Out of all the launch games for the Xbox 360, I spent most of my time with Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved. The combination of simple and addictive gameplay, challenge, slick visuals, catchy music, and the desire to beat my friends’ scores was enough to create some long nights.
Flash forward to today, and the Wii U’s launch features another downloadable twin-stick shooter. Nano Assault Neo, from Shin’en Multimedia, tugs at my heart, but our relationship isn’t the smoothest in the world.
Let me be clear about something: I absolutely love this game. I just really wanted one feature in particular: the ability to just play on a cell and survive as long as I can. See, unlike Geometry Wars and Super Stardust HD, levels have a finite end to them. You’ll clear out a certain number of enemies on each cell, an exit will spawn for you to jump through, and the level will end. So instead of your score being based on how long you survive, it’s instead based on how well you maximize your time in each cell.
We do, however, have a total of sixteen different levels to explore. Each of the cells is explored in full 3D in a similar manner to the planets in Super Mario Galaxy. It results in a mixed experience. At times, terrain plays a neat factor in your survival or death, but the camera isn’t always perfect. The game comes with four different groups with three basic cells and a boss fight. As expected, the difficulty ramps up as you progress through the game, though the boss battles are a bit of a letdown compared to the stages that lead up to them.
You’ll begin each cluster in the same manner, with just your ship and your laser. As you progress, however, you’ll power your ship up through weapons and satellite guns that can be found in each stage, as well as an upgrade shop you can browse between missions.
If you’re too afraid to go it alone, you can bring in a buddy to play some co-operative together, making use of one of the Wii U’s best features: two entirely separate screens. One player will have access to the TV while the other has access to the GamePad. The result is a multiplayer experience that doesn’t involve cutting the screen in half. Everything you see pertains only to you, allowing greater focus on your own play.
To be frank, the game’s longevity will purely be derived from topping high scores. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an enjoyable title to play, and there’s something strangely addictive about competing against friends in the game’s local multiplayer, but you can blaze through each level in just an hour. Then again, we don’t play twin-stick shooters for their depth. We play to top those high scores.
At $9.99 on the Nintendo eShop, Nano Assault Neo is easily worthy of a look. It won’t push the genre forward, but it will provide plenty entertainment in the same manner Geometry Wars did back when the Xbox 360 was just a wee little guy.