The tiny team over at Funktronic Labs have brought to the table an interesting take on a well established genre with their brand new title, Nova-111. To spice things up, they’ve taken turn-based adventure gameplay, and added a few real-time activities to the mix - this result isn’t mind blowing, but there are traces of fun to be had.
Nova-111 sees you playing the role of a pilot running around in an orange scientific vessel that has somehow lost all 111 of its scientists across a host of mysterious and foreign planets. Your task is basically to get to the exit portal of each stage, all the while hunting for the lost researchers, and fighting off the bizarre creatures that inhabit the environments.
As far as story goes, there really isn’t much of one. The game’s website states that your missions is to “fix space-time and search out the scientists lost in the aftermath of the universe’s greatest science experiments”, and while the gameplay did get around to having you play with time, pausing enemy movements, and experiencing attacks in real-time during a turn-based title, the explanation was never entirely clear - at least with the dialogue boxes I managed to read when not distracted by actually playing the game.
To be fair though, not all games require a grand story to be fun, and certainly not to try out new gameplay mechanics. In saying that, it’s kind of sad how easy it is to be distracted by playing the game that you miss the often humorous dialogue that pops up at seemingly random times. I really wish these had been voiced; I feel it might have helped with getting the humor, personality, and story of this title across.
Gameplay-wise, Nova-111 has a few new and neat ideas going for it. Starting off as a tiled, turn-based adventure where you bump into enemies to take them out, you soon find yourself spending turns to dodge incoming speed or projectile attacks, or running around in order to build up or find points that let you use one of your super moves.
There are four major abilities that you end up having access to in order to complete the game: A laser that use a single turn to fire a short distance, teleportation that allows you to skip a tile, a skill that stops time for a short period, and a concussive blast that can have its detonation delayed. The game eventually has you pausing time, pushing the halted enemies (mid-rushing attack in some cases), and using them to sit on pressure plates, or knock levels in order to solve the game’s puzzles.
Most of the maps are fairly simple to get through, with each taking anywhere from 7-15 minutes, which would ideal for bite-sized experiences, or on-the-go gaming with the Playstation Vita. I haven’t played the Vita version, but honestly, it’s probably the best way to play this game; in-and-out with a few puzzles so you get a little bit of challenge, but without the music and enemies getting repetitive.
I felt no remorse when I was killed the handful of times I messed up.
On the subject of audio, the soundtrack starts off pretty good, and despite there being times when it feels like nothing is playing at all, all the tracks are very mellowing. Each of the three different zones has its own theme, and as far as the sound effects go, they are all quite upbeat and cartoony - it all works well with the overall aesthetic, but nothing is really memorable.
The graphics are colourful and interesting, and the images that fill the background as you move from one map to another look great. The problem I have is that I never felt an attachment to the character I’m playing. Whether it’s the ship, or the few characters that pop up to deliver an amusing comment every now and then, none of them stick around long enough to really latch onto them, and so I felt no remorse when I was killed the handful of times I messed up.
One other annoyance I had was that while we are apparently moving to different worlds, the enemies more-or-less stay the same. This normally isn’t any sort of an issue (eg. Mario fight goombas, turtles, and turtles with spikes all the time), but when the environments change so drastically, I do expect more of a change in the enemy types. It is true that they get a colour change and a new ability or two, but for the most part you don’t have to employ any new tactics as they are no more difficult to evade or kill as they were in the first level.
I want to like this game more than I do. It’s on the precipice of having something really cool, the puzzles can be pretty inventive, and the look of the game is great. Unfortunately the lack of a character to really imprint onto, no NPCs I felt any sympathy OR hate towards, and the small roster of colour-changed enemy base models leaves me feeling pretty cold. There is fun to be had if you’re after a tiny challenge during a coffee break, or you’re playing on your Playstation Vita in short bursts, but otherwise Nova-111 is a fairly forgettable title - and that’s a real shame.