” Nebulous is a neat distraction but it never really gets to the point of an addiction. Nebulous supports VR functionality through the Oculus Rift and I imagine that would make the experience all the more engaging, but I have neither the rig nor the equipment to test that out. Overall, Nebulous is fun enough without the bells and whistles of VR technology, but it’s isn’t quite amazing either.

Nebulous is a complex, difficult and humorous game that can be quite the fun timewaster but it is not much more than that. If you enjoy complex puzzles and can take a joke, this might be worth picking up to idly play between other games. Otherwise, it might not be engaging enough for other players. It doesn’t quite reach the lofty heights of space, but it can still ground a few people with its gameplay.

When not guiding a spaceman through treacherous puzzles as Unnamedhero, Eduardo Luquin can be reached at Unnamedheromk13@gmail.com.

 

Message Quest (PC) Review

Developer/Publisher: Royal Troupe || Overall: 7.5

Heroes come in all shapes and size, and that’s precisely the problem in Message Quest. Published and Developed by Royal Troupe, Message Quest takes a step back from the usual hero’s story and focuses more on the one that literally delivers the hero’s call rather than the hero receiving it. Set in a land about to fall to ruin, the laziest member of the Order of Heralds must deliver an important scroll to an even more important hero in an attempt to save Avarange. The problem is that Feste, our main character, would much rather laze about than bother finding a hero who could be just about anybody. Thus leaving the player as both his conscience and fourth-wall-breaking audience member, you must goad, manipulate and eventually encourage Feste to complete his noble quest. The player will find a point-and-click adventure along the way.

Who Done It
Unfortunately, the answer to who killed Mr. Boddy remains
to be found.

The first thing you’ll notice about Message Quest is the art style. Bright tones and dark outlines give it a style similar to any stained glass window you’d find at a church, mosque, synagogue or personal shrine to your favorite anime character (I don’t discriminate).  Furthermore, each character has distinguishing features that are often exaggerated to easily tell them apart and add to their charm along with their mannerisms and random sound effects they make. As for the other sounds you hear, the music is littered with melodies that remind you of renaissance fairs or classic fairytales. Thankfully, despite the short length of the game, there are enough arrangements to prevent any individual song from going stale.

 

Message Quest is pieced by equal parts story and gameplay. The story section consists of a charming, but not too intricate, tale about Feste overcoming his laziness and being introduced to the virtues of hard work and responsibility. Unfortunately, it didn’t convince me that a lifetime of laziness can change in a story that probably played out over the course of a few days. Especially for a person who I had to literally drag out of their home to start the quest. There is also an interesting dialogue tree mechanic where you pick what each character in the conversation says, though in implementation I didn’t find it all that necessary considering it never really changed the story’s outcome. Still, there is a bit of fun in the tale and some nice references to other fantasy and classic tales as well. The characters are also amusing, though a bit one-dimensional.

Responsibility Stool
We need more virtue based furniture. I suggest the honesty sofa,
the loyalty table and the chastity bed.

The gameplay was really average at best and mostly consists of an assortment of jigsaw puzzles, and the usual point-and-click affairs of clicking on and manipulating objects in the background to advance the story. It’s hardly even difficult to lose track of your objectives, with the game having a convenient scroll at the top of the screen that tells you exactly what you are looking for, plus another button that shows you which items are clickable. The truly interesting bit was the odd battle mechanic this game featured. It more of a mental combat meant to deplete an opponent’s will and pump up Feste’s own will with a funny assortment of actions like jogging, making a puppy-dog face and playing dead. Though fun, it didn’t happen nearly enough for me to truly enjoy it.

Battle System
“Don’t make me pee my pants, woman!”

Overall, Message Quest is a pretty decent game that doesn’t quite hit all of its high notes. It’s very pretty, has a decent story and so-so gameplay. It’s also pretty short with it taking me all of an hour and a half  to complete, even as I took the time to explore my every option. To make up for the length of the game, the price point is befittingly lower, coming in at just under three dollars on Steam. While Message Quest isn’t necessarily ground breaking or a shining example of its genre, I can see it being the perfect video game chaser to play in between longer games since there is still some enjoyment to be had.

When not writing reviews as Unnamedhero, Eduardo Luquin can be reached at unnamedheromk13@gmail.com.

 

Joke #18603

I work in the Toy Department at a Walmart, and one day I was asked to do a price check.

The cashier explained to me that a customer wanted to buy some puzzles, priced at 4 for $5.00, but they were ringing up at $1.25 a piece. Apparently neither the customer nor the cashier ever made it through sixth grade math.

