Game Info:

Nova Drift
Developed By: Chimeric
Published By: Pixeljam
Released: March 17, 2019 (early access)
Available On: Windows; MacOS
Genre: Top down shooter; arcade
ESRB Rating: N/A
Number of Players: Single-player
Price: $15

Thanks to Pixeljam for the Steam Early Access key for review!

Nova Drift is a top down shooter that wonders if it would be a good idea to take Asteroids and let it have a ton of upgrade choices and glowy visuals. It is in Early Access as of writing but already has a good chunk of content to offer and almost no miscellaneous issues. The future for Nova Drift can only get better with an already solid core gameplay loop.

You pilot a blue glowy ship whose only form of acceleration is a thruster on the back. Movement is done by rotating the ship and using the thruster while being careful with slippery momentum. Controlling the ship is one of the core parts differentiating Nova Drift from other titles. It takes some getting used to but surprisingly feels completely natural. Shooting your weapon is also restricted to one angle. At the front of your ship you can see a faint blue streak, and that’s where your bullets will come from. The angle restrictions on weapons adds to the difficulty of controlling the ship, but not in a way that can’t be mastered. It all feels smooth and the game is designed around these movement mechanics perfectly.

Nova Drift

Strong Points: Decent run variety; fantastic graphics
Weak Points: Awkward UI; No online leaderboards
Moral Warnings: Exploding ships and asteroids

Currently, there is only one mode with some difficulty modifiers. The goal of the endless mode is to simply get as far as possible and rack up as much score as possible to beat your best. Unfortunately, there aren’t online leaderboards so you are your only competition. Interestingly, killing enemies alone isn’t how you gain score. Enemies drop small white orbs that act as both score and experience points used to level up and get upgrades. These orbs can disappear after some time, and while you can attract them from pretty far away, you still need to pay some attention to grabbing them off the ground.

There’s quite a large variety of enemies to destroy, with most of them having unique bullet patterns and elite versions that are larger and more powerful. Enemies spawn in preset waves that you can learn to prepare for despite the order of waves being randomized. There are boss fights every 20 waves or so that are all well designed, but I wish there was more oomph to hitting them and that their order was randomized. Seeing the giant purple circle ship every time I hit wave 40 makes things a tad repetitive.

After you collect enough white orbs, you level up and get to choose one upgrade from a handful of choices. There is a pretty wide variety of upgrades. There are several weapons to choose from such as a salvo of missiles to a flak cannon. One upgrade changes the way you shoot like having the bullets come from the sides of the ship and another adds more bullets per shot with some spread. There are also familiars you can use that provide a number of advantages, most of the time simply being more fire power. I found that while there are several upgrades that significantly change how you fire a weapon, most of the other upgrades are statistical. Your fire-rate, damage, and bullet velocity will constantly be changing during a run. There are also upgrades for health and speed that will be necessary for a successful attempt. Run variety in Nova Drift is very strong despite not being a finished product, and it can only get better from here.

Nova Drift
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 86%
Gameplay 16/20
Graphics 9/10
Sound 8/10
Stability 5/5
Controls 5/5

Morality Score - 93%
Violence 6.5/10
Language 10/10
Sexual Content 10/10
Occult/Supernatural 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical 10/10

Nova Drift’s spacey backgrounds and bright glowy ships that shoot vibrant bullets work together very well. There’s only one piece of music currently that is more ambient and out of the way than anything, but it works to keep you immersed. There’s a good amount of oomph to almost everything, the bigger the ship the louder and larger the explosion. On the other hand, most of my issues with the game are from the audio-visual side. Until bosses die, they don’t really react to the barrage of bullets you spray at them. The UI has several issues with not quite perfect controller support and a lack of controller prompts. These issues are minor and sure to be fixed at some point in development, but they are something you consistently notice.

There are a constant barrage of exploding ships on screen at almost all times. Fortunately there are no visible pilots since the ships themselves seem to be sentient. There's no bad language to see and with no online leaderboard you don't need to worry about random usernames.

I think Nova Drift is one of the better top-down shooter arcade games. The variety within the upgrade system and enemy waves is fun and the visual and audio work is high quality. The improvements I’d want are minor things that if not changed don’t hinder the overall product enough for me to not recommend the game. The Early Access tag simply means more content coming for an already good game.

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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