Nuclear Throne

Those of you who follow the indie game scene probably don’t need me to tell you that Vlambeer is awesome. Their lo-fi graphics mixed with tight, simple, and addictive game play has placed them at the forefront of the scene. Luftrauser’s dog-fighting still has me in its grip, though I still haven’t been able to shoot down that darn blimp. The score grabbing one screen platformer found in Super Crate Box is still good for wasting time. And then you have the goofiness found in the Serious Sam RPG. I would call all of these must plays. Despite bearing the same euphemistic name I bestow upon the toilet after eating at Culvers, their newest, Nuclear Thone, follows suit.

I would also say that this is their most ambitious project to date. This rouge-like action RPG tasks you with taking control of your choice of mutant to gun through randomly generated levels to reach the titular hot seat. You can level up by grabbing rods of radiation allowing you to select from a pool of mutations between levels that offer various perks. These range from increasing drop rates to irradiating your skin so you can cause collision damage. The options for mutations themselves are randomly selected, so there is no chance of planning ahead for the perfect run. You can only learn to make due with what you have.

At PAX, the producer Rami bragged about how there is a community theory that he chills at his PC with a button that can either bestow riches to the players when he is in the mood, or, more often, give the worst of possible choices and weapons.  He denies this with the same tone of voice that a politician denies that the pictures currently circulating are his genitalia. Needless to say, players will die often.

Very, very often.
Very, very often.

Vlambeer’s confidence in both the challenge and accessibility of this one was on display with their PAX promotion. Each hour on the hour, they would bring on a volunteer to be the people’s champion. The champion got three tries to reach the Throne. If he or she made it, everyone who witnessed the feat received a free Steam copy of the game. For the most part, Vlambeer got to keep the codes, but there were winners. It certainly added to the excitement of watching the playthrough. They also wanted to demonstrate that despite the randomness, there is no such thing as an unwinnable run. One just needs to adapt to what they have. Mutate, if you will.

Watching this certainly taught me of the best way to play this one. Before, I was treating this as a typical twin stick shooter. To truly succeed, one must actually be meticulous, smart, and strategic. Ammunition is a scarce commodity, so using the environment, explosives, and the careening bodies of your fallen adversaries to thin the tide is necessary. It also falls well under the purview of addictive.

Obviously, I am pleased with this one and it’s still only in early access. Vlambeer is committed to adding more. More mutations, more weapons, and possibly more characters. As it is now, the game feels fleshed out and ready to go. Everything else to be added in the future is just icing.


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