 

GODZILLA Rampage in Ida, Michigan

Oh no! Godzilla is on a rampage in downtown Ida, Michigan! There is no way to stop him! “Well, actually,” said the really smart scientist guy, “there is a way to stop him.” “Really? Hmmm…no, I don’t believe it,” said the big mean general guy, “I say you are a dumb scientist who doesn’t know anything. I think we should blow him out into orbit with my new nukes I got!”

“NO!! You’ll KILL US ALL!!”

“Shut up, you crazy scientist whose plans never involve using my new nukes I got two weeks ago,” said the general. Then he put two fingers in the scientists face and said, “Two!…..do you see? Thats two weeks! Thats a lot of days! Do you realize that I could have had breakfast fourteen times in that span of time?? ….Actually, I did…that just shows you how long that is!”

“Alright, alright,” said the scientist, “you can use your nukes but as soon as they don’t work, I get to do my plan.”

“Yeah, we’ll see….”

They both jump into the general’s suped up “Hummer” and peel out of the trailer park. Suddenly the general stops the car. “That’s far enough, scientist boy. I didn’t buy this hummer so I could chouffer dumb scientists around. I’ll come back if my plan fails. …maybe,” said the general as he pushed the scientist out of the car.

The general (whose name was Bob) sped down Main Street really fast. He was probably going really fast, but he didn’t know for sure because his speedometer was broken. He knew he had to kill Godzilla before Godzilla destoryed the world…or at least downtown Ida. Bob smiled to himself. He didn’t really have any nuclear weapons. He was suprised he fooled the scientist (whose name was Albert).

“I thought scientists were supposed to be smart!” said Bob, “Or at least the smart ones should be…” This puzzled Bob. Why had the scientist smiled? Did he smile? Maybe the scientist had just pretended to smile, just to fool Bob. “Yeah, that sounds about right,” said Bob, as he pulled over next to Godzilla.

Meanwhile, back at the trailer park…

It sure was a long walk to Godzilla, but Albert knew a shortcut….no, he actually didn’t, he just likes to have a positive attitude. He had walked one mile already, and he was only halfway there. he could be there in half an hour, if he walked slow.

Half an hour was exactly how long Bob needed to fill his car’s gas tank with nitro glycerin. He would then offer Godzilla his car, and as soon as Godzilla turned the key…BOOM!! …Or he would just make Godzilla step on the car. The general smiled at himself and thought, “What am I smiling about? Maybe I’m just a happy person.” Just then the general finished filling his car with nitro glycerin. Now all he had to do was make Godzilla step on it.

Just then Albert came over. “I guess I made it just in time, right Bob?” said Albert. “Don’t call me Bob,” said Bob.

“We have to stop Godzilla before he destroys the world!”

“I know that! Now get on top of my car and use this megaphone to talk to Godzilla.”

“Talk?? But…what? What should I say?”

“Talk scientist babble.”

“Umm…okay…ahem,” said Albert into the megaphone.

Godzilla looked over at them.

“Yes, well…,” said Albert, “Um….did you know that the gravitational pull-”

Albert was cut off by the giant explosion that occured when Godzilla jumped on top of the scientist and blew up the car. Bob was kind of smart. He knew that any giant monster hates scientists that want to kill them. They especially hate it when the scientists talk.

Bob, Albert, and Godzilla were all killed in the blast. (or at least Godzilla was, the other two were probably killed when Godzilla jumped on them)

The End

 

Joke #5306

A blonde named Haley decided to put together a puzzle, so she sat down and took the pieces out of the box.

She sat there for an hour before she asked her husband for help “Can you help me put the puzzle together, its supposed to be a tiger.”

He came over and looked down at the puzzle, then up at his wife and said, “Honey, put the Frosted Flakes back into the box.”

 

Joke #5234: The Grounded Conductor

Tom is applying for a job as a signalman for the local railroad and is told to meet the inspector at the signal box.

 

The inspector decides to give Tom a pop quiz, asking: “What would you do if you realized that two trains were heading towards each other on the same track?”

 

Tom says: “I would switch one train to another track.”

 

“What if the lever broke?” asks the inspector.

 

“Then I’d run down to the tracks and use the manual lever down there”, answers Tom.

 

“What if that had been struck by lightning?” challenges the inspector.

 

“Then,” Tom continued, “I’d run back up here and use the phone to call the next signal box.”

 

“What if the phone was busy?”

 

“In that case,” Tom argued, “I’d run to the street level and use the public phone near the station”.

 

“What if that had been vandalized?”

 

“Oh well,” said Tom, “in that case I would run into town and get my Uncle Leo”.

 

This puzzled the inspector, so he asked, “Why would you do that?”

 

“Because he’s never seen a train crash.”