- Platform: Nintendo Entertainment System
- Developer: Dullahan Software
- Release Date: 2019
- Price: $9.99 (digital), $47.99 (CIB)
Along with being a fun, fast-paced action platformer for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), Nebs ‘n Debs is also one of the best homebrew games I’ve played.
Debs is a space traveller who crashed on planet Vespasian 7MV. She awoke to find small orange robots making off with parts of her spaceship. To make matters worse, a pink octopus named Nebs crashed into the back of her head and got stuck.
Together, Nebs and Debs must traverse the mysterious planet collecting crystals, killing enemies, and searching for the missing parts needed to repair Debs’ spaceship.
What separates Nebs ‘n Debs from other simple run-and-jump games is the dash mechanic. Pushing the B button causes your character Debs to quickly shoot forward a short distance allowing you to kill enemies, find hidden power-ups, and break through obstacles.
Dashing through obstacles, like falling rocks or enemy projectiles, recharges your dash. This allows you to chain multiple dashes together –which feels awesome. You can also increase the distance of your dash by collecting power-ups.
While navigating the beautiful levels, a timer is counting down. If it reaches zero, you lose a life. This encourages the player to get through the levels as quickly as possible. This means lots of dashing. It reminds me of Sonic the Hedgehog on the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis. First you learn your way around a level. Then, you try and dash your way through it as fast as you can.
Of course, this speed-run like gameplay leads to mistakes. If you get cocky and try and dash your way through a level before you have mastered it, you’ll crash and burn.
Along with finding her ship parts, Debs must collect crystals which Nebs constantly devours. This is represented by the ticking clock. Collecting crystals, Nebs’ food source, adds more time to the clock. Your supply of crystals carries over between levels. This is important as later levels are lacking in crystals –so stock up early.
Thankfully, the timer didn’t turn me off like it has in other NES games. A ticking clock can feel unnecessary. But in Nebs ‘n Debs, it feels right at home.
A move that you will need to learn to get through the game is a vertical dash. When you are standing on a surface, dash with the B button, then hit the A button at the end of the dash. You will dash forward, then fly upward.
It is a little tricky to get the hang of. The manual makes a vague reference to it under “Dash Velocity”, but doesn’t clearly spell it out.
If you find yourself stuck in front of a wall too high to pass, try the vertical dash.
At the end of each region, you will race a little drone who is carrying one the ship parts Debs needs to repair her spaceship. You need to chase down the drone before it makes it to the end of the level, and destroy it to get your ship part back.
This adds some excitement and is a fun way to change up the gameplay.
ART, MUSIC, AND DEVELOPMENT
I don’t know much about programming, especially when it comes to 6502 Assembly, but it’s clear even to me that programmer Chris Cacciatore did an amazing job with Nebs ‘n Debs. The physics and enemy AI work really well, the frame rate was consistent, and I didn’t run into any bugs.
Impressively, game was created for the very limited NROM-256 cartridge that the original Super Mario Bros. used.
Anders Gullmarsvik’s pixel art is gorgeous. The tiles and sprites are immediately recognizable and each region has a distinct colour palette. The pixel art may look simple, but is very skilled work. As someone who has tried to draw pixel art within the limitations of the NES, I understand just how challenging this can be.
Richard ‘kulor’ Armijo wrote the catchy tunes that help make the game so enjoyable. The songs never get annoying and keep things upbeat. Kulor is also responsible for the wonderful soundtrack on Alter Ego, another NES homebrew game worth checking out.
In addition to all the technical achievements, Nebs ‘n Debs is just fun to play.
The simple controls make it easy to learn, but the challenging level design make it difficult to master. Throw in the beautiful artwork and the catchy tunes, and you have an excellent action platformer for a 30-year-old console.
I highly recommend Nebs ‘n Debs to anyone interested in action platform games.
If you want to try before you buy, there is a free demo available (direct download): https://nebsndebs.com/demo/nebsndebs-demo-08142018.nes
Jenny Hitbox is an amateur pixel artist who loves RPGs and CRTs. Ms. Hitbox is currently working on her first video game, Retro Trivia Quest, a visual novel for the original Game Boy using GB Studio.
When Jenny isn’t grinding for EXP, she be found riding her bike and avoiding social media.