*DISCLOSURE: This game was provided to us by Strafe Studios for the purpose of review*
Nebula within is a game for those who use games to relax. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting to delve deep into my personal nebula (my brain) while playing the game, but it soon became apparent that I didn’t have much choice. The old school geometric shooter mixes the rapid playstyle with sombre and soothing quotes.
Each set of levels is “overcoming” a negative mental emotion like sadness, or loneliness and as you defeat levels within the sets you unlock inspiring quotes that you add to your journal and can look back on. This might sound strange, but it does create a real sense of accomplishment for beating the increasingly difficult levels.
The game was created by one man, Nicolas Oueijan, with music by his friend, Alaric Qin, which makes it that much more impressive. The 80’s style with bright neon shapes and simplicity was a brilliant choice as it allows you to relax your brain and lose yourself in the game.
The style goes well with the mental health undertones as you have to handle things such as a long rectangle that can trap you, not dis-similar from a mental block. Or a long string of small enemies that seem impossible to beat, but when you tackle them one by one, can be overcome. Moments like this jumped out at me while playing the game, being able to link real life issues with an enemy in the game and blast them into oblivion somehow made me feel like I could do the same in real life!
Another particularly interesting element of the game was the power-ups. We’re all used to grabbing a power-up in game to help us win, which was the case in Nebula Within. The difference being that these power-ups didn’t have funky names, it was again simple, with names such as “confidence” and instead of losing a life when you lose you lose one “will”.
These became particularly powerful as it felt all too real again, the confidence boost makes you strong in the game, but only for a short time before the confidence dwindles and you are back at square one. As someone who struggles with confidence it really hit home, having a boost of confidence does feel like a powerup! It’s similar to using the word “will” as a life, it makes it seem like even though you have failed if you can keep maintaining a will to do something, you can always try again!
The only potential downfall of the game was the similarity between levels, while each level was challenging and was slightly different to each other, after playing for a couple of hours it did feel a bit samey. But that may have been a choice, life can feel very samey as well, but you have to carry on! I took this with a pinch of salt, however, as like I said before, the game was made by a single person after going through a rough time, so the range of enemies already included is very impressive.
Overall I would say that if you are someone who deals with a lot of mental issues or enjoys switching off to a game to ease your brain for a while, and reflects on yourself for a while, then try it out. It offers fun levels with a satisfying amount of challenge and exciting visuals to keep you entertained for a couple of hours. Nebula within is available now on Steam for £7.19.