Nova-111 Review – Dr. Science and Friends (PS4)
Nova-111 is a puzzle game that combines turn-based with real-time gameplay. This lends itself to tons of different puzzles. I have noticed that puzzle games follow a certain pattern. They introduce gameplay mechanics at a slow pace to let you learn them, and then after you learn, it compiles them in harder and harder configurations. Nova-111, however, never stops introducing gameplay mechanics. It’s all just an exponential growth of puzzling that makes for a unique experience.
Use Your Science
In the beginning, you control a little ship, with a guy named Dr. Science talking to you along the way. The game would be a little lackluster without this commentary. In addition to making it through each level, you are tasked with finding and rescuing other scientists, all with various notable names (e.i. Schrodinger’s Cat). Dr. Science and the rest pretty much only say hilarious stuff. That’s one thing that makes this game stand out from other puzzle games. I found myself laughing many times per level, and wasn’t expecting that at all.
Influences from Pixeljunk can be seen in the bright colors, “cute” designs, and puzzle mechanics. The sound design struck me as being more varied than I expected for a game like this, which did make the game more exciting. Each of the four worlds has its own theme that somewhat ties in to the “story” or Dr. Science’s commentary. I say the designs are cute because all the enemies, while loosely based on familiar earth creatures, are bizarre and creative little things that fit into one square on the grid. Also, one thing I was not clear on was whether or not I was the spaceship, or just a person piloting the ship. The spaceship looks like a claptrap and not a spaceship, which was confusing, but it’s a creative game so I’ll give it a break there.
Never Stop Learning
The bucketload of gameplay mechanics is quite impressive, because each one builds off of the next which, when combined, create yet another way to play, and then another is introduced on top of that, and so on and so forth. For example, an oil-spitting enemy creates oily “slides” that don’t let you stop moving until you reach a clear space on the grid. Then, in future levels, new fire enemies can alight them, creating even more hazards around the level. All of this also gets even more complex with the addition of the ability to mess with time. Like I said, there is never really a point where the game says “okay, now use your knowledge to finish the rest of the game”. It just keeps introducing new things. I feel that the game could have gone on quite a bit longer than it did just from the sheer amount of puzzles that could have been implemented, but I personally got bored from the large length of each level. Pro tip: do not die, ever, unless you enjoy starting over a huge lengthy level from the very beginning.
Let’s talk about that. There are three different worlds, each containing five three-part levels and a boss battle. Each new world did indeed feel new and exciting at first, but once I went through so many levels and parts, I started wondering when it would end. (Pro tip: do not die, ever, unless you enjoy starting over a huge lengthy level from the very beginning).
A small part of the problem is that in order to move in a turn-based game you have to press the directional pad for every single turn. This is fine, except when the levels have almost unnecessarily long puzzle-less lengths of space to traverse through. As I went through the levels, they just seemed to become more drawn out and I felt myself losing interest. Perhaps if they were as short as the beginning levels, my attention wouldn’t have faded. But with adding more game mechanics constantly, the levels seemed to get longer and longer.
The boss battles were the saving grace of each world. I was excited to finally get to each one because they were like a really fun test at the end of a tough course. They combined everything you learned previously in a compact space against a unique enemy that couldn’t be conquered by a couple spaceship headbutts. The final boss battle was a particular mind-bender that was fun to figure out using all the skills I had learned, and was not paced in a way that tired me out.
Obviously, if you really like testing yourself with puzzles such as those found in this game, you might not even mind the length of the levels. I did, but that didn’t stop me from appreciating the premise, which can be summarized as a witty sci-fi puzzle game that combines real-time with turn-based strategies. It achieves that blend well with a huge amount of mechanics and with the very entertaining commentary of Dr. Science accompanying you on your whole adventure.
Nova-111 review copy provided by publisher. Reviewed on PS4. For information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.