Dark Nebula Episode 1 Hands-On Preview

The debut episode of what we suspect will be a series of marble-rolling missions seems to be getting off on the right track. Although the eerie outer-space setting seems like an odd choice for this type of game, it’s no stranger than the Escher-inspired videogame fantasylands of games like Marble Blast Mobile.

By simply tilting the device, you control a silver sphere through an empty spaceship as you whiz past obstacles, over narrow catwalks, and collect glowing components of an unidentified origin. No other shakes or button presses are required.

Split into 11 levels, the progression through Dark Nebula feels appropriately fast. Subtle motions are the key to navigating the tightly organized levels. While sometimes keeping our marble on course required tricky maneuvering, there are no mind-bending puzzles in the game. Instead, super-simple obstacles like red gates (which can only be opened after you roll through a red platform) provide mere speed bumps on the way to the finish.

Speaking of speed, some of the levels we played were actually called “speed levels”, which sent our ball whizzing ahead without us having to tilt the device forward. Instead, we focused on moving left and right to pick up tokens and avoiding the embarrassing plummet when the ground disappears beneath you. These levels we completed in about thirty seconds, while some of the others took just a few minutes.

Even though it’s a fast and short game, the medals you get for surviving all the way through, picking up all glowing tokens, and finishing in record time provide the incentive to replay the game. However, we didn’t see any online scoring or other achievements you could share with friends.

One of the most intriguing, yet unexplained aspect of Dark Nebula is the story and scenery. You’re in outer space, on a ship loaded with narrow metal hallways, guns, laser barriers, and launch pads. However, we never really learned what your ultimate goal is. The final level gives you some hint, but we may have to wait for Episode 2 to really learn what the heck is going on. If Dark Nebula debuts at a low enough price, our early estimate is that the level design and fine controls make it one to consider.