Nebulus (video game)

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Cover art of Amstrad CPC version
Developer(s)Hewson Consultants
Publisher(s)Hewson Consultants, U.S. Gold, Triffix Entertainment Inc.
Designer(s)John M. Phillips
Composer(s)John M. Phillips
David Whittaker (Game Boy/NES)
Platform(s)Amiga, Atari ST, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, C64, Game Boy, NES, Atari 7800, Acorn Archimedes, Wii Virtual Console, MS-DOS
Virtual Console
  • EU: June 13, 2008
  • NA: May 4, 2009

Game Boy
  • NA: May 1991
  • JP: October 30, 1992
Genre(s)Platform game

Nebulus is a video game created by John M. Phillips and published by Hewson Consultants in the late 1980s for various home computer systems. International releases and ports were known by various other names, including Castelian, Kyorochan Land (キョロちゃんランド, Kyorochan Rando), Subline and Tower Toppler.[1]

The game's original 8-bit release received some critical acclaim, in particular the Commodore 64 release, which garnered a Gold Medal award from UK magazine Zzap!64.

Nebulus was followed by a lesser-known sequel, Nebulus 2, on the Amiga in the 1990s. An Atari ST version was also in development but was cancelled.


Screenshot from the Amiga version.

Nebulus is a platform game with some distinctive unique features. The player character, a small green creature called Pogo, is on a mission to destroy eight towers that have been built in the sea, by planting bombs at the towers' peaks. Pogo's progress is hindered by enemies and obstacles, which he has to avoid in order to reach the top of the tower.

The actual gameplay happens at each tower in turn. Pogo starts from the bottom and has to find his way up to the top. The towers are cylinder-shaped and have ledges on their outside, either horizontal, forming stairs or connected by elevators. Because of the cylindrical shape, the towers have no "left" or "right" edges, instead allowing Pogo to walk all around the tower.

Screenshot from the Palm OS version.

A graphical innovation, and perhaps the most notable feature of the game, is that when Pogo walks left or right, he always stays in the centre of the visible screen. Instead of the Pogo sprite moving, the tower behind him turns clockwise or counterclockwise with a convincing sense of depth. This was noted favourably in reviews of the game.

Along his way to the top of the tower, Pogo encounters many different enemies, mostly shaped like basic geometric shapes. Pogo can shoot some of the enemies, while some are impervious to shooting. Contact with an enemy knocks Pogo down to the ledge below. If there is no ledge below, Pogo falls into the sea and drowns.

Once he has reached the top of the tower, Pogo needs to enter a door to trigger the tower's destruction mechanism. After that, the tower crumbles to the sea. Pogo then boards his submarine and enters a bonus stage (in some versions, but not for example in the ZX Spectrum version), where he can shoot various kinds of fish to score bonus points.

Releases and ports[edit]

Castelian, the Game Boy port

The game was originally released by Hewson for the ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, Commodore Amiga, Atari ST and Acorn Archimedes. The US version, which was published by U.S. Gold, was released under the title Tower Toppler. A version for the Atari 7800 was also released with this title.[2]

The Game Boy and Nintendo Entertainment System versions of Castelian were developed by Bits Studios and released in the United States by Triffix and in Japan by Hiro Entertainment; in these, the lead character is called Julius. The Game Boy and Nintendo versions were later released in Japan as Kyoro Chan Land, which replaced Julius with Kyorochan, jewels with Chocoballs, altered the enemy graphics and (in the Famicom version) added a password system and a pause feature. The Italian bootleg version was called Subline. The Nintendo versions were composed by David Whittaker, and the title songs were covered by Whittaker from the original Tower Toppler game's title screen. In the Famicom version, the title screen plays what is the bonus game theme from the US version.

In 2004 it was re-released on the C64 Direct-to-TV. On June 20, 2008, the C64 DTV version made its comeback on the Wii's Virtual Console download service in Europe on June 13, 2008 and later in North America on May 4, 2009.[3]

Unreleased versions[edit]

The Atari 8-bit version was being developed around 1988 by the author of the Atari 7800 port, and was intended to be released by Atari Corporation for the XE Game System. However, although the game appeared in Atari promotional material of the time,[4] it never reached the market. The game's prototype cartridge was later found.[5]


Compute! stated that the Commodore 64 version of Tower Toppler had "good arcade action, with well-executed graphics".[6] Orson Scott Card wrote in the magazine that "the graphics are terrific ... As science fiction, it's fun but shallow. As an action game, it's just plain fun".[7] Computer Gaming World gave the game a positive review, saying, "Between delightfully benign game play ..., clever obstacles (though none are very difficult to figure out), and lively animation, you will have a great time with this game. Well, maybe you won't, but I will."[8] It earned a Zzap! Gold Medal Award.[9]

The game was voted Best Original Game Of The Year at the Golden Joystick Awards.[10] The ZX Spectrum version was rated number 30 in the Your Sinclair Official Top 100 Games of All Time.[11] The Amiga version was ranked the 14th best game of all time by Amiga Power.[12]


  1. ^ Game entry at
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Do the Math - Animal Apps, Toppling Towers and Hungry Penguins". Nintendo of America. 2009-05-04. Retrieved 2009-05-05.
  4. ^ The Atari Advantage. Atari Corporation. 1989. Retrieved 2011-02-08.
  5. ^ Reichert, Matt. "Tower Toppler". Retrieved 2011-02-08.
  6. ^ Randall, Neil (January 1989). "Epyx's Epic Lineup". Compute!. p. 68. Retrieved 10 November 2013.
  7. ^ Card, Orson Scott (June 1989). "Light-years and Lasers / Science Fiction Inside Your Computer". Compute!. p. 29. Retrieved 11 November 2013.
  8. ^ Ardai, Charles (March 1989), "Tower Toppler", Computer Gaming World, p. 20
  9. ^ "Zzap! Test: Nebulus". Zzap!64. Newsfield (32): 156–157. December 1987. Retrieved 2016-07-22.
  10. ^ "Archive - Magazine viewer". World of Spectrum. Retrieved 2012-10-29.
  11. ^ "Readers' Top 100 Games of All Time". Your Sinclair. September 1993.
  12. ^ Amiga Power magazine issue 0, Future Publishing, May 1991

External links[edit]