Nova 111 is billed as a quirky sci-fi turn-based adventure game with a twist of real-time action (you could also label the game as a turn-based puzzle game with real-time elements as that also accurately describes this title). Published and Developed by Funktronic Labs, Funktronic labs have previously worked on titles such as; Kyoto (an interactive ambient musical experiment), Lotus and Collider ((partnered with Leap Motion™) both of which are billed as a mind altering audio visual experience).
“Once upon a spacetime, there existed a team of 111 brilliant scientists, who lived together in a simple turn-based world. They were interested in expediting their scientific research, and thus began developing the Universe’s “Greatest Science Experiment” which was theorized to unlock “real-time”. All was fine and dandy, that is, until one day the science experiment went horribly wrong, which resulted in a cosmic real-time/turn-based vortex that mashed the two unlikely worlds together.”
The “Nova” was once a research spaceship that seemingly was on a mission far enough away from the disaster to remain unaffected, as the captain of the Nova, it’s up to you to transverse the various environments and planets to rescue the scientists who have been transported throughout the verse and are lost in the time-vortex and hopefully restore the space time continuum.
The game consists of three main environments, each environment has five main levels with each level having five individual stages. The completion of which allows access to the boss level that in turn after completion allows access to the next environment. Each stage comes with its own unique challenge, as in addition to players having to save the scientists, players also attempt to complete the level/stage in both a quick time and in as few moves as possible, some stages even have secrets to discover. The player is then given a rating based on all these factors at the end of the level. If that wasn’t enough, players also have to contend with various different creatures all of which have various different abilities, without giving too much away, the game mixes that up later on. The game also features a new game+ mode and features leaderboards which promote replay both of which extend longevity.
The game mechanics are well implemented and are introduced in a steady learning curve so when a new ability unlocks, the player is given a chance to play around with it, in a relatively easy setting, then a challenge or enemy is introduced that plays on it. The way in which the turn-based and real-time elements are mixed and used is very interesting and it means that players will always have the challenge of how to figure out how best to deal with the various situations that arise. The game can be controlled either with keyboard or gamepad (gamepad movement uses the D-pad, but worry not it works well) and features both WSDA and arrow key movement. All the puzzles are for the most part easy enough, on occasion a player may find themselves trapped in an unavoidable death situation but those are rare and can be avoided with a little forward thinking. I did experience some issues which I will cover later for reasons I will explain at that point.
Graphically the game has gone for a cartoon-esque art style which is used to good effect and benefits the game wel with the game staying cute and fun throughout the playthrough. The enemies are well drawn and stay true to the aesthetic. The only minor thing I noticed at this point was initially I thought it was a robot that was being controlled as opposed to a spaceship. The soundtrack with regard to the music is nice and chilled and the boss music has a lot more impact, the rest of the sound assets all stay true to the aesthetic, as enemies make “Saturday morning cartoon-esque” sounds and make a rather enjoyable popping sound upon dispatch.
Overall this was a really enjoyable title that I found had a lower barrier to entry than most and didn’t in my experience ramp up the difficulty too fast (except bosses). I mentioned earlier, I was going to cover some of the issues I experienced, the reason I’m doing it now is it would appear that I received a beta key so the version you purchase may not have the issues I’m about to cover. One of the glaring omissions I found was a lack of voice acting for (at least) the main scientist character who regularly chimes in with funny quips or other commentary regarding what is currently happening. The reason I point this out is on my initial playthrough I missed pretty much all of this, and it would have been nice to have it being read aloud.
Another major thing I noticed that there was a missing aspect of the in-level UI; there is no way of knowing how many scientists are in the zones prior to completion of the entire level and even then it will tell you the total amount which in my view isn’t enough information and is unnecessarily inconvenient. I don’t mind “secrets” not being tracked in this way but it would be nice to at least know if there is a secret at all. A few other minor observations are that the game may not be difficult enough for some as I had next to no issues with any of the elements. The game is also possibly a little short as I managed it in about six hours or so (not including new game+), it could be finished a lot faster particularly when attempting to reach the top of the leaderboard. Finally the checkpoint system needs a little work as exiting part way through the level will reset all stages previously completed and the entire level must be started from scratch. I am however forced to score this based on the version I have which is a shame as without the issues I mention it’s a sure fire 9/10.