As soon as I jumped into this game it immediately reminded me of games like PixelJunk Shooter. This is not surprising considering the fact that various developers from Funktronic Labs formed their own studio and created this game.
The way I would describe this game is a mix of real-time action and turn-based strategy. Nova-111 is an interesting blend of several different genres. Each move you make counts as a turn. You can also do interesting things like skip turns to adapt to the environments. The entire game is built on a fixed grid and small grid lines can be seen in the background. The game works well because there are lots of obstacles to take on and the variations of enemies and their movements keep things interesting. At the end of each stage you face a boss level, which I really enjoyed.
The ship you control doesn’t have weapons at the start to take on enemies but you can smash into them to destroy them. This can leave you really exposed as you travel through the world. You do start to collect small weapons such as Polybombs that create a small explosion. This freezes enemies so that you can then crash into them. Polybombs require Polygel to use – a ubiquitous substance scattered through levels – but the other three abilities you gain all use ‘Science in order to let you fire a short-range laser beam, phase through enemies and objects or stop time. Nova-111 drip-feeds you these abilities and then the next few stages you play are based around learning how to utilise these new upgrades effectively. Early on the game is focused mostly on combat but once you reach the second world you’ll notice a swift transition to a puzzle focus.
I really liked the controls. They felt extremely responsive and clever. You have to make quick choices as you take on environments and enemies and the fluid controls made this feel exciting as you conquered each section. The game has various puzzle like elements to it, which I really enjoyed. There’s a real mix of chaos and strategy as you face each stage. You can get health upgrades during stages and the game never felt too hard.
As I got further on in the game things did start to get a little bit more tricky and required more thought before jumping in. Though the story a little thin, the abridged version is that scientists ruined everything by playing with science, causing a collapse between the turn-based and real-time continuums. There is commentary from Dr. Science, whose dialogue is fairly entertaining and was a nice addition to the gameplay. Some parts of the game become fairly repetitive in terms of the puzzles, which I found a bit frustrating. On occasions you can be left facing several old and new enemies at once towards the end of the section. Failure to reach the end goal can resort in you having to complete an entire section again.
The game is extremely linear and set on a very narrow path. The aesthetics are vibrant and colorful, which I loved at first but unfortunately there’s not much variation in terms of level design. Levels felt very similar in style to PixelJunk Shooter, which isn’t a bad thing. I really enjoyed rescuing abandoned scientists throughout stages. There is also a New Game + mode that can be unlocked which allows you to play through the game again but with the addition of multiple cheats that can be toggled on and off as you see fit.
Nova-111 has some good things going for it, especially the vibrant style and enemy variation. I also enjoyed some of the combat elements. I thought that the game wasn’t as strong in terms of level structure or design and I wasn’t keen on the restricted field of vision. Nova-111 is easy to get in to, but don’t be too surprised if the game doesn’t hold your attention for too long.
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