From the folks at 1337 Game Design the second episode of Dark Nebula is here to deliver more disc-sliding action. Where Episode One pitted you against blades and guns, narrow paths and and pitfalls, Episode Two follows a simple formula: more and better. More enemies, more upgrades and more puzzles that require quick and steady handling; better environments, level design and pacing all combine to make Dark Nebula Episode 2 one of the best games you can spend your dollar on.
If you missed the first episode don’t worry, there won’t be much of a continuity problem in such a gameplay-focused title. You destroyed the mainframe, and now you’re shown in an explosive escape from the Death Star (not really, but stay with me). The opening movie is so impressive that it would have been nice to have a bit more of those to tie things together.
Enemies and obstacles are more diverse, and you now have the ability to eliminate the opposition through color-coded power-ups. Sliding across colored pads imbues your disc with some orbiting projectile power that blasts through enemies, enemy emplacements and power grids of the same color. Still other pads fire on the enemy when you slide across them, and some are pads in need of their corresponding disc that you steer to the source.
Arena battles pit you against a variety of enemies that must be defeated to unlock gates and progress. One of the more interesting enemies is a giant spinning disc that can be defeated by using a trampoline pad to leap on top of it – at which point it splits into a series of smaller enemies you destroy by bouncing from one to the next. When these enemies combine with an environment puzzle that requires you to line up enough of them to leapfrog over walls into the next area, well, that’s pretty cool.
It all comes back to the gameplay, and Dark Nebula’s is difficult but it’s not out to screw you. The difficulty is well-scaled and progresses well, building in elements that play with speed and control like conveyer belts and pads in the floor that fire on enemies only in the direction you slide across them. The speed-driven levels worthy of a Lightcycle interspersed throughout break things up nicely and are fun to replay. There just isn’t a wasted level here, levels are polished to perfection, the design is great, the music matched perfectly. If I had one wish it would be that the environments had retained more of the flora-heavy trappings. What can I say, industrial mainframes can get a little dull, palette-wise.
The final level (of 20) throws you for a bit of a loop. The first time I played (and crashed and burned in magnificent fashion), I thought it must be some kind of joke. Ultimately, it served to remind me that is probably a story in there, I just sort of missed it. The level itself is a bit of a diversion from the rest of the game, and a fitting challenge for a final boss battle.
As for the game’s frills, while you aren’t directly pitted against the clock the competitive leader boards and Star rating system – awarding Gold, Silver and Bronze – discourage dawdling. The ability to calibrate so you aren’t craning your neck over your lap is great, and that you can recalibrate from the game with a double tap on the screen is icing on the tilt-control cake.
When an app comes along for review I entertain feelings of reward and punishment. I want you to reward the development team of Dark Nebula: Episode 2 with your dollar, I want them to experience the positive affirmation of your purchase. I want this app to sell well, so that they can go forth and create more awesome. Now hop to it.
Review copy provided by publisher.