The more the merrier… right?
Last year, Sonic Nebulous was something of a sleeper hit, for me. It wasn’t the greatest fangame of the show, but it was certainly worth taking a look at and contained a lot of playable characters. Ironrind’s unique visual style and the game’s breadth of content (a full game’s worth, it seemed, complete with a final boss) all made it stand out from the bright colors and short, one-level demos that normally populate SAGE. In the year since then, Ironrind has continued to add even more playable characters, bringing the total count to thirty. Unfortunately, in this case, “the more the merrier” does not seem to apply.
No beating around the bush, here: This version of Sonic Nebulous is broken to the point where the game can seem unplayable. Ironrind has added some new levels and modified most of the old ones in a way that makes it completely frustrating. At one point in the first level you encounter thorny weeds that will damage you if you touch them. However, thanks to the game’s dark color palette and the relatively small size of the weeds, it’s basically impossible to see them until you’ve already hit them, and even then it can be tricky to know what, exactly, hurt you. The game also has no qualms with filling the screen with five or six enemies at the same time, particularly the annoying hovering camera robots that like to dart around just out of your reach, only to bump in to you when you least expect it This only compounded by the game’s controls and numerous animation glitches, in which you’ll often find yourself jumping in to the air while stuck in your standing up animation, making you a sitting duck to enemy attacks. That’s if you’re lucky – at one point as Sonic I ran so fast that a ramp sent me flying outside of level boundaries where I got stuck in an empty room next to a boss fight with a boss that couldn’t kill me – my only option in that case was to reset.
Infact, my first three or four times playing the game would generally involve me playing until I either got too frustrated to continue or I’d get stuck somewhere thanks to a bug. Almost as if it was sensing my frustration, Nebulous would generously unlock the next level for me to play even though I hadn’t actually finished the previous level I had been stuck on. This continued for the first four levels or so, until I reached the Sonic Nebulous rendition of Sky Chase. It is here that you are assaulted by an entire fleet of camera robots, Robotnik’s transport pods, and bizarre looking brain monsters with spikes protruding from their heads. The controls here are possibly at their worst, as tapping any direction sends you flying with far too much momentum, making slight adjustments difficult, if not impossible. Rings are scarce, and a number of times I found that I had completely fallen off the airplane for reasons I still cannot actually explain.
Six deaths later, that was the last straw. After enduring so many bugs, and so many deaths, I have given up on Sonic Nebulous. Which is a shame – when Sonic Nebulous wasn’t being aggravating (or simply unplayable), there was definitely some cool stuff to see. Bosses are extremely large, and Ironrind’s command over GameMaker to do interesting visual effects is certainly impressive. It’s just… there needs to be gameplay polish to go along with that. That, right now, is what Nebulous really needs, more than 25 extraneous playable characters. It needs testing, balancing, and a lot of polish. If Ironrind can do that, we might have something really great (if a bit twisted) on our hands. But right now? No thanks.