Nebula Commander is a space combat strategy game for the Vectrex that truly shines. This game can be played against another person (using a second controller) or against the AI. In Nebula Commander your goal is to gain control of the Nebula (not sure if that is the Crab Nebula, the Mutara Nebula, or the Horsehead Nebula) by destroying your enemy’s space station. You see, both of you have decided to build space stations inside this innominate nebula but only one of you can take control. In order to succeed, you need to start collecting space crystals with your station’s tractor beam. The space crystals are these small diamond-shaped objects that randomly appear in the space surrounding the two space stations.
You use your pointer to select the crystal you want to attract to your station and press 4 to shoot the tractor beam. The crystal will keep moving toward you as long as you keep the beam on it but when it is close enough you can let go. Of course, you are not the only one who wants these precious crystals since they are the only energy source in the area and they are key to your victory. Your enemy will be pulling these crystals toward its station as well and you may end up playing tug-o-war with them! As you accumulate crystals and raise your energy levels, you need to start manufacturing missiles and destroyers in order to attack your opponent. You start the manufacturing process by pointing at your space station and pressing 3 for missiles and 2 for destroyers. Once you’ve made either of these, you point at your enemy and press 2 or 3 depending on what you want to use to attack. Keep in mind that destroyers will fire a single missile at your enemy continuously at a periodic rate, so it may be advantageous to use them. But look out! Your enemy has sent missiles and destroyers of their own to attack you! What do you do? You can try targeting them with missiles and you can also repel their attack with your shields (by pressing 1). Of course, shields use tons of power so you need to be smart about how you use them. If it sounds like there is a lot going on that’s because there is.
This is certainly a fun game to play and one that is best enjoyed played with a friend. Playing against the AI is extremely difficult and it just takes you apart in no time. The game offers three game variations to choose from: Game 1 is a best-of-three match, Game 2 is a best-of-five match, and Game 3 is a marathon variation. The animation in this game is perfectly fluid and sound effects are good. Energy and health can be monitored looking at the two bars that appear inside the stations. The left bar represents health and the right bar represents energy. Be aware that if your energy levels drop too much you will not be able to attract space crystals with your tractor beam and will have to wait for the station’s solar panels to very (i.e., painfully) slowly build up the energy reserves. The only thing missing for this game is a nice overlay. It would be good to have something reminding you what the buttons are for and to just add more detail to the playing field (like nebula colors!). Nebula Commander is an excellent game that every Vectrex owner should have!