It’s currently very trendy to add roguelike elements to your game, and when it comes to the shoot ’em up genre, it kind of makes sense. After all, shoot ’em ups are very much like roguelikes by their very nature: you start the game, grow in power by picking up weapons and upgrades, and when you die, you have to start back at the beginning. Nova Strike by Sanuk Games is one of a number of shoot ’em ups available that doubles down on its roguelike elements, however.
There’s no real story here; Nova Strike is a shoot ’em up that simply accepts that one isn’t needed. All that matters is that there are enemies to shoot, and you have a craft capable of doing so. Stating in a hub, initially your options will be limited to just heading out into space to begin blasting at anything that shows aggression. In that endeavour you only have your basic blaster, but play your cards right, and you soon might have a sub-weapon or two to help you on your way.
With no lives or continues, just a health bar and a shield, you’ll die eventually, and then the true nature of Nova Strike is revealed. With the points earned by playing, you can purchase a variety of chips that can then be equipped to provide you with a range of skills and passive and passive bonuses. Each time you die, then, you not only grow a little more knowledgeable about the game, but also grow in power. In other words, with each run you have a greater chance of success.
Ultimately though, what matters is your performance when out blasting in space, and how you utilise the resources available to you. You’ll earn coins as you overcome the foes that stand in your path, and these can be spent at pop-up shops between stages to access power-ups, weapons and more not available elsewhere. Weapons and upgrades can sometimes be dropped by enemies, too, and so there is is an element of luck involved. Get the right combination, and your run can be made somewhat easier.
We say somewhat, because Nova Strike is pretty hard by design. There are no difficulty levels, and sometimes plenty of enemies will be sent your way, each unleashing a hail of bullets that can combine to make things hellish. Things do become more manageable over time, though, and so beating the game’s relatively small number of chapters, each split into numerous levels including a boss fight, shouldn’t take most players too long. You can even pay to start at later chapters once you’ve unlocked them them.
It’s just a shame that Nova Strike isn’t the most interesting shoot ’em up to play. It looks nice and colourful but also rather generic, and its soundtrack is decent but nothing to write home about. The worst thing, though, is that there’s simply not enough variety from one run to the next. The best roguelikes are unpredictable from one run to the next, and have lots of variable to keep things feeling fresh. That’s not the case here. Everything feels far too samey, even when you reach a new chapter and are treated to fairly new scenery and enemies.
Nova Strike isn’t a bad game by any means, but it doesn’t do enough to make it stick in your mind like the best of the genre. The roguelike elements are nice, but there simply needs to be more variety and unpredictability to make the focus on them truly worthwhile. And so what you’re left with is a shoot ’em up that too quickly looks and feels generic, with little reason to keep playing once you’ve bested what it has to offer.