Title: Nuclear Throne
Tested On: PlayStation 4
Available On: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Genre: Shoot ’em Up, Arcade, Top-down Shooter
Official Site: https://www.vlambeer.com
Release Date: December 5, 2015
Among the world graphically superior games with hours of content, great cooperative play, and an expansive online experience, arcade style games must be something special to get noticed. Nuclear Throne, developed and published by Vlambeer, stands out among the many arcade titles available to gamers. The premise is simple – select one of the many different characters with unique abilities to run and gun your way past the challenging two-dimensional enemies you encounter along the way. Once the level is cleared of all the “baddies”, a warp hole sucks you in for the next round. Seems simple enough, but I assure you the Nuclear Throne is challenging and addictive enough to offer hours of enjoyable gameplay. The independent game developer Vlabeer claims they’ve been “bringing back arcade games since 1939”, and that’s exactly what they’ve done with their newest title.
You select 1 of 12 radiation mutated beings to play as. You’ll notice as I did that there are only 2 unlocked characters to play immediately. So I, like any normal gamer, felt the innate desire to unlock all of the characters and see which one I will enjoy the most. I quickly found out that these characters are unlocked by passing certain levels and the further along I got in the game, the more playable characters I unlocked. I really enjoyed the challenge of not just the different levels itself, but the incentive to do well and unlock more of the games content. Each of the playable characters has a unique ability that diversifies them from the others. Some characters increase basic stats while others give you overpowered abilities at the cost of a lower starting HP. Each character is unique in design and is cute enough to turn into plush toys.
As of now, I only have 7 of the 12 characters. The reason is because Nuclear Throne is hard. Do not let the 2D visuals and likable characters fool you. Similar to many arcade games, you will play many levels in the same zone before progressing to the next one. This left me as the player desiring to find what lies in the next zone and what I can unlock there. Playing half-heartedly will only get you so far before you will realize (as I did) that you need to develop some strategy to advance. For the first zone, I casually played in a lethargic position which gifted my instant death after reaching the second zone. The developers left some tricky advantages for us to take advantage of once you notice them. The enemies are constantly shooting at you requiring that you be consistently on the move. This necessity to be alert makes the game feel incredibly face-paced and keeps you on your toes. There are many fun guns to discover, with each having benefits for different situations. Being able to only carry two at a time really make for a tough decision on whether you want to pick up the shotgun and leave the laser pistol behind. As I played through the many zones, I found that there were certain weapons that are better for each.
Vlambeer impressed me with how much strategy was developed into a game that is only $11.99. The first of many bosses appears at the end of the first zone and I took em a while to develop some maneuvering and well-aimed shots over a long period of time to be able to beat him. All of the bosses are uniquely designed and each present a different challenge to overcome. Each level has multiple enemies, chests containing ammo and guns, and Rads. Collecting Rad is important because this allows your character to gain levels resulting in mutations. Each mutation allows either a permanent stat upgrade or a temporary modification to the next level to making your life a bit easier. I always found the most useful mutation to be adding more health to my character. After all, the longer you live, the further you can get in the game.
The menu screen opens up very simple, and with a display that you would expect from an arcade style shooter. The menu selection is often buggy. Instead of having a loading screen between selection, it defaults to visual latency and audio glitches. The menu offers single player and co-operative play. However, Nuclear Throne brings a couple extra modes that you wouldn’t expect. There is also the “Daily” and “Weekly” challenges that vary in difficulty. In these two game types, you as the player get to play through this pre-generated level and play until you die. With only one life, there is a bit more pressure and skill on the line than in single player mode. After your inevitable death, you are ranked amongst the other players for your competitive pleasure to see how you stack-up.
Some of the controls can be unresponsive – particularly the aiming. The movement, weapons switching and abilities are flush and run smoothly throughout the game. However, the aiming did become a bit of a problem. I consider myself fairly decent at shooting games, and I did not feel that after many hours of play, the shooting controls rewarded a skilled hand. No matter the weapon you use, you will to some degree end up wasting many rounds trying to hit your target, which can be frustrating when using the higher profile guns in the game.
The Nuclear Throne is an arcade-nostalgia treat and will give you many hours of enjoyable play. Its delightful characters, fun weapons, and challenging bosses will keep you at bay and will want you to progress further in the game. It is rare to see an arcade game of this caliber among a sea of more expensive titles. But for $11.99, Nuclear Throne is an insane bargain and worth picking up whether you are an arcade game enthusiast, or a casual gamer looking for an inexpensive thrill.
- Gameplay: Top-down shooter, rogue-like dungeon crawler
- Graphics: Simple but colorful
- Sound: Unique and nostalgic
- Presentation: Responsive controls w/ decent aiming
- Diverse Characters
- Challenging Levels
- Co-Op Mode
- Weapon Variety
- Poor Menu Selection Screen
- Occasionally Too Difficult
A graduate from Southwestern University, Marshall is an evening gamer and streamer. When he isn’t eating In-N-Out, he’s taking the mid-laner’s blue buff.