Having impressed at both PAX Prime and IndieCade back in 2014, Nova-111 has finally been released on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, and Vita. The quirky turn-based adventure is a fantastic title to bury your head in; it excels in providing lots of easily digestible levels as well as an intuitive control system.
Nova-111 puts you in control of a space ship moving around on a grid, in the convention of a standard turn-based strategy game. Your mission is to collect the lost scientists spread throughout the many worlds and fix the aftermath of an ambitious science experiment gone wrong. The first scientist that you rescue, the aptly named Dr. Science, commentates on your progress. He explains several of the game's features and categorizes the enemies by giving them names based on their attack traits. This commentary is the first indication of the game's humour, which is one of its most endearing elements. The light-hearted tone can also be gleaned from the names of the scientists that you rescue - how often have you played a game that features Schrödinger's cat, Alan Turing, and a bunch of space aliens? Not very often, we're guessing.
There are a number of upgrades present in the game, and each new upgrade introduces a new mechanic to help you advance. This includes a phase teleportation device, an explosive named a protobomb, and a beam. By implementing these against the creatures that you encounter, you'll be able to perform a variety of manoeuvres to destroy your enemies. As if that wasn't enough, you also have the ability to manipulate time, which can be used to avoid enemy attacks. All of these mechanics combine to craft a fun playing experience, though the speed at which you obtain these upgrades is a little too fast at times.
Another complaint worth documenting is the auto-save function, which is lacking; you must complete a whole world before it decides to save. This causes some frustration where there needn't be any, as you can accidentally lose your progress should you back out into the world map by mistake.
The music and sound effects used in Nova-111 are another positive, however. From the high-pitched shouts of the scientists to the gross splatter of a combusting enemy, all of the sounds contribute nicely to the game's aesthetic. Also deserving of credit is Jack Menhorn's synth-pop soundtrack, which is superb. It provides a dynamic accompaniment to the events as they unfold on-screen.
Beyond completing the main campaign, the game offers you tons of reasons to revisit the earlier levels. Playing through the first time, you may have missed a scientist or two in a stage, and this has a negative impact on the grade you receive at the end of the world. You can improve your score by going back and rescuing these scientists, as well as by challenging yourself to complete a level in the fewest moves. This may get you on the world leaderboard if you're good enough, too.
Nova-111 is an enjoyable turn-based adventure game that manages to impress with its refreshing controls and charming art style. Though it does have some flaws, such as a lacklustre auto-save feature and a cumbersome amount of abilities, you'll be hard pressed to find a weirder and more brilliant tribute to the men and women who changed the world through science.