There seems to be a growing trend with new console launches – a twin-stick shooter can always be found nestled somewhere in the launch line-up. The Xbox 360 had Geometry Wars, PS Vita owners could download Super Stardust Delta on day one and now early adopters of the Wii U have their own ‘old skool’ shooter. As fans of the genre, we couldn’t be happier.
Shin’en’s Nano Assault Neo is a little different from the aforementioned. With a nondescript ship under your control, you’re tasked with travelling from one minuscule spherical planet to another wiping out the parasitic infections that cover the surface.
Once 90 percent have been destroyed, the gate to the next planet opens and a countdown timer starts to tick. There’s thirty second on the clock to reach the gate – which isn’t a particularly tricky task – but it’s up to you to decide if you want to get the time bonus or attempt to kill off the remaining enemies. At the end of each stage your score is added to the online leaderboards.
Each of the four ‘clusters’ has three planets plus a boss battle against a large parasitic creature. Between levels there’s the chance to spend any credits you’ve picked up, in order to boost your firepower or increase your shields. You can also purchase an extra life, and we found that on the later levels it was well worth saving up for one of these – use up all your lives and you have to start the cluster from scratch. The bosses also become a whole lot easier if you purchase homing missiles before battle. A little tip, there.
There’s also a bonus stage to play, which proved handy for building up credits. It’s a simple affair set in a twisty tube in which stalagmites have to be avoided. The texture work here is impressive, although to be fair it’s a visually arousing game throughout. Some of the lighting effects are superb.
The game can be played entirely on the Wii U GamePad, but we did find that playing on a TV made the translucent enemies – which appear as soon as the second cluster – much easier to see and avoid. Indeed, the difficulty curve is quite tough, save only for the last boss which just so happens to be the easiest of the lot. When playing on a TV the GamePad can also be used to position the satellite drones that float around the ship to provide extra fire-power. We never felt the need to, but the option is there at least.
Once single-player has been licked a survival mode opens up. There’s also a list of achievements to unlock, known here simply as ‘missions’.
Although you can see everything on offer within a few hours, Nano Assault Neo isn’t a bad way to blow £8.99. It combines ‘old skool’ sensibilities with a sprinkling of innovation and has some flashy visuals thrown in for good measure. For a launch title we couldn’t have asked for much more.