Developer: Curve Digital
Game Type: PlayStation Vita
Download: 285 MB
NA Availability: Digital Download
EU Availability: Digital Download
PSTV Support: Yes
There are some games out there for the PS Vita that aren’t a huge deal in the media world. Many indie games and others release on the Vita and there isn’t much press anywhere or huge media attention. This is the case in a lot of indies that are ported over from Steam and the like. At some point, the community just got used to this, never expecting huge deals out of some games that are coming to the Vita. After all, with at least a couple releases every week, you can’t do huge press on everything, right?
The developers of today’s reviewed game is a little different from the crowd. This indie developer has a science fiction-themed game that they did the extreme with. They sent a PS Vita on its own voyage, to boldly go where no handheld had gone before. They sent the system into outer space and then back down to Earth. If you’ve seen the news, you also know that the Vita was still perfectly functional after it returned to us.
The game in question is unique in its own right, from its setting to its gameplay style. To not make you wait any longer, here is my official review of Nova-111!
The plot of Nova 111 is around you, a ship pilot, whom is on a journey to a lab where an experiment went terribly wrong. As you approach the facility, you begin rescuing stranded scientists from the experiment and are directed and assisted by one named Dr. Science. In your journey, you not only uncover the results of the accident but also are forced to fend off all kinds of strange, alien creatures in your path.
The story is shown in small tidbits of dialogue as you go through each area. Dr. Science will comment on the state of things several times in each stage, slowly piecing together the puzzle of what’s going on. It’s a unique take on things and by the story’s climax, it will have a lot of both fact and comedy about the history of science as well as its own story about what the experimental accident created.
From a gameplay perspective, Nova-111 is a turn-based adventure game. Going deeper into the gameplay, though, it throws in a lot of elements from different genres. You have progression going in turns, but you also have strategy and puzzle elements thrown into the mix to get past certain obstacles and open certain doors to reach the exit. It’s a very unique game and something I’ve never encountered before.
When you go through the game, you go through sets of stages. Each main area has a few sets of stages and a boss stage. Then, you go to the next and repeat the process until you get through the entire game. It’s a simple concept. You go from Point A to Point B. And then you have to take down a boss to get the exit to appear in those stages. Very simple, or so you think.
Progressing each stage is unique in its puzzles and progression. There are a lot of different situations you get into. You’re moving around on grid-based tiles and there will be obstacles in your way, from enemies to walls to locked doors. Each enemy has a specific pattern and a specific way it must be defeated. Some are easy to figure out, like the Chomper that just moved towards you. Then you have other enemies that can teleport or become invisible that you have to really watch your surroundings to be able to find and take down before they attack you again.
Various puzzle-solving comes from using switches on doors as well as tricking enemies into opening doors for you. To help you with all this are power-ups you find as you play the game. There are some that let you destroy large boulders and others that let you “phase” through walls or briefly stop time. All are using heavily in their own ways, as puzzles have to be solved in a very specific way with very specific timing.
Despite all of the precision here, it’s not that hard of a game to play. Most of the puzzles are easy to figure out while others are more trial-and-error based. Even if you do fail and die, each stage only take a few minutes to complete, so it’s very easy to get back to where you were. The most time you’d lose is maybe 2 or 3 minutes. It’s not a cake walk, but it’s not painfully difficult, either.
The length of this game is pretty good. Over the course of the main game, it lasts between 3 and 4 hours. It’s long enough to not be painfully short, but also not too long to become overly repetitive. Each new level adds new elements to the mix so there’s always something new you’re doing. Also, when you beat the game, you gain New Game + which adds the ability to play as the Final Boss as well as NG+ options, like infinite energy for weapons and various other game-enhancing settings to go along with the much harder NG+ mode.
The controls are easy to use. It is worth noting that there aren’t any required touch controls when you’re playing the game. It’s also worth noting that the game is fully compatible with the PlayStation TV. Whether you want to play it on the go or on the big screen, you’re in for the same, unique experience.
Moving around the grid is done with the Left Analog Stick or the D-Pad. Both work, though I found the D-Pad to be a bit more comfortable for this style of game. The L and R triggers handle dropping energy bombs to stun enemies. Square uses your Laser weapon, Triangle uses the Phase power-up, and Circle can utilize the Time Freeze power-up. The X button is used for entering stages from the menu.
There is one major thing I want to mention about the controls. A few times when I played the game, I would be going through a stage and suddenly, the D-Pad controls would completely stop working. Almost all the controls just seemed to disable themselves. The Start Button worked and one trip into and out of the pause menu made everything okay. This happened at least 3 times as I played, and it happened on both the PSTV and the Vita, so you should watch out for it.
Visually, the game looks nice. The 2D artwork and environments all look colorful and full of life. None of the effects look blurred or grainy. It doesn’t have an overly complex visual style, but it looks really nice.
The problems for the presentation come from the performance. I have no problem with the load times or the audio, but I do have a problem with the frame-rate. There are many stages that will have pretty large frame drops. When this happens when you’re surrounded by enemies and need to move quickly, it can get very frustrating. It doesn’t make the game unplayable, but it makes those sections really mess with you.