Rogue-like dungeon crawlers are becoming increasingly popular with each new game that releases in the genre. The indie sector is doing particularly well in this department, with the likes of The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth and Rogue Legacy being two well-received titles to launch on the PlayStation 4 and Vita. So, with the release of a new contender to the throne, we were eager to see if it could live up to the high standards set by other developers – and oh boy it can!
Nuclear Throne is a top-down shooter that plays similarly to the indie hit Hotline Miami. Like Dennaton's murder-'em-up, there are a great selection of different weapons for you to pick up and play with; from simple revolvers to toxic crossbows, every single one is a blast to use. The weapons get progressively more powerful as you make your way through the floors – some even become a combination of the weaker ones or gain special abilities such as toxic or fire damage. You can only carry a maximum of two guns, so managing your arsenal is crucial to your survival. Also, the ability to switch between your two weapons very rapidly keeps the fast-pace of the game's beast-bashing action at its peak.
The game is randomly generated so that you encounter different enemies, weapons, and perks each time that you play. Every time that you die, you have to start again from the very first floor and everything is regenerated, so it's all new unexplored territory. This combination of random generation and one life makes Nuclear Throne a really fun and addictive game as each run feels completely fresh, from beginning to end. If you manage to reach the end of the game, you are taken back to the beginning, more enemies are added, and you have to loop again until death finally claims you. This means that there is a 100 per cent chance of you dying in every run.
The enemies which you fight resemble a huge variety of mutated creatures, from scorpions to vomiting blobs of radioactive waste. There are also some more substantial foes that will appear on certain floors to try and hinder your progress. They are, of course, bosses: Big Bandit, Big Dog, and Lil' Hunter to name a few. The bosses bring a huge challenge, as not only do you have to deal with them, but also the normal floor full of enemies at the same time; unsurprisingly this makes for quite a hectic experience, but one that is very satisfying to conquer.
Before starting a new run you have to choose a character to play as, and each of these protagonists have different special abilities and perks that will aid you in surviving the onslaught of critters. Crystal, for example, has a higher max health and is equipped with the ability to transform into a gem that will reflect all bullets that hit it. Plant, on the other hand, can move faster and is equipped with snares that prevent enemies from moving. There are many other characters that are unlocked by reaching certain areas, and each is designed to be played in a very different way, either close quarters, long-range, fast-paced, slow and steady, or a combination of all of these.
There are multiple modes to choose from, too, including Normal, Daily and Weekly Runs – each of which is score-based, and there are online leaderboards to keep you competing for the most points. That's not all, however, as there is an extra mode for the PS4 version, co-op, which allows you to grab a chum to assist you in your wasteland wandering. Co-op is excellently crafted so that you are not burdened by your partner's inability, but equally you are punished fairly for dying.
The only issue that we came across in our time with the game was that it would crash occasionally and often it was more frequent while playing co-op, however a quick reload of the game and we would be straight back into the gunfire without a hitch.
Nuclear Throne is one of the greatest rogue-like games that we have ever played: the gunplay is very satisfying, the characters and their creative abilities are wonderfully wacky, and the entire experience has so much variety that it becomes very addictive. If you are a fan of rogue-likes or simply want an outstanding game to play, then we suggest that you let Vlambeer's latest rule over your PlayStation lands, 'cause it's definitely ruling over ours.