In space no one can hear you scream…I bet my neighbors were wishing I was in space because I was screaming like a banshee while playing Nova-111.
Developed by Funktronic Labs, Nova-111 puts you in charge of a lump of a spaceship. You are the captain of this vessel and your mission is to fix a mad science experiment that has gone dastardly wrong. From the start you pick up a scientist called DR SCIENCE (that’s the tone of the writing) and he explains to you the rules of the world and how the new laws of physics play out in a nice tutorial. You then journey through six other worlds where you have to gather up 111 scientists in order to being order to the universe. With me so far?
The unique twist being played out here by the developer is that Nova-111 is a mixture of turn based adventure and real time action. Sounds hard to explain? Well imagine me trying to play it, again and again. The worlds are separated up into a grid system and each time your fridge of a ship moves to a space in the grid you use a turn. However there are creatures and monsters populating these worlds that move in a turn based system as well. But their timing might be different to yours, or they might just teleport behind you suddenly, or they might try to eat you. Rocks might fall from the roof in real time, while your spaceship is in turn based time. Confused? I was. The most interesting thing about the game is that it keeps you on your toes in developing strategies to try and beat the game and conquer the demanding puzzles. When you move forward through a section or learn to defeat a creature it really does feel like a major accomplishment.
But when you die, after your spaceship has been hit a number of times by creatures, the frustration quickly seeps in. The games auto save availability is severely absent. You must complete a whole world before it decides to save itself. I am the kind of gamer that would rather pull out his own eyes, kick them around the room for a bit, before putting them back in, than do that. So as you might be able to tell, me and Nova-111 were having some serious relationship problems.
The spaceship starts the game in a bit of a mess; no weapons and low of health. As I said earlier the object of the game is to rescue scientists and these men, woman and sometimes cat scientists will help develop the ship and give you new upgrades. These upgrades help you progress through areas that were previously off limits or give you new weaponry that will make you change your attacking strategy. These include teleportation devices, science beams and protobombs. I found these upgrades really creative and make the game exciting in the working out of how to use them effectively. The game itself really is all about timing, thinking out the next strategy quickly and effectively. For example getting the bombs really helped me create an effective distraction when attacked by multiple enemies, so I can quickly work out my new moves before being killed again.
The look of the game and the art design is very pleasing. Graphically it looks like an upmarket children’s cartoon world. All the bits and pieces are very pleasing to the eye even when the actual level design can become dull and predictable. The different worlds each have their own theme and style and the soundtrack works well with it. A lot of kudos goes to Jack Menhorn’s soundtrack – all techno and plinky plonky sound effects that work really with the gameplay.
If you are good, you’ll have about five to six hours of gameplay in Nova-111 and unlike me, won’t get caught out with the actual core mechanics of the game itself. The levels can have a lot of replay value as there are secret areas to find, collectables and the elusive scientists to seek out. If you went and searched for all these elements you would really get a sense of achievement about what strategy to use and how to do this in order to get 100 percent completion. There is no multiplayer to speak of, but there are global leaderboards where you can see how quickly your friend did a level and you can challenge yourself to beat them.
The thing about this game is this, I can see how well it is put together; it looks great, it sounds great and plays great. But I just didn’t get it. It just didn’t interest me from the start . The grid and turn based action seems pointless to me and I wasn’t absorbed enough in the game to try to work out the best way forward through these worlds. Even through a playthrough would take you around 45 minutes a world, the lack of an auto save or checkpoint system really was so upsetting to a point that I very nearly deleted the game from the hard drive.
As always with these moments of madness I’m glad I didn’t. The gameplay is unusual and that should be applauded, the tone is fun and even though the story, writing and narrative isn’t really present, that isn’t the developers focus. Their focus is on creating a fun, quirky and decent indie game for all to play.
I think they have achieved that and many gamers will have a brilliant time exploring these worlds and discovering all its secrets. I’m afraid I am not that person, but good luck to all those that sail on the good ship Nova 111.