Nanos: The Battle Inside is an attempt to remake Pong for Generation Y. However, despite the effort this is a dull and often frustrating experience. Anyone seeking an updated seventies classic would be better off listening to a remastered version of Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven.
The game is currently available on Steam Early Access so it’s unfair to expect a flawless product but I regularly faced infuriating game spoiling glitches. The, presumably online, multiplayer mode is unavailable but a co-operative local two player option is accessible alongside the single-player story.
A story here is ambitious given that the game boils down to positioning a paddle to bounce a ball around the screen and break bricks. Comic book style cutscenes reveal that your paddle is actually a nanobot being used to carry out a series of biological experiments. I say reveal but to be honest I’m using my powers of intuition. The dialogue in these cutscenes doesn’t make much sense. I was left wondering whether whoever translated them actually spoke English.
The at times pretty backgrounds are themed around the inner body but that is where any connection between the story and actually playing Nanos ends. The story sequences really add nothing to the game and have no free-standing merit. It’s hard to see who they’re targeted at. Purist fans of this genre will view them as an annoying distraction and those after an engaging plot line won’t be keen on hours of brick breaking.
The soundtrack is composed entirely of mid-tempo electro music. It’s the kind of music you’d expect to hear on an unpleasant night out to some generic club in central London. Regrettably the game doesn’t treat you to any of the eye candy you’d typically see at such a venue but at least Nanos doesn’t have any rude bouncers or a massive queue for the bar.
The actual gameplay mechanics don’t work very well. The physics are poor and the speed of the ball is never quite right. It’s typically either too slow or too fast. As the game progresses things get more difficult. The environments rotate, there are more bricks to break and there are larger cutaways to position your nanobot across. A gamepad is required to play but that doesn’t improve the controls which feel sluggish and imprecise. For example, you can only move left and right but in some levels your paddle will move to places on the screen where it would be more appropriate to move up and down. Consequently I felt I was often unfairly greeted by the game-over screen.
There are a variety of power-ups and power-downs which can affect you craft, provided it’s positioned in the right place. Guns are one of the few entertaining additions but unfortunately I was more regularly left having to grapple with the effects of irritating modifications like control reversal or a “glitch” which caused the paddle to move sporadically. These elements undermine the skill factor in the game particularly because it’s difficult to identify what they are before deciding whether or not to move into their path. Moreover, the nature of any change is jarringly bellowed out by an angry male announcer. To give you some context, imagine the umpire in a Wimbledon final taking out a carefully concealed megaphone and declaring with a guttural roar that the score was now “DEUCE”.
For those of you who really love games like Arkanoid, Breakout and Pong, I’m struggling to see why you shouldn’t just continue to play them rather than Nanos: The Battle Inside. I don’t see what this game adds to the genre. Playing this would be like watching Alien 3 over and over again despite having both Alien and Aliens in your collection. Perhaps Excamedia Academy will be able to improve Nanos with feedback on the Early Access release but until they do I wouldn’t recommend it.
Nanos: The Battle Inside is currently in Early Access and is available to purchase digitally on Steam.