Nano Assault Neo Review
Cart: Nano Assault Neo
Cab: Wii U
Coin: Shin’en Games
Twin stick shooters are a relatively new breed of game, and yet they have already fallen prey to being more derivative and toothless with every new release. It seems like every platform is awash with developers eager to show how they can make a game that is not quite as good as Geometry Wars.
Indeed, aside from Super Stardust and a sprinkling of others, most of these games are pointless exercises, with the horrors available on iOS highlighting the limitations of the genre.
Nano Assault Neo so nearly gets it right, is so close to being another Stardust, that it just make it all the more painful when you realise it just isn’t going to cut the mustard. For the first couple of hours play, this is wonderful, and may actually be worth the price of entry for that period, as it feels meaty, has some great ideas and is sufficiently different enough to warrant spending some of your hard-earned digital cash on.
Whatever the point of the never-explained story is, you end up flying around the outside of a series of weird shapes, blasting enemies with the right stick and moving around with the left stick. You can activate the occasional special weapon, and once you have cleared a certain percentage of the enemies on a stage, you get 30 seconds to race to the exit, with a big bonus available if you manage to kill 100% of the creatures before you exit. The game plays a lot like Super Stardust, but with proper hills and terrain. There are some decent enemies to find and fight, and the game really forces you to use the lumps and bumps of the levels to your advantage, both as a defensive aid and an offensive opportunity.
You can collect up to four satellites to hover around your craft, providing extra firepower, and can reposition these at will using the touch screen. You can create a great spread of fire in front of you, or box a little cleverer and have one or two of them shooting behind you. There are also some cool bonus stages, where you fly headfirst through winding tunnels, collecting money and avoiding obstacles. These bits are really nice, but only available when you collect all five letters of the word ‘bonus’, which usually takes two or three stages. I would have preferred them to appear at the end of every stage to inject a little bit more variety than they currently do.
Money collected during play can be spent in the shop between levels, but it is here that the game starts to show its limitations. Sure, buying extra lives, satellites and an item grabber is helpful, but most of the items are a waste. Why buy a shield when it will only work for the first few seconds of a level? What is the point of spending big on the special weapons when the game is only too happy to dish them out when in the levels? I wanted the ability to truly customise my craft and the satellites, but the options just aren’t there. The reason? The game is just too short to make it worth the while.
There are only three specials to collect, with none of them being particularly helpful because all you do is plug away at the enemies, with no colour coded shooting or vastly different attack patterns, and only the bosses have weak spots to target. The boss parts are also disappointing, as the action switches to a flatter camera, no doubt to show the bosses off, but in practise it is a nightmare to use. Not that this is really a problem as the bosses are all incredibly easy to dispatch.
If it seems like I am being too harsh on Nano Assault Neo, it is because it feels like the start of a really great game. All the levels seem like the opening act to something far more complex, but just as I was expecting the game to expand, it abruptly ended, with only a paltry survival mode unlocked to go along with the single level arcade mode. Online leaderboards and a smattering of achievements are welcome, but are just filler when it comes down to it. The two player mode, where one player plays on the TV, and the other is on the screen on the Wii U GamePad, is excellent, as is the ability to switch the single player game to the GamePad screen at any time. It is a lot better than 90% of the dross in the twin stick shooter genre, but it could have been far better than this.
Nano Assalut Neo is a great introduction to a game, I just hope the developer decides to release the other half sooner rather than later.
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Editor and founder of VoxelArcade and The Smartphone App Review. Favourite games: Uridium 2, Frontier: Elite II, Sensible World of Soccer, Far Cry 3, Zelda: Ocarina, Metroid Prime, Solar Quest, F-Zero GX, Monkey Island 2 and Tetris.