Welcome to the final Comic Commish of the year, wherein I try out some games that were gifted to me by some magnanimous folks and pay them back, with interest (can you have negative interest?), by writing up my early impressions and attaching a comic strip of the finest quality that MS Paint is capable of producing, if the owner of that MS Paint program was largely unable to draw. The generous donor for this month is my fellow moderator and GB-dwelling GBer @rmanthorp, who works for the company that produces GameMaker: Studio and yet somehow doesn't send more freebies my way more often. (Kids, take note: this is how to properly thank people for their gifts.)
Those unfamiliar with the Comic Commish can peruse the past ten months here: Harvester - Long Live the Queen - Luftrausers - Papers, Please - NiGHTS Into Dreams - Syberia - Freedom Planet - STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl - Back to the Future: The Game - Undertale. Undertale, incidentally, was created using GameMaker: Studio. Just an unrelated piece of trivia. Happy holidays.
Like seemingly everyone, I've been playing the hell out of a certain grim shooter set in a post-apocalyptic world filled with eccentric characters and plenty of cynical gallows humor. Yep,
Fallout 4 Tales from the Borderlands Mad Max Fallout 4 againNuclear Throne, the newest game from Vlambeer. They've been developing this game for what feels like forever, only reaching version one-point-anything as recently as earlier this month. I wasn't aware that the version I owned would upgrade itself into a finished product - I figured Ross had a bunch of beta demos lying around and let me have one - but apparently that's what we have here.
Nuclear Throne is a top-down twin-stick shooter with a hard "roguelite" bottom line of random drops and power-ups and insta-death that reminds me quite a bit of their previous game Luftrausers. Like that game, there's some amount of freedom when choosing your loadout - you have the choice of multiple characters each with their own strengths and special ability, in Nuclear Throne's case - and there's a lot of fast reactions and on-the-fly accuracy to be concerned with after being unceremoniously thrown into a chaotic maelstrom of bad guys and bullets. It's also very easy to die in either game if you aren't paying attention to the pyrotechnics happening all around you, and many of my early deaths can be credited to momentarily losing concentration and misplacing where my little guy happened to be. There's definite shades of The Binding of Isaac and any number of Indie twin-stick shooters we've seen of late too, of course, but Vlambeer keeps their business distinct with their keen sense of overdramatic presentation - the trademark "Vlambeer Screen Shake" is present and accounted for - and like many of their games Nuclear Throne is fundamentally simple but has plenty of room for "advanced class" complexity. Especially as certain characters, weapons and level-up bonuses (or "mutations", since we're going the freaky irradiated monsters route) start to become more viable options than others after playing a certain amount, having molded one's preferences via good ol' trial and error. It's a game that you can only really play in short bursts - a few of those "you died, you suck, back to the start" situations can go a long way - but a game that definitely has legs for the long-term. Multiple extra legs, even, depending on how your gross monster hero happened to mutate on your most recent run.
Nuclear Throne has some definite appeal, but I can't see myself getting feverishly addicted to it in the same way I was with The Binding of Isaac, Spelunky or Rogue Legacy. Some games of this genre have that very difficult-to-achieve spark or X-factor, some perfect mixture of arbitrary luck governing runs and frequent enough permanent unlocks to provide that feeling, no matter how spurious, that some progression has been made after your latest crash and burn. It might also just be that after so many of these, the allure of wanting to keep plugging away at it has worn off.
I won't say that I'll never return to Nuclear Throne - it actually seems perfect for occasional play - but being sent back to the start every time where the enemies are easy and the weapons are still generic and dull strikes me as an unappetizing chore. That's been a recurring issue I've had with most roguelikes/roguelites I've played lately. Maybe if I get a little further, I can unlock some kind of shortcut to the later levels where the guns start getting two or more adjectives and there's more strategy involved. Probably not though.
With that said, here's the comic strip to see us out: