Wednesday, November 30, 2011

NanoSquad (XBLIG): "An Anime Style/Squadron Based Shmup"

I'm a guy who loves all kinds, and forms of entertainment. In fact I really like experiencing other cultures' music, and video games. For years I have immersed myself in music from various countries as well as video games from Japan. I never thought I'd see such a diverse cast of developers from various regions of the world contributing to one console like they do on the Xbox 360. Recently during my search for games to review I found an interesting shmup (shooter) that was made by a group of very friendly Arabic game developers (Indie Saudi). The shmup was titled 'NanoSquad', and it was an anime themed game that involved nano technology/research. The cast of characters in the game were represented by some very cool anime drawings/pictures. The plot of the game was deeply involved, and featured a wide cast of characters with Arabic names. NanoSquad is a one-of-a-kind shmup that can be played with friends (co-op), or alone. Either way you play you will use 4 different jets that each have their own unique weapons, and abilities. You're goal is to survive to the end of each stage, and defeat a boss. Between the gameplay action there is a story that is played out through dialogue giving the game a mythology of it's own.

Gameplay in 'NanoSquad' can be a little complicated, but there is a tutorial with a controller diagram that will help you understand it all. I won't try to explain it here because I'll likely confuse the heck out of my readers. NanoSquad is a unique game that has the gamer/s alternating between four different jets (singleplayer), or piloting one with a group of three other friends (local multiplayer). Each jet has it's own distinct color, weapons/shots, and abilities. The jets all have a damage meter as well as a power meter that will let you know when you're about to die, or when your special weapon is low on energy/ready for use. One thing that really makes this shmup stand out from the rest is the fact that you can combine all four jets (4 node fusion) to release a powerful attack when your power meter reaches a certain level. This comes in handy when you are facing the more difficult boss battles in the game. The regular enemies you'll encounter in the game come in a wide assortment of military style vehicles that all spray massive amounts of bullets across the screen. There are no patterns to the bullet sprays, and for the most part it's almost impossible not to get hit.

The graphics, or visuals in this game are just as unique as the game's overall concept. It's what I would call a side-scrolling top down shooter. The aircraft, and vehicles in the game aren't super detailed but they're not bad either. The game definitely doesn't look as if it were a copy of another game. The terrain below the flying aircraft also has it's own unique look that features some rather interesting textures. The terrain details such as trees are a little less impressive, but you do have to consider this is an indie game. The game's menus were also pretty impressive, and had a neon look to them. All of the menu items were in English which I greatly appreciated. I'm not sure if there was an option to change the language, or not but it would have been interesting to see the dialogue in Arabic. The soundtrack to 'NanoSquad' was a sort of redundant, and it seemed to repeat within each stage. I'm not 100% sure that it did repeat, but it sounded like it.

In the end I was unable to complete all of the stages in the game due to a freezing issue when I activated the '4 node fusion (combining the 4 jets)' during the boss battle in stage 3. This was a pretty significant issue that caused me to have to repeat the level several times. I gave up on the game, because it was very frustrating. If the glitch is fixable then this game would be worth the asking price. It offers a unique take on the shmup genre that I have never seen in a game before. The ability to use all four jets in singleplayer was very fun, and functional. I was unable to experience the co-op due to the lack of an extra controller/s, and player/s but I'm sure it would have been a little different from the singleplayer especially when it came down to using the  '4 node fusion'. I'm not sure if 'Indie Saudi' will be able to patch the game, or not but the game would definitely be worth the msp to shmup fans if they did.

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