Stuck in a small orange spacecraft and tasked with fixing the space-time whilst hunting down lost scientists, Nova-111 will bamboozle your brain in more ways than one with the many mechanics that it blends together to make for a charming-yet-challenging game from Funktronic Labs.
The game cleverly uses its story to explain the dual mechanics at play in this colourful title. The scientists (of which there are 111) live in a turn-based world and have embarked on the Universe’s ‘Greatest Science Experiment’ to unlock ‘real-time’. This is the given reason for Nova-111’s brave attempt to combine these two gameplay mechanics that you don’t normally see together in games and, quite remarkably, they work really well together to make a game that is extremely fun and unique to play.
Nova-111 features a number of worlds for you to play through, with each world featuring a number of levels to get through – with each world ending with a boss battle. Each of these levels features a number of stages (typically four) that you will need to complete to progress to the next level, and once you complete a level you are given a grade (with S being the best and F being the lowest) that is made up of the amount of scientists you have saved, the time taken to complete the level and how many turns you have taken during the level’s stages.
My only complaint about this setup is that the game only saves once you have completed all the stages within a level. If you close the game or accidentally quit to the title screen midway through a set of stages, the next time you jump back into the game you will need to start the level you are on from the beginning – which caught me out quite a few times!
In the game’s many stages you will manoeuvre Nova (your spacecraft) around a grid in a way that will be familiar to those that have played any turn-based strategy games. The first scientist you pickup on your journey (titled Mr. Science) will act as your tour guide throughout the game – introducing you to the new gameplay mechanics that are introduced as you play and narrating your travels to you. Dr. Science will also name the new enemies that you encounter – generally naming them based on their attributes (for example, an enemy that spits projectiles is called a Chucker and one that bounces around stages called a Bouncer).
As you make your way through the game you will come across many hostile enemies that you will do battle with in a turn-based style. These enemies will throw themselves at you in a whole manner of ways and it will pay dividends for you to pay attention to how these alien entities move as the key to success is to learn their attack patterns so that you know when best to attack them.
Initially, the only form of attack your spacecraft has is the ability to bump into enemies to dish out damage. As you progress through the worlds you will acquire upgrades that will add more firepower and boost your ships abilities such as being able to drop bombs, fire laser beams and phase-shift through objects to get to out of reach areas. Nova-111 drip-feeds you these extra abilities and then the next few stages you play are centred around learning how to utilise these new additions effectively. In no time you will be whizzing around through levels offing enemies and finding secret areas, and once you have become accustomed to your latest upgrade, a new one will be thrown into the mix for you to get to grips with. These upgrades are assigned to Square, Triangle and Circle, whilst X is used to skip a move – which comes in handy when you want to lure an enemy to you or stay still and allow for an object to move to activate a mechanism.
One of the cleverer upgrades is one that can control time – making enemies stop in their tracks so you can get through tricky areas with ease. This upgrade has to be used in tandem with the turn-based and real-time elements of the game to allow you to manipulate your surroundings so that you can progress through the game. Later on in Nova-111 you will encounter a world where time is already frozen, and this same upgrade will then be used in reverse to allow time to pass freely – which I though was a great idea that has been implemented well into the game by the developers.
Speaking of time, one thing that is noticeable with this game is how short it is. I managed to get through the game in 5 hours, but saying that, I did not rescue all the scientists on my travels so if you are a completionist then you can add a couple more hours onto that running time. Going back through the stages to rescue any scientists that you have left behind will improve the score you receive at the end of each stage, and with Nova-111 features online leaderboards you may find yourself hunting each one down in a bid to get to the top of these charts. There is also a New Game + mode that can be unlocked which allows you to play through the game again but with the addition of multiple cheats that can be toggled on and off as you see fit.
The game’s visuals are easy on the eye, and each object is detailed, colourful and crisp. I loved Nova-111‘s artstyle and also enjoyed the sounds that are attributed to each enemy/obstacle you encounter. Whilst you are busy taking all of the surroundings in, there is a synth-pop soundtrack playing in the background that fits in nicely with the sci-fi nature of this title.
All in all, Nova-111 is a great little game that I think most strategy/puzzle game fans will have fun with. Although it is not particularly long, I feel that there is enough replayability to be had with this title to keep you occupied for a while. Figuring out how to tackle each enemy and hunting down each scientist will certainly challenge you, but you will also have a lot of fun whilst making your way through the three worlds and many stages that Nova-111 throws at you!