Round the campfire the mutants and monsters eat, drink, sing, and prepare. All of them wondering how they became what they are, what to do next, and if they’re dreams and nightmares of the Nuclear Throne are real. The path may be clear but the course is dangerous. If they wish they could fight they’re way through the bandits, monsters, awakened constructs, and the Inter-Dimensional Police Department (I.D.P.D. for short) with their trusty revolver and any other weapon they can scavenge to reach the Nuclear Throne.
Nuclear Throne was created by Vlambeer, a Dutch independent game studio, and designed by Jan Willem Nijman and Rami Ismail. Vlambeer advertised and received critiques through streaming services like Twitch on a bi-weekly basis during development. It was originally released on Steam’s Early Access service releasing updates on a regular basis until they created a product they were satisfied with.
Nuclear Throne entered Steam’s Early Access in October of 2013 and was released on December 5th, 2015. It’s competition was Fallout 4 (PC, XBox One, and PS4), Star Wars Battlefront (PC, PS4, and XBox One), and Mordheim: City of the Damned.
In a stroke of absolute brilliance when you select a random character, die, and restart the game you’ll restart as a random character again. As such, I generally tend to play this way, experiencing something totally new every run, for about 40 minutes. The weirdest part is that it feels like I’ve been playing for a giant, knock out, slobber-knocker of a session but an episode of Gotham hasn’t even passed by the time I’m ready to move onto something else. In short, this game packs a seriously fun and frantic punch.
Nuclear Throne is a 2-D, isometric, top-down, shooter, Roguelike. You play as one of a myriad selection of mutants who each have a special passive and active ability — Fish for instance collects more ammunition from pickups and can execute a sweet dodge roll.
Each level contains chests filled with ammo or new weapons to outfit the character — or leave behind if they’re garbage. Oh yeah and enemies, levels contain enemies. Once you defeat them all — whether you’ve opened all the chests and gotten all the goodies or not — a portal will open up nearby and pull you in to take you to the next level. In short, you spend a lot of time trying not to die and killing enemies — and usually failing.
The player can also pick up little uranium rod looking things. Once a character gets enough they level up and can acquire a mutation. You pick it between levels but only get to choose one of four out of a pool of 29 total possible mutations. So it’s important to try to pick mutations that mesh with the character’s abilities — or at least pick the best of the worst… I’m looking at you Hammerhead.
I’m amazed at how much flavor Vlambeer instilled in each character with their visual design, some mumbling gurgles, and dialogue in between stages. From Fish’s ‘gills on my neck’ quote to Eyes’ frenzied mumbles — he’s covered in eyes, not mouths — I created an idea of what they’re like on the battlefield or around the campfire. My personal favorite is the local gun god Young Venuz, a floating Illuminati eye who converses in beatbox noises and makes it rain around the campground.
Nuclear Throne does a great job of being intuitively designed and yet guiding the player into deeper mechanics of the game. From teaching the player about super chests with the loading screen tips or teaching the player how to activate the Nuclear Crown portals with its visual design.
The difficulty curve of this game is nearly perfect. Even as enemies and bosses get tougher I learn enough in the interim to be consistently challenged but never left in the dark.
Holy shit, this soundtrack. From rollicking adventurous feelings of the opening theme and wasteland theme to the eerie ‘I shouldn’t be here’ feelings of the Frozen City it’s all made with purpose and intent. I bought this soundtrack for a reason.
This game is a Roguelike and as such it’s harder than Crystal’s Rhyno Skin hide. Not to say that I don’t like it, just to say that it might be a turn-off.
The game has a difficult time clarifying where wall borders are and sometimes enemies will effectively hide underneath or behind map terrain because of the games’ perspective. I can’t tell you how much ammunition I’ve wasted shooting walls that I thought the shot would clear.
There’s a screen shake function and I don’t know why. If you want to take a trip to Barfsville then you’re welcome to play with it on.
If any of this remotely interested you then I suggest picking this game up. Its full retail price is 12 dollars and that’s a steal for such a purely joyous game. It’s absolute gun-based chaos and I love it!
Next Week: Battletoads