Reviews December 13, 2013

My Nuclear Octopus

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Reviewed By: Kenneth Seward Jr.
System: PC
Genre: Arcade Shooter
Rated: N/A
Players: 1
Cost: $1.00
Release Date: 12/03/2013
Publisher: PsychicParrot Games
Developer: PsychicParrot Games

Man, do I miss the 80’s arcade scene! As a kid, walking into a place lined with video game cabinets was a real treat. Each one vying for my quarters with their brightly colored marquees and stylized side art, it was both overwhelming and extremely inviting. The never-ending quest for the highest score kept me playing titles like Pac-Man and Galaga. Basically I was having a great time in this seemingly magical place full of lights and sounds. After playing PsychicParrot’s latest title My Nuclear Octopus, I was able to relive that same feeling I had as a kid!

“Octopi is under attack! A space dimension portal has been opened and strange beasts from the 1% dimension are getting through. It's all up to my Nuclear Octopus to save the universe, using his magical ink to send them back to their own dimension.”

That’s the premise to My Nuclear Octopus. If it rings a little odd to you, just wait until you play the game. This title features a space octopus that shoots ink at invading aliens and…cats…all while a giant eye watches? It’s safe to say I was a little taken aback when I first started the game. Over time, however, I was able to get into the swing of things and all that seemed odd became normal. You see during my early runs, I was mostly concerned with how to play. The game places you (the Octopus) on a circular grid, with a portal at the top. Enemies will spawn from the portal and follow a particular path on the grid towards you at the bottom. Your job is to move up and down firing ink towards them; the ink follows the path around the grid to the aliens. Think of Tempest, but flat and circular.

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Because the aliens come from both sides, you’ll need to alternate your shots. Of course, the aliens can shoot back. This requires you move out of the way of the blasts before they reach your position on the grid. Every once in a while a glowing square would float out of the portal. Grabbing it will activate rapid fire, alleviating some of the stress brought on by the swarms of enemies. Being a seasoned gamer it didn’t seem that daunting on paper. Use A and D to choose firing direction. Check. The up and down arrow keys move you up and down. That seems logical. Check. Destroy all things coming out of the portal. Sure, why not. Ok let’s start playing. Seconds from starting the game I’d lost all three of my lives.

It wasn’t until I realized how the mechanics worked with one another that I started plowing through enemies. For one, when shooting ink at an enemy, I would wait and see if it killed them before moving forward. But, because the ink will always travel along the path you placed it on, it will always reach its target. There’s no need to watch my shots. Not only that, I didn’t realize how fast I could move the octopus up and down in relation to the shooting. Holding down the firing buttons, I could shoot in multiple directions then move up and down on the grid before the aliens could get anywhere near me. It seems simple in writing but during live play, it took a little while before I was comfortable with how things worked.

An hour later I was quickly dispatching foes and flying through the levels. Not to long after becoming somewhat familiar with the earlier levels I met up with another challenging pattern. That’s not to say I was able to memorize how enemies were spawning on each level; unlike games like Galaga, the patterns are random. I had to rely on reflexes, tapping into a tunnel vision-like state that kept my fingers moving in repaid succession. The notion of things being weird faded away and all I could see were points to be earned. After losing all of my lives, I’d look up to see a new high score and that was just enough incentive to jump right back into another game.

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The picture I’m trying to paint is that My Nuclear Octopus is an addictively fun arcade game. It is a bit weird, but then again so are other arcade classics like Pac-Man; getting past the strange idea of space octopi is quite easy to do once you start playing. The gameplay is simple enough to be accessible to anyone, but the difficulty is outright deceiving. Making it through the levels can be tough but the real challenge is obtaining a worthy high score. Again, it feels like a new take on Atari’s classic series, Tempest. With all that being said, My Nuclear Octopus isn’t for everyone. It’s designed to be an arcade title; meaning there are no modern day mechanics or “hooks” – no achievements, unlockables, procedurally generated such and such. Unfortunately, that also means there’s no online leaderboard to compare scores. That said, if you can get past the lack of modern features, I’m sure you’ll have just as much fun as I did.  

Gameplay: 9
My Nuclear Octopus is super accessible, super addictive and super fun. It’s super!

Graphics: 7
It has an old school look that resonates with me. It isn’t as nice as old Namco titles, but it works.

Sound: 8
It sounds like an arcade game…that’s a good thing!

What’s New: 8
To be so retro, My Nuclear Octopus feels surprisingly fresh.

Replay Value: 8
Just one more run for the high score…that’s what continues to pop in my head. It would’ve been nice to see a leaderboard of sorts to compare rankings though.

Final Score:

8