Coming at us with one of the hardest to pronounce names I’ve seen in a while is Nephenthesys from the Eastasiasoft team.
A vertically scrolling shoot ‘em up this has had the usual Eastasiasoft treatment and in the time I’ve been playing it has had a title update doubling the amount of Gamerscore on offer all the way up to 2000G! I guess the question should be whether it is a game worth playing on its own merits, or is it one for achievement hunters only?
Story? Pah. Who needs a story when there are aliens to blast to pieces? In Nephenthesys though there has been an attempt to worm in some narrative. It can however be summed up in one line – we need to recover an unidentified power source in the middle of an alien invasion. Now, I do have questions about this, chief of which is that if it is an unidentified power source, how will we know when we’ve found it? Still, that is the long and the short of it, and so it’s off into the wild blue yonder to defeat all comers.
Presentation is the next area we will call in at, and if you have ever played a vertically scrolling shoot ‘em up before, you’ll know what to expect from this one. We are a lone ship at the bottom of the screen, waves of enemies appear from the top, and our job is to make sure they don’t make it home for tea and crumpets. So far, so normal, but there is a slight twist that I will talk about later. However, it’s fair to say that the design of the enemies and even of the bosses is fairly generic, and while they do all have different attack patterns and a mildly different look, there is nothing here that is unexpected or surprising. That isn’t to say it’s bad – just not earth shattering.
Sound is likewise – the usual kind of pew-pew and explosion sound effects accompanied by the traditional siren noise before each level’s boss appears. It all ensures you will feel right at home here. There is little to grumble about in terms of how Nephenthesys is set up and the display is actually the full width of the screen, instead of a pinched 4:3 ratio to make it look old school.
On to the main attraction of a game like this though – the actual shooting action. It is again very much as you would expect, with different ships being able to be selected when you begin a run. Each ship has multiple weapons attached, with a personal favourite being that of a three way blaster as a default. You should be able to find a ship that suits your playstyle, however you wish to tackle Nephenthesys though.
Now, I mentioned at the top of the article about something that was a little bit different; a mechanic that I haven’t seen very often before. You see, as you shoot certain enemies, they drop orbs, and these orbs can be collected. As you collect orbs, your weapons get more powerful, and with the third one, the guns get as powerful as they can be. The fourth orb you pick up gives you a drone, which can be used as a smart bomb to do a lot of damage to enemies on the screen.
This system is very old, going right back to games like R-Type in the arcade, but what Nephenthesys introduces is a bit different. That’s because if you get hit by an enemy, it knocks one level off your available power ups, giving you up to four hits before you succumb. Obviously, if you grab extra orbs in the meantime, the amount of hits you can withstand rises again, and so there is a real risk/reward mechanic in play – do you try and grab the orbs as soon as you can, or wait till they come to you? And just to add a little spice, if you don’t grab them in time, they disappear. Best decide quickly, eh?
The rest of the gameplay is as expected, leaving you to go about shooting everything you can and trying to weave your way through the enemies bullets and various suicide craft that will attempt to headbutt you into oblivion. But Nephenthesys is very difficult, and there are no difficulty settings to try and tone it down. You get three continues, but if you die and have to continue, you start again at the beginning of the stage you are on; there is no carrying on from the point of death here!
With achievements tied into completing every level, Nephenthesys is actually a lot longer lasting than other various Eastasiasoft offerings, and this must be applauded. To answer the question about whether Nephenthesys is worth a play then, and we discover a resounding yes, especially if it is a challenge that is being hunted.
While Nephenthesys isn’t the longest game ever, if you want to gather up all 2000 Gamerscore on offer, it will not be the work of a moment.