Nova-111 is a game that is difficult to pigeonhole but I’ll give it a go anyways. I’d say it’s a: turn-based dungeon crawler action-puzzle game with real-time elements, and breathe! No doubt that categorisation has probably confused you more than it enlightened you so let me try to clear it up a tad.
You control a spunky orange spaceship as you enter mysterious space dungeons in search of your lost fellow scientists (111 of them to be precise, hence the name!). Your movement is completely turn based as every action undertaken is considered one turn. Most enemies are also completely turn-based as such the game plays almost Rouge-like as your enemy will only move when you do. It’s a tried and tested formula that always works well due to its tactical and methodical nature.
Normally this mechanic allows you to plan your attack in advance and usually avoid damage, but sneakily, there are enemies that actually function in real-time. Early on you will come across an enemy with sticky vines, these will latch onto you and send something nasty along them. In order to avoid damage you must charge them down for a quick kill before it’s too late. These little blighters can seriously mess up confrontations with the standard enemies. Over the course of the game you will come across a huge variety of enemies, both turn-based and real-time and it’s things like this that will keep you on your toes in Nova-111. As the great Sun Tzu once said “Know your enemy, know yourself, find nothing to fear in any battle” and this is true in Nova-111. Knowing each enemy’s characteristics and your own abilities on how to dispose of them is key.
Speaking of abilities, fairly early on you will gain access to several key tools. At the beginning you will come across a beam weapon. This can fire two spaces in front of you and can inflict damage upon enemies or destroy rocks. Soon after that you acquire phase capabilities, allowing you warp two spaces ahead, often bypassing what is in front of you, be it an enemy or barrier. The final upgrade gives you to ability to pause time for a few seconds.
As this is a puzzle game, these three abilities are utilised to their fullest. The developers really concentrated on these few small mechanics and squeezed their potential into puzzles you wouldn’t even think of. The puzzles, for me, are the highlight of the game. They are never particularly difficult nor are they easy to mess up, but never the less, they always feel clever. They involve the standard block pushing and switch-hitting, nothing revolutionary, but still well thought out.
Aside from puzzles, there’re the afore-mentioned scientists you can rescue. Some of them are in plain sight but quite a few are stashed away in hidden areas. Also in these hidden areas are power-ups. You can upgrade your health and “science” points, which allows you to use your abilities. Finding all of these can actually be fairly difficult and I didn’t come near collecting all 111 scientists by the end of the first play through even though I was genuinely trying to, so there’s some replayability for those who want to 100% it.
There are three worlds to enter each with six levels. Each of these levels contains three stages that you must make your way through. At the end of each world there are even boss fights, which are actually rather well done. Even after completing the campaign it offers a New Game+ mode that allows you to alter the rules of the game to your own liking. Completing the main game the first time will take about 6 hours so all things considered there’s a decent amount of content on offer and you’ll get your money’s worth.
One thing I really enjoyed about the game was the humour. The first scientist you rescue ends up being the voice in your ear, the guide, if you will. He generally names the enemies and gives you advice on what to do as you make your way through the game. His dialogue however is charmingly funny and consistently makes you smile as you progress.
Style-wise the game looks decent, the artwork for the enemies is well done as most have a distinct look to them and are easily recognisable. I feel that some of the environments can look a little messy and cluttered which makes everything feel more claustrophobic than it probably is, but it’s not too much of a detriment on the whole.
The music is generally functional and fits the game. I don’t think it stands out too much but it does a job. I did notice, however, that a couple of sound effects were way over the level of the rest of the sound mix although this wasn’t a common occurrence to get in the way of enjoyment.
Overall, Nova-111 is a well made enjoyable game. Funktronic Labs have taken a few simple mechanics and squeezed all of the potential out of them to create a fun and interesting puzzle game with plenty of content. The twist of mixing real-time and turn-based hazards is great and the game keeps on adding new things to the experience at every stage.
- Well thought out mechanics
- Good puzzles
- Nice humour
- Enemy variety
- Cluttered environments
Game provided by publisher