May, 17th 2015

Hours played: 83*

Last Played: May, 17th, 2015

Nuclear Throne: SON OF A B****!

Nuclear Throne and I have a rather long history. Not only have I put 83 hours into the game myself, I spent at least that much time watching various YouTubers play it for at least a year before taking the plunge. And despite having a working understanding of Nuclear Throne… this game is hard. Hard enough to make me rage quit with some amount of regularity, or exclaim my fair share of foul language.

Nuclear Throne could most easily be classified as a Bullet Hell game. If you’re not familiar with that genre, let me paint you a picture:

Imagine standing in a gymnasium surrounded by about 100 people with dodge balls, each and every one looking at you with murder in their eyes. And then suddenly, and all at once, they launch their dodgeballs at you with the sole intent of pelting you with malicious, unholy, precision. It’s your job to dodge the rubbery onslaught and make it out in one piece. For if you fail, the princess will be eaten… by like, a dragon or something.

Now if that sounds like pure absurdity, it’s probably because it is. Some Bullet Hell games are ridiculous, stupidly over the top, and—in my opinion—for people who are at least part cyborg.  — an example would be Touhhou Project —  However, thankfully for us mortals, Nuclear Throne isn’t nearly as insane as other games. It can be hectic and hard to follow, yes. But it’s certainly beatable.

I should know. I’ve done it four times! In…. 83 hours…

(I’m not going to think about how that’s 20.75 hours between each win. Nope.)

Despite being a Bullet Hell game, Nuclear Throne is also a Rogue-Like in that the world is randomly generated each time and you only have one life. So make it count.

The game is broken up into stages and transition stages. You select your character from a choice of twelve then are sucked through a portal and thrust directly into the chaos. Your only objective: “Reach the Throne”. Starting the game with a revolver, you must kill every enemy in a level before progressing to the next.

Stages are made up of three levels, IE 1-1, 1-2, and 1-3, then followed by a dark transition stage, where your sight is impaired, like 2-1. The next stage begins and the game continues on until you die—I mean win!

On the final level of each stage, you must fight a boss, which is actually fairly difficult until you get the hang of them. I still have trouble with the boss on 5-3. Lil’ Hunter. He’s a real douche. But not impossible to beat! Just believe in yourself.

Once you reach the final boss and beat it, you are taken to a second phase of the fight. If you are mentally prepared and can best this final challenge… then the game starts over and is even more difficult! *Cue confetti and pyrotechnics*

This is known as looping and it’s a main component of the game. The higher score you wish to achieve, the more loops will undoubtedly be necessary. After a loop, the game literally throws everything at you. Enemies are no longer bound to particular stages and can all appear in one giant writhing death ball that would make the Zerg blush. However, as well as having to deal with an unrelenting tide of never ending death constantly trying to pull the very life from you, the game also adds new bosses only available after a loop!

But fear not! The odds aren’t entirely stacked against you.

Although the game certainly throws legions at you. As you get further and further into the game, more and more powerful weapons will drop, giving you the tools you need to fight back. (Although the really cool weapons usually drop after a loop.)

The game also has a leveling mechanic that rewards you with “Mutations” upon each successive level. Most enemies in the game drop “Rads,” this game’s form of experience. In the context of Nuclear Throne, when you level up, you mutate, giving each of the your newly-acquired powers a nice flavorful context.

The different weapons and mutation combinations alone have given me enough reason to continually go back to the game. Some of the mutations are pretty powerful, and can really change the way you play.

On top of the plethora of choices, every character has two ultra mutations to pick from at level 10 that will dramatically alter how you play the character. These are, usually, ridiculously powerful.

One of my favorite aspects of Nuclear Throne is that each one of the twelve characters feel different from each other. And not just artistically or contextually. Each character possesses a unique passive and active ability. The passives change things like the amount of ammo you pick up, your speed, your starting health, or—one of my personal favorites—all weapons becoming automatic, while the various active abilities help you react to the enemies and the world around you. For example one character, Eyes, has the power of telekinesis and can slightly push enemy bullets away from him helping to avoid certain death, while simultaneously pulling items and enemies towards him! Very helpful.

Nuclear Throne’s cast is also quite diverse when it comes to gender without feeling like it’s forced or pandering, which is refreshing to see. Though there isn’t much of a “story” in Nuclear Throne, there is plenty of context and lore, making all of the characters feel right at home.

Most of the “lore” comes from cryptic hints or text on loading screens.

“Welcome to the future.” “There used to be trees here.” “The wind hurts.” “Always wear dry socks.” (Good advice!)

I would be doing Nuclear Throne a disservice if I didn’t talk about the wonderful art style.
It’s cute and minimalist. The game has great artwork and the various locations all look wonderful. Not to mention the characters, all of which have very nice designs and distinctive silhouettes and stand out from the background, making it easy to keep track of where you are when things get crazy.

And trust me they will…

Also, many of the characters have a rare alternate skin that will randomly show up on occasion. And when I say rare, I mean rare. In my 83 hours I’ve only seen some of the “B Skins” and many of them only once!

Along with the game’s great art style, the game is filled with awesome melodies from acoustic and electric guitar that remind me of the wild west, while still feeling modern and contemporary. The consistent, pumping drum lines and sweet ass guitar (with some nice twang thrown in for good measure), all comes together in a way that I really dig. The music in this game is reminiscent of the Tristram theme from Diablo, but with pounding drums, funk, and some western twang. I should mention that each level also has a rare “B music” as well.

Here are two great examples: Main Theme, and Crystal Caves

The few downsides to Nuclear Throne are that it is one of the few games that will truly make me rage. Once you get a momentum going in the game, and you die it is VERY jarring. And many times it’s from something that you didn’t even see. Or worse, something you did…

I have hit my desk and cursed bitterly more than a few times…

However, the negatives of this game are far outweighed by the positives. Honestly. Maybe I’m biased, but considering I’ve somehow put 83 hours into this game since February. Nuclear Throne does something right.

Or maybe I’m crazy…

This game takes a lot of adjusting. You have to play it in a very particular way, and it requires a lot of attention. It is quite fast, very hectic, and has lots of screen shake. But if you’re willing to give it a try, you’ll also find a game worth coming back to time and time again. Even if it makes you say things that would make your mother faint.

Currently, Nuclear Throne is on Steam Early Access and is $13. Check it out!

Update: I have logged a total of 98 Hours Played since writing this review. I have also looped an additional two times!

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