Novastrike Review (PS3)

Shoot ‘em ups seem to have been the main benefactor of the digital download services offered by this generation of consoles. Since the unexpected success of Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved, everyone has wanted to jump aboard the shooter train, be it with traditional top down shooters like Ikaruga, multidirectional shooters like Everyday Shooter and reinvented classics like Super Stardust HD.

Novastrike, the debut title of upstart studio Tiki Games, is the latest in a long line of shooters to hit the PlayStation Network in recent months. The game deals with the potential invasion of Earth by a force known as the Draelus. It appears that mankind, shortly after colonising a couple of new planets, stumbled upon a strange piece of alien technology. This artefact happened to be a portal to the Draelus homeworld, and they were waiting for someone to open the door.

Big boom! Big ba-da boom! Hardly an appealing place to live, this.

Mankind obviously wants to fight back, so they send their best pilot (you) out in a new type of fighter craft called the Scythe. It’s an experimental fighter, crafted from alien and human technology. The Scythe is agile, bears a rather nifty regenerative shield and its assimilator technology allows it to integrate and use alien weapons. Using the Scythe, you get to face the Draelus forces head on while attempting to destroy the Portal in order to prevent their advance to Earth.

Once you get into the game, Novastrike pushes the story into the back corner, and tries to focus solely on action. Novastrike plays much like your run of the mill shoot ‘em up, but allows free movement in any direction across its massive maps. Yet rather than offering the same level of chills, thrills and kills you see in games like Everyday Shooter, Novastrike manages to be the most boring, slow paced shooter released in recent years. There is a distinct lack of variety in enemy types, and there numbers are surprisingly thin for a modern shooter. Players are forced to play on the game’s hardest difficulty in order to face a decent opposing armada.

Gas heaters and toasters are a bad combination. Is it Guy Fawkes Day already?

The Scythe’s weapons seem largely ineffective early in the piece, and upgrading them requires destroying enemies and hoping that they’re carrying a power up. Given the relatively thin number of enemies, upgrading your weapons proves to be quite the ordeal. Eventually you get the Omni cannon, which is bound to the right analogue stick, and proves to be of reasonable assistance. It can be rather difficult to aim many of the weapons – a real annoyance when you add in that the Draelus ships have a number of inherent advantages in manoeuvrability, damage absorption and weapon power, and also the fact that your weapons deal damage to friendly ships. Balance is a vital element in making a successful shooter, but it seems non-existent in Novastrike.

Each of Novastrike’s levels contains a number of missions that are handed out on the fly. These missions are pretty bog standard tasks like protecting a small settlement from incoming bombers, fighter escort, attacking enemy bases and taking out enemy capital ships. Not only do they fail to excite the player, but also seem to repeat themselves. Furthermore, the game is lacking any sort of multiplayer component, so this endlessly dull repetition must be endured alone.

This is not a particularly successful attack. Nor is this. You’d best just give up now.

To make matters worse, Novastrike isn’t particularly easy on the eyes. The game’s perspective is zoomed out a little too far, making it difficult to distinguish incoming bullet patterns and which ships are on your side. Ship designs are okay, and there are some nice explosions, but the environments are rather awful; the water you are meant to be flying over looks like blue sludge, and the terrain has this ugly filter over the top that makes it look out of focus. Sound is barely noticeable and entirely limited, with a few stock explosions drowning out its unimpressive soundtrack.

The market for shooters on PlayStation Network is awfully competitive, so one would think that the developers of Novastrike would have set out to try and exceed what was offered. Games like Everyday Shooter and Super Stardust HD are feasts for the eyes and packed to the brim with action, but Novastrike is about as stimulating to the senses as filling out a tax return.

Top Game Moment: Turning the game off. Seriously.



By Kres (SI Elite) on Jun 16, 2008