Nova Drift by Chimeric
As soon as I started playing Nova Drift by Chimeric, I got heavy Asteroids vibes.
There’s the arcade-influenced gameplay that’s all about shooting everything and anything that approaches you. When you reach the end of the screen you’ll enter the opposite side. Some objects you shoot in this game break off into smaller, harder-to-shoot projectiles. You have one life, and when you die your high score is recorded. It’s almost as if Asteroids was the main blueprint for this game, but a blueprint which the developers wonderfully expanded upon.
The game is deeper than it appears. Unlike many older top-down shooters, you have an experience-based level-up system where you get to choose upgrades for your ship; a recharging energy bar used for a temporary speed boost; and a life bar that allows you to be hit more than once. Theses systems make for a more fleshed-out experience. And even that depends on whether you decide which, of the many unique, weapon types you choose.
There is a lot of room for experimentation, thanks to the varied amount of weapons and upgrades, weapons that have their own strengths and weaknesses. At first, I preferred a weapon that was akin to a slow but highly lethal rifle. It was powerful, taking out enemy ships quite easily.
But I found myself surrounded far too often, so the next chance I got, I switched to a weapon that shoots a bunch of seeking rockets. These dealt out less damage but were very useful in taking out clusters of enemies. There is a nice variety of weapons, which can make subsequent play-throughs feel vastly different from one another.
Another core component to this game’s combat is its upgrades. Every time I leveled up, I was able to choose a passive upgrade that had accompanying stats attached to it. For example, a defensive upgrade may add 25% shield armor while subtracting 10% weapon damage. Like the weapons in the game, upgrades may combine positive and potentially negative status effects. These upgrades are another example of how the game allows for customization that can change gameplay.
Variety Spices up Simplicity
Since this game is arcade-focused, getting a high score will depend on how well you play and whether the upgrades and weapons you choose are utilized properly. It’s a nice way to add some complexity to an arcade-style score based game without sacrificing the general feel of playing one.
Controlling the ship is not what one would expect from modern top-down shooters. At first, I was surprised that the game did not control like a twin-stick shooter. Instead, the game had more of a tank control approach, where the left among stick controlled my movement and my aiming direction. I have to admit it felt awkward at first.
I feel like twin-stick shooter controls found in games like Geometry Wars are more satisfying. But I eventually got used to the single-stick controls and found them to be responsive enough to not get in the way of my enjoyment.
There are several enemy types in the game, each with their unique attack patterns and design: snake-like enemies, some that are shielded, some that are very fast. The nice plethora of enemies to shoot makes the moment-to-moment gameplay really engaging.
Neon and Synthesizers (of Course)
From a visual standpoint, Nova Drift takes 8-bit era inspiration with mixed results. The game favors brightly colored enemies that stand out from the dark ominous space backgrounds. Projectiles and enemies pop out and are easily discernible.
This aesthetic design choice makes sense from a gameplay standpoint, but it does look a little bland. It’s familiar when compared to other modern top-down shooters, which doesn’t give it a unique visual feel. This may be a nitpick, but I wish the game was more visually striking and didn’t look so similar to other games in its genre.
Music and audio design in this game is pretty good across the board. It’s this nice ambient electronic music that is just loud enough to set moods but appropriately soft so that it doesn’t become a distraction.
Sound effects are also muted in a way so that they fit with the ominous quiet sound one would expect when they are up beside the stars. Another nice added touch is the way in which these sound effects sound almost 8-bit to further drive home the developer’s arcade era influences.
Nova Drift is a good Asteroids-inspired shooter with enough modern elements to keep you hooked. It’s a fun arcade-style game that hearkens back to a time when gameplay was everything. I’d recommend it if you’re looking for an updated twist on a familiar genre.
Nova Drift is available in Early Access via Steam.
Check out the Early Access trailer for Nova Drift below: