Nova-111 is described by Funktronic Labs and Curve Digital as a sci-fi turn-based adventure game with an innovative twist of real-time action. That is a bold statement but does Nova-111 live up to it?
You play Nova, an orange science rescue vessel. He (wow this game has got me hooked, I’m already referring to the spaceship as a he) is pretty rundown at the beginning. His systems have just performed an emergency reboot and his energy is almost depleted – things are looking bleak. Nova rescues a scientist by the name of Dr Science who restores the ship back to its former glory. Dr Science explains that he is part of a group of scientists who have performed a science experiment, the “World’s Greatest Science Experiment” no less. As is usually the case with such experiments it went horribly wrong. This has caused the turn-based universe to collide with the real-time universe messing up time and space in the process. The only way to restore order is to enter the vortex and rescue the remaining scientists, all 110 of them. So that’s how Nova-111 got its name: Nova (the rescue vessel) and 111 (scientists that now need rescuing plus Dr Science). But how does it play?
The first few levels on the first world act as a tutorial, introducing you to the turn-based control system and how to navigate around the levels. As you progress, Dr Science offers help and advice about the various enemies, weapons and obstacles that lay before you. The enemies are quite varied in their attack patterns. One enemy, for example, teleports around dropping ‘blinky-bombs’ that explode should you move onto them. Other enemies are immune to your attacks if they are spinning. This variety keeps things fresh as they are introduced to you over the course of the game.
The arsenal of weaponry at your disposal in Nova-111 increases as you delve further into the levels. First you are given Polybombs, which as the name suggests are bombs. These Polybombs are powered by Polygels, small yellow blobs that you need to collect in order to provide ammo. Collect ten Polygels and you’ve got yourself a Polybomb! Later you are given a Beam, a Phase and finally Timestop which are a laser, a teleporter and a way to stop time. These weapons are recharged as you move but I often found myself clearing an area and then pressing X to wait a turn and recharge. That way you aren’t heading into the unknown defenceless.
We need to talk about real time.
One of the first real-time experiences you will encounter playing Nova-111 are the dreaded Latches. These are enemies that latch on to Nova and drain energy in real time until you attack them. The closer you get to the epicentre of the vortex the more enemies are affected by real time. Take the Shooters for example; just as you have worked out a strategy for dealing with their turn-based attacks they mutate. These mutant Shooters now have double the firepower. It is not just enemies that react in real time. Spikes and later on stalactites fall in real time, as well as electricity, wind and ice. The real time aspect fits surprisingly well in a turn-based game and I can see more developers using this concept.
The controls for Nova-111 are simple. You move Nova with the left stick or D-pad; the R trigger is used for the Polybomb; triangle, square and circle are used for the Phase, Beam and Timestop respectively; and X is used to wait a turn.
As for the graphics, they will look familiar to anybody that has played Pixeljunk Shooter. This is because members of Funktronic Labs have previously worked on the PixelJunk series. The visuals in Nova-111 are of a high quality and each world has its own distinct feel, although the levels within these worlds are of a similar look and layout.
Nova-111 does have a few niggles, the main one being that there are no checkpoints. It is not unusual with this type of game, but dying at the latter part of a level and having to restart and collect everything again gets slightly annoying. Especially if you fail the same level a few times in a row.
The majority of Nova-111‘s trophies are straight forward with some obtained by killing enemies a certain way. Another trophy is time-related and is perhaps a little nod to a certain PixelJunk Shooter trophy. The hardest trophy sees you trying to beat the game without taking damage.
Banging your head against a brick wall.
Chances are you won’t rescue all the scientists during your first playthrough of Nova-111. This is because the game has secret areas, lots of them. The only way to find them is to bump into the walls. While a few will find this tedious it does offer some replayability. Nova-111 also has online leaderboards where you can try to beat your friends’ times and complete levels in fewer turns.
Nova-111 is quirky turn-based game with real-time elements, meaning that you don’t always have time to stop and plan your next move. In fact on some occasions stopping and thinking will get you into a heap of trouble. The lack of checkpoints will leave you frustrated especially if you die towards the end of a level. That said, Nova-111 is an engrossing game that you will enjoy, and Funktronic Labs and Curve Digital’s description is spot on – It is a sci-fi turn-based adventure game with an innovative twist of real-time action.
NelMaNo Rating – 7/10