Arena shooters have been slowly clawing their way back into the spotlight for most of 2015. Unreal Tournament is slowly but surely developing into a slick modern version of its classic self, and new contenders like Overwatch are just on the horizon. There have been quite a few games in the indie scene also attempting to ride this wave, but none have really struck onto a mechanic that makes them stand out in a meaningful way. Nova Nukers! from Space Orange Studios might buck that trend by combining the twitchy combat of that genre with the type of arena destructibility that was last seen in the original Battlefield: Bad Company. In addition, the environment you’ll be destroying isn’t a warehouse or a circular temple, but instead a small planet, making each match tense and chaotic at the same time
The game’s aesthetic also works to set it apart, replacing musclebound dudes wielding miniguns with cartoon animals utilizing “shark firing Sharkzookas.” It has been more than a decade since Armed and Dangerous brought the concept of shark launchers into shooters, and I have a hard time hating any game that has brought it back since then. The other weapons are equally colorful, with lots of different types of grenades to create new craters and bust up walls in your path. Once you’re eliminated by an enemy, you’ll be able to zoom out and get a bird’s eye view of the planet, hunt down the person who defeated you, and then rain down an orbital laser on their position Bomberman-style.
As stated before, the game’s levels are all fully destructible, and not just in a sense that players can’t hide behind cover forever. The ground can also be chipped away, leading to vertical battles cropping up spontaneously and an ever-changing map layout. This can be good in smaller arenas that would otherwise be a breeze to memorize for shooter veterans. When you keep shooting and shooting at a pit, you eventually reveal the planet’s core, which is filled with lava much like in real life. Needless to say, the playable animal warriors of Nova Nukers! are very susceptible to hot lava.
Looking at the game’s trailer, there are a lot of callbacks. The game has the gameplay and varied weapons of a good Ratchet and Clank game, and the split screen antics brings back fond memories of gathering around the couch for sessions of Mario Kart 64‘s Battle Mode and StarFox 64‘s aerial deathmatch. The game seems to be focusing solely on multiplayer modes, with a huge push for split screen matches, and considering that most of those games are going for a 2D Smash Bros. type thing at the moment, Nova Nukers! could be an interesting change of pace.
We’re just now getting to a point technologically where small studios can match the graphics and gameplay found in the first era of 3D games on the PlayStation and N64. I’m very excited to see what small studios like this one can produce, and Nova Nukers! is a great start to a trend that I hope continues. You can follow along with the game’s development on Twitter and Facebook, and you can give them a thumbs up over on their Greenlight page if you like what you see here. Now if you excuse me, I’m going to head into the local Shooter’s World and ask about what kind of chum ammunition they have in stock.
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