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The credits have rolled on Nova-111. It’s fun. It’s quirky. It makes you feel smart (usually). What more could you want from a video game?

Transcript(ish)

It’s time for a post-game smoke, where I give a few thoughts on a game as soon as possible after playing it. As is the nature of this type of video, it’s short, quickly thrown together, and certainly rides emotional high or low of whatever game I just finished. I turn on the camera, say what I need to say, then turn off with plenty of time left for you to drink that beer you’re drooling over. I offer plenty of longer, more thought-out videos, so please stay and poke around  a bit.

The credits have rolled on Nova-111. When I think turn-based strategy, I, perhaps unfairly, conjure images of high-fantasy battles, terrestrial war campaigns, and sometimes epic fights in space. And the constant veneer–again, perhaps unfairly, as I’m not terrible familiar with the turn-based strategy genre–is one of semi-realism, with developers seemly erring on the side of visual reality when the game mechanics themselves are so focused in overt logic, logic that demands conscious participation from the player. To deliver a strategy game that depends on a strict rule-set that also adheres to a strict, agreed-upon reality (even if that reality is one made real via decades of fantastical lore) seems…logical.

All these assumptions are what made Nova-111 initially intriguing. It’s surprising to find a quirky, unabashedly cartoony, turn-based strategy game with humor enough to let a pun or backhanded quip from simple but endearing characters float the player past some of the duller moments of a game. And not just surprising to me–again, I’m willing to admit I may just be woefully lacking in proper turn-based strategy context–but I feel surprising to anyone who expected nothing more than a basic game with basic mechanics and a basic story line.

But basic isn’t too unfair a term, either. The game isn’t trying to shatter molds or reinvent the very concept of a game. The progression adheres to a player’s expectations–subsequent levels reveal new enemy types and new level designs with new mechanics to overcome both, with each of the three words culminating in a boss battle that invites the player to use their newfound knowledge. And I use the term “invites” appropriately here, which brings me to my one major criticism with Nova-111. While the game is incredibly fun, there are obvious valleys where the general care that went into articulating interesting puzzles seemed to be abandoned.

For every three puzzles that the developers meticulously crafted to afford the player’s decisions, allowing the player to feel simultaneously smart and accomplished, there’s a puzzle that’s seemingly comprised of random obstacles and enemies that make the player feel, counter-intuitively, dumb, because, “of course those random buttons I pressed to solve this puzzle can’t be the way it’s supposed to be solved.” What, outside these questionable puzzle design decisions, comes across as a carefully curated experience with intended outcomes instead feels like a slipshod free-for-all.

But those moments–and, I admit, sometimes stretches–of perceived slip-shoddiness aren’t enough to demote the experience. It’s a damn fun game.

Tell me in the comment if you’ve played Nova-111. What did you think of it?

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Thank you for watching.

Music Credits

  • Video Dungeon Crawl Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com), Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

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