Nova-111 review

Reviews Xbox One Reviews

I love the sci-fi genre. Give me a nice spaceship to command, with some lasers and the possibility of there being some nasty, gloopy, hostile aliens to fight and I’m right in there. Nova-111 then, should tick all of my boxes. It’s got a cute little ship, a set of missions and some rather gooey and grumpy aliens that try to crack open that interstellar shell and gobble up the tasty scientists inside.

Funktronic Labs have taken their successful Steam release and ported it to the Xbox and I’m rather glad they did. You’re a member of a team of scientists charged with the mission of fixing space-time and finding the lost scientists, victims of the aftermath of the Universe’s Greatest Science Experiment.

Your first task is to repair your robust little ship so that it’s ready for the task ahead. At first, it all looks like a pretty standard multi-directional level crawl. Your ship moves up, down, forward or back but unlike some other level-based games, this is a mixture of turn-based combat and real-time panic. When I first read about Nova-111’s turn based gameplay, I had high hopes of a Laser Squad style game. The actual result is a little kooky and takes a bit of getting used to, but once you have it, it’s a breeze.

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The controls are simple enough to master, and dotted through some of the worlds are canisters that contain upgrades to your ship. It’s a simple case of grabbing them as you pass and you’ve got yourself a laser or a shield. These have an either/or fire option if you have more than one armed and it takes a few turns for this to recharge. There’s a shield, laser and a handy phase option that allows you to slide through enemies or obstacles, among others, which is handy to get to those hard to reach sections of each level. The levels themselves are also dotted with dead-ends, vines, hidden areas, polygel for bombs, health and bad guys.

These bad guys come in all shapes and sizes, each with their own attack pattern and armour. There are ramming, firing, spitting, charging, leeching, exploding and armoured aliens that are desperate to grab the tasty scientists inside your ship. They’re all excellently animated and have their own attack patterns. You get some warning when you first meet each type, but after that, and some largely unhelpful but amusing comments about them, you’re left to your own devices on how you despatch them. After a while, it’s fairly self-evident how best to consign them to the great space graveyard.

Your ship, as you progress through the level, only has a specific field of view, and pathways are revealed as you approach them, and similarly clouded by the fog of war as you pass by. This lends itself well to the game and the backgrounds, vines and walls of the game area are all well drawn and slide along past you well, even if you’re desperately trying to get rid of the two leeches that have you in their grasp.

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So, while the mechanics of the game work well it’s not to say that the game isn’t without it’s flaws. The enemy placement is fixed. If your ship is destroyed you’re taken back to the start of that level and you’ll learn where they are and can prepare accordingly. The levels do seem to get a little harder as you progress through the game, but they don’t get hard enough. Having said that, the achievements do seem to be a smidge on the difficult side, perhaps that’s where the difficulty curve comes in! There was also an incident early on in the game where it asked me to hit back to dodge but nothing I did would allow me to go back, even though I wasn’t up against a wall. This resulted in me having to restart the level in order to get past this, which was highly frustrating to begin with.

The audio in the game is limited to some rather funky background music and the unusual blips and bloops of the ship hitting walls and your scientist helper chatting away merrily to you. This chat isn’t digitised speech though, which was a little disappointing, with the developers preferring to run with a speech bubble that appears in the top left corner of the screen. This can become quite obstructive though, especially when you’re already craning your neck to see if there are any alien nasties lurking just out of sight as you travel around and trying to listen out for aliens becomes key. This can be tricky past the background music sometimes. All-in-all, though, the tunes are quite catchy, although there’s nothing remarkable about them in a stunning audio kind of way. It’s no Xenon 2 “Bomb The Bass” style rocking soundtrack, but it does do a good job of filling in the awkward silences as you wander around the various worlds and rescue your fellow scientists, collect the bomb making gel, destroy aliens and rocks while finding secret areas, canisters and treasure.

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Treasure? Yes, treasure. This allows you to upgrade your ship’s basic four health points as you progress. You’ll need to find four of the correct treasures in order to be able to do this though as not all treasure rocks contain this find.

Overall, Nova-111 is a nice little game, suited to those with a puzzling mind but like a little action on the side. The turn based combat certainly makes you think about your strategy with each enemy and this is sometimes made even more taxing when you have multiple enemy types in the same area. There’s an opportunity there to allow them to take each other out and the developers have even included enemy in-fighting to help you on your way. A nice touch. There’s replay value in the levels as you can access more of the areas as you upgrade your ship, especially with the introduction of the Phase addition, so it’s worth nipping back to pick up those last scientists. The audio is adequate and the graphics compliment the game’s synopsis nicely. It’s only let down is the repetitive nature of the gameplay and the gentle difficulty curve. I like Nova-111 though, and I’m sure I’ll be back sometime soon to pick up the remaining scientists sometime soon.

Thanks to Xbox and Curve Digital for their support.

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A lifelong gamer, staring at the wrong side of the forties, I'm a huge Halo series fan. Started gaming way back in the days of the Amstrad CPC464. Midlander through birth, married with son, COD virgin, so be gentle. Twitter: @PhilK_TiX