BitSummit is under way in Kyoto, Japan, and some of the country’s finest independent developers are present to show off their games. One particularly strong showing comes from Funktronic Labs, a studio that’s native to the convention’s city. Funktronic’s game, Nova-111, blends turn-based and real-time action to make for a surprisingly thought-provoking affair.
Nova-111 is partially named after the game’s main objective. Lost in space are 111 scientists, and it’s up to a space crew to rescue them. What follows is a trek through level after level filled with alien enemies and secret items.
The most endearing aspect of Nova-111 is the way that it presents its hazards. Some of the earlier encounters may feature enemies that are simply turn-based attackers. These are easy enough to dispose of – back up when they’re ready to strike, and just run into them on your turn. Simple stuff.
However, the game quickly adds more elements to make everything feel so wonderfully cerebral. For example, spikes on the ceiling will drop in real-time after the ship flies under them, or some enemies will explode a few seconds after they’re first attacked. A smart player can engage an enemy and lure it to these spike traps, or perfectly time their movements to use an explosion to kill all nearby aliens.
Nova-111 frequently throws different enemy types and environmental traps into the mix, always keeping the player on their toes, forcing them to play both quick and smart. If this weren’t enough to facilitate action, the player’s ship constantly uses fuel, meaning that there can’t be any dilly-dallying about.
As if this weren’t enough to ensure that gameplay is varied, Nova-111 also features upgrades to the ship that will also change the way it can be played. Two of the ones that I found during my demo were a laser and a dash ability – each essential for progress, but optional for use at most times. These couldn’t be spammed, however; Nova-111 gives science points that recharge after a certain number of turns.
Even though the player can’t constantly use abilities, doesn’t mean that they can’t increase their frequency. Littered throughout the game are hidden areas and items that can be used as power-ups. The developers mentioned that there’s sort of a Metroidvania component to it in the sense that some areas might not be accessible until you come back at a later time with newfound abilities. Of course, each zone ends with a statistics page letting you know exactly how many scientists and secret areas you missed, prompting replays from the completionist-minded.
Nova-111 is aiming for a 2014 release on PC, Mac, and Linux. Funktronic Labs estimates that there will be approximately 60 levels in the final game, each of them able to played in completely different ways. The only thing that’s a given is that you’ll need to play smart and fast.