There is something very satisfying about shooting a lot of things with an excessive amount of firepower and back in the day Capcom put a face to that concept with a game called “1943 Battle for Midway”. For me personally that was the first time I discovered the mayhem that is the top down vehicle shooter. With an impossible well-armed World War 2 aeroplane I brought fire down on an entire fleet of enemy ships and sometime giant mecha aircrafts. I was too young to understand what Midway was or which side of a very real war I was being represented as and to this day I am still not sure.
Anyway I prefer to look to the future, a future where curing a disease involves laser cannons and bullets. Recently I have rediscovered the genre with an indie game called “Nano Assault Neo”. The player goes microscopic and you blast bacteria with an arsenal of weapons that looks like a coordinated fireworks display inside a rave club.
The original game was released for the Nintendo 3DS and the developer “Shin’en Multimedia” followed up with a beautiful HD sequel on the Wii U with “Nano Assault Neo”.
The word “psychedelic” went out of popular vocabulary long before I was born but it is such an appropriate description for what this game feels like. Visually it is worlds away from the arcade days of Battle for Midway; however in terms of core gameplay it instantly reminded me of the rush I felt when dodging a projectile at the last second, or the pure glee I felt when picking up a second satellite and raining sweet destruction on the cannon fodder in my way like a bulldozer of bullets. So my brain decided to put both games in the same box in my mind.
Any self-respecting game putting its cards on the table with Battle for Midway, and even the granddaddy of the genre Mr “Asteroids” himself, needs something new – Nano Assault luckily has plenty of that. With a concept loosely borrowed from the classic 80’s movie “Inner Space“, you shoot your way across the surface of 16 total planetoids or cells, where you will come across obstacles and enemies from resilient tick like creatures, to really gross centipede burrowing worms, and a range of sea creature looking baddies to fill the gaps. Did I mention the homing lasers, the delayed explosive charges, and the short range electricity aura attack? No? Yeah, they’re not important. OK this is a relatively more violent and, let’s be honest, more gross version of Inner Space.
The sound design adds to my rave analogy with a soundtrack that could go nicely with a car chase scene from the any of the Matrix movies. It fits the art direction of the game but I usually play with the music off. The sounds effects in Nano Assault Neo on the other hand are pretty decent although it would have been cool to see the enemies melt with dramatic gushing fluid sounds instead of the mechanical explosions, but then it would not have been PG rated game I guess.
Like 1943 it features a sweet boss battle after a set number of levels usually requiring the player to damage specific body parts although I kept wondering if this was happening inside a real body. This person must be dying of some sort of gangrene / black plague deal with all of these things infesting the cells.
The beauty of Battle for Midway was ripping up the skies with a co-op partner, I mean in this genre there are just some things that should be left alone. Although I have only tried the co-op mode on Nano Assault Neo a couple of times it works really well. One person controls their ship on the Game Pad screen on the WiiU and the other player uses the TV. This mode is great for first dates… I’m practicing my sarcasm, but hey who knows maybe this trippy lightshow, fast paced game is exactly what a blossoming romance needs.
Ultimately it does not outshine or trump Capcom’s amazing classic but it is a great game in its own right and a worthy addition to the top down shooter genre.