by Chris "lupinx-Kassman" Kassap
Nebula 95 is a curious amalgam of ideas from Doom visionary Chris Kassap, merging the divisive presentation of early PWADs (graphics, custom sounds, jazz MIDIs) with small levels and open layouts. If you're remembering the accolades received for his massive Community Chest 4 entries, these works will come as a shock. Nebula Shrine aka NEB01 is the first of the entries, officially released in 2014 and based off his MAP18 from Odamex Nitro Deathmatch. The plot of the series has you clearing out demons on micro-planetoids in a corner of the galaxy filled with a hallucinogenic gas dubbed Nebula 95.
All four of the currently available levels (as of this writing) actually occupy the MAP02 slot; that's because they actually kick off with an intro section in your spaceship which has an aesthetic glimpse of the map you're about to play, plus a little puzzle that will grant you some starting armor. In Shrine, you'll need it, because it's a pretty brutal affair. The layout involves multiple tiers of action easily divided into rings. You'll have to fight your way out of the central compound - not too bad - before spilling over into the stepped layers outside. When you touch the ground, you've got monsters from the inner and outer rings firing upon you with a bit of a Titan Manor feel since many of those stationed are arachnotrons and mancubuses and they are not easily dealt with.
At least, not immediately. If you know where to go, you can dodge past the low-lit spectres on the ground to fight for the weapons that will grant you safe haven. That's where the '95 starts to kick in; the outer ring is an interesting series of abstract obstacle courses that bar the way to both level objectives and armaments. They show Kassman playing with verticality and look pretty fuckin' sweet against that starry galaxy backdrop, especially when all you can see are those silhouettes from afar. Now, I didn't grab the BFG when I played, but I didn't exactly need it, since once you get some breathing room the big surprise isn't too terrible. That is, supposing you don't get swamped with all those airborne beasties when you hit paydirt. Once all the crying is over, there's a little timing puzzle that puts a nice cap on things.
Nebula Shrine is not what I was expecting, but that's part of what makes it so interesting. It's got stark beauty, lots of combat, and just a hint of puzzle about it. I could play maps like these all day. If you want to get rough and tumble with some demons and don't mind duking it out in a re-purposed deathmatch level, here's a quick play.
SHRINE ON YOU CRAZY DIAMOND
This article is part of a series on
Chris Kassap's Nebula 95 series