Welcome to 2015, or as I will begin calling it, “The Year of the Indie Developer.” When Steam’s Greenlight program first started in July of 2012 there was a big influx of new games from new studios, and while not many of them saw huge success it managed to pave the way for independent companies to get their foot in the proverbial door. From what I’ve seen of Steam’s marketplace this past year, however, the talent pool of the community seems to be on the rise. Funktronic is one such rising star and with the release of their latest game, Nova-111, I am excited to see what they come up with next.
Nova-111 manages to fall into an odd genre; it has RPG mechanics, turn-based puzzles, and real-time enemies and environmental threats. It really seems to want to do it all and somehow it manages to pull it off quite stunningly. You are one of two survivors of an experiment gone wrong, an experiment that managed to scatter famous scientists all over different worlds. You, along with your mentor, Mr. Science, must travel through space in order to rescue them while avoiding the nasty monsters and traps that await you.
Where the game gets odd is in its mechanics. Your orange ship navigates through 2D maps on a grid system with each hop between squares taking up a single turn. Enemies and certain obstacles move only when you do, while some are smart enough to attack you in real-time, making for some pretty intense moments. Enemies can be smacked with your ship at no cost to you most of the time, but for the more defensive enemies you’ll have to use your Beam module. The Phasing module is used to dodge past enemies set to charge you, or to access areas that would otherwise be blocked off. This mix of turn-based and real-time tactical combat forces you to think outside the box and figure out solutions you wouldn’t otherwise notice.
The art is simple, but not repetitive, and quite pleasing to the eye. It also allows important details to stand out, like which sort of weapon you should use to bypass different rocks, where secrets may lie, and so forth. The enemy designs manage to stay informative, yet simple, and they’re nice enough to telegraph their attacks before taking out your health bar. The great sound effects and animations make defeating enemies very satisfying, while the music is rather simple, but not distracting. Overall, it’s a great aesthetic choice that really lends itself to the gameplay.
Both casual and hardcore gamers alike should enjoy this release and there’s plenty to do. Completionists will enjoy discovering all of the secret areas and collecting all the scientists they can find, while earning achievements of course. Others may enjoy the pun-filled dialogue, or perhaps the pop culture references that stretch from Queen to South Park. A new game plus mode is available to give you some interesting replay value, allowing you to go back to the beginning to grab those secrets you couldn’t access before.
Go ahead and give Nova-111 a try, it’s cheap and available on just about every platform out there. Just remember, Science is your friend.