Nova Nukers! Review
The last three years that I had the chance to visit the Gamescom expo in Germany, I was able to see all sorts of indie games being showcased by new studios and developers. One of those studios was Lemonbomb Entertainment which has been present at the expo since the very first year, returning the next two in order to show their game to the public. But the release date was unknown to the public (maybe even to them?) and one could easily ask after two and a half years “Where is Nova Nukers!?”
Well, the time has come. Grab your wacky weapons and let’s jump into multiplayer destruction as we explore Nova Nukers! together.
The game at its very core is basically a couch multiplayer which you would keep at the ready for a few quick rounds of mayhem when your friends are around. You would be right to say at this point “oh, another couch multiplayer game” but this is not really the case when it comes to Nova Nukers!. Unlike many other games of its genre, it manages to stand out for multiple reasons, the most important one being the fact that it is well developed when looked at from many different perspectives.
Most couch multiplayer games try to approach simplicity in such a way that in the end of the day, those games do not look any different than any other multiplayer brawler type game. On top of that, most of them do not even seek to employ the use of a unique art style (got anymore of them pixel games?) that would basically give you something to remember once you are done playing it, or even more so, would make them stand out.
Enter Nova Nukers!.
With a graphics style that immediately screams Star Fox, it is hard to look away since the very first moments we spend with the game. When I first fired up the tutorial, I somewhat remembered what I need to do so I got past it fast. I got quite surprised once I went into a quick match though because I very quickly realized there was only one weapon and one map available for play. I finished my game and I right away came to another realization which was that I had unlocked a whole bunch of stuff. The feeling of unlocking things got better and better the more I played with my friend in a private match and we kept exploring all sorts of weapon combinations and match setups the more we played from there onwards.
A little more explaining is needed though in order to dwell deeper. In Nova Nukers!, we basically go against 3 other people in a Free-For-All mode where we pick up crates that contain weapons and power-ups, which allow us to hit our opponents in various ways. Once we’ve hit an opponent, they become stunned and we can start absorbing them with our ray gun (of some sorts) in order to capture them. Each capture is a point. Every game has a set amount of points required before someone wins. On top of that simple mechanic though, there is also the part of the map being destroyed. Basically, the planet we walk on is slowly getting destroyed by our weapons as we play, making it a more dangerous environment to tread on.
The game is quite easy to get into and enjoy since, despite its numerous weapon choices, it allows for enjoyment of playing a game with friends where you only need to learn a couple buttons. The more you play, you of course become more skillful and aware of certain things, but knowing you are in a Free-For-All environment, there are always unexpected dangers, such as for example, people ganging up on you because you have the lead.
One of the reasons why the game is so easy to get into, is because there are only a few important buttons you need to learn. After you’ve learnt how to move around, jump, dash, absorb players and use weapons, you are good to go. Next step is basically just learning what each weapon does, which by itself is a very fun experience, since you get to discover all sorts of crazy interactions.
On top of all of that, the maps are very well developed. I am quite a big fan of the spherical map design. What that means is basically that we just run around a small globe and little arrow indicators show us where our opponents are. This design gives us the feeling that the map is small and also makes us always feel like we are close to our opponents in some way or another. We could either chase them by going forward, or turn to the sides and catch them midway while they are running. The spherical shape of the maps also allows the camera to be set up in a very low position, which in turn helps with aiming and traversing through the field much easier. The spherical shape is generally a very smart design choice and it allows the game to flow really well both in and out of combat.
My basic takeaway from my first hands-on experience with the game was basically that it is a game that I could easily show to some friends and get to playing and having fun together really fast. Even more so, it is really enjoyable, being able to unlock so many things, such as weapons and planets, so fast. It is quite refreshing to be able to change things and even add something new every time you play and with the amount of weapon choices that are in the game already from launch, it is going to be hard to get bored of them anytime soon.
The mix and match of various game options is also very interesting and actually adds a whole new layer to the game. I had the chance to play the game online with a couple of the devs on launch and seeing how they switched into certain weapon setups was pretty eye-opening. For example, one of them really likes the shark gun and basically only included that one in his match settings. So if his settings were picked before the game started, all our weapon pick-ups would have the shark gun (which yes you guessed correctly…it throws a shark that instantly kills you, but also makes a cool JAWS sound effect too) So with a little imagination, I started tinkering around with various weapon setups and I quickly found some favorites, such as the grenades + speed-up power ups only in a super low gravity situation that everything goes fast. I figured that is a pretty good setup that rewards skilled players for their quick reflexes. So imagine how many more setups you could come up with for even more ways to enjoy the Nova Nuking mayhem with friends.
The visuals of the game are definitely the other huge part of it that allows it to be as fun as it is and are definitely worth talking about. As I already mentioned, the developers must have been inspired by Star Fox or other Nintendo games of old. The playful atmosphere that the colorful characters bring into each battle allow the game to keep a positive feeling at all times and that is super important for when playing with friends. I cannot even recall how many times we stopped playing a multiplayer game just because it was too “gloomy” for party purposes. Accompanying all of that, is of course audio, that although not that unique, definitely plays its role in the whole mix. The thing that stands out the most regarding the sound of the game is most definitely the sound effects that some of the weapons have. Be it the chicken, the shark or the police grenade, all of them have character and add to the fun and funny aspect of Nova Nukers!.
My main complaint for the game was that the online multiplayer does not allow for the inclusion of bots, but the developers themselves told me that they thought about adding that feature but decided to focus on porting the game instead. I mostly wanted to be able to play with bots online because I sometimes like to play with only one or two of my friends in a private match, therefore feeling the need to fill in the blank spots with an AI-controlled character. To be fair though, spending time on porting the game sounds very reasonable, especially for a game of its kind. Having a well-built port for a game that is meant to be played from a couch is most definitely more important than just adding online bots to the game.
There were also a couple upgrades (such as an invulnerability item called “Aurora” that lasted way too long to be fun in any way) that I somewhat found unfun, but I am sure those will be balanced as the game gets more playtime in the hands of players.
Nova Nukers! is of course the kind of game that might suffer from repetitiveness but as I already explained, unlike many others in the genre, it will actually survive the test of time way longer than most others do. What remains to be seen is how much the studio will be supporting the game with future updates and new inclusions (such as new weapons, characters, maps, etc.). If anything, I am more than excited at the thought of being able to try a new game mode sometime in the future. Who knows what Lemonbomb Entertainment will come up with next.
Things like being able to create a private party before heading online or online bots might be missing from the game as extra features, but the game already feels more complete than it could ever be for a couch multiplayer type of game. I guess the game was worth the wait.
You can find Nova Nukers! on Steam! (On discount as well because of its recent launch, until the 22nd of March)
Nova Nukers! is one of those games that needs to be in your library if you are one of those people that loves playing couch multiplayer games with friends. Easy to get into, pretty Nintendo-style 3D graphics and a whole lot of explosions. No matter how experienced or not your friends are in free-for-all brawlers, Nova Nukers! brings something new to the table (or rather, couch?) allowing for some fun rounds of complete mayhem. While beating your friends, you also get to unlock a bunch of stuff to use in future sessions of Nova Nuking too.
+ Beautiful and colorful art style that makes for a fun multiplayer atmosphere to play in
+ Easy to get into and understand gameplay
+ Plethora of unlockables with a lot of weapons and game options to make things interesting
– Few features missing but nothing too important
Score : 8.4/10
~Konstantinos “Kelfecil” Christakis