Explore an invisible world and splatter germs, courtesy of Shin'en.
We're always freaked out by images taken with an electron microscope, the ones that reveal super tiny dust mites and other horrors that live unseen among us. In fact, you probably have a bunch of little buggers feasting on your dead skin as we type this sentence. Think of that while having lunch.
Creepiness notwithstanding, it makes for a cool premise and visual style in a video game, both of which developer Shin'en captured in Majesco's shooter, Nano Assault for Nintendo's 3DS.
OK, so you don't charge through grandma's wrinkly skin eliminating parasites, but you will pilot a super charged Nanite ship and explore microscopic cell clusters to destroy a contagion before it spreads.
This happens in two phases, the first of which takes place on "Ground" cells, where you guide the ship around a 3D piece of matter; think of the planetoids in Super Mario Galaxy. Here, you're able to blast a select number of organisms while searching for pick-ups to proceed to the next area.
The second phase involves flying, where Shin'en places the ship in the middle of the screen and you maneuver through an on-rails segment with enemies unloading bullets all over the place. Definitely tough to get through, but a cool visual showpiece, especially in glasses free 3D.
Finally, the game includes a series of bosses you must contend with, and in the shooting tradition, each one features a specific weakness and series of patterns you'll need to identify in order to beat. What's especially cool about this is the fact that once you reach a boss, dying automatically gives you a chance to restart at this particular enemy, instead of having to go all the way back to the beginning of the stage.
Overall, Nano Assault is a lot of fun. The 3D is spotty in places (we had to kill it for one boss in particular), but the cool neon bathed graphics, big explosions and non-stop action kept us hooked to the tiny screen.
What's more, the game comes loaded with extras, from Arcade and Boss Rush modes to a Nano Shop where you can use acquired loot and even Play Coins to unlock bonus goodies. On top of that, there's also a Jukebox that contains the soundtrack, as well as a Nanopedia featuring info on the different enemies.
And yet, there's something missing. The game just lacks personality. Shin'en didn't invest heavily in the story or character involved. You simply hop into the ship to eliminate contagion, but why? Give us a hero, a more recognizable threat (it's a bunch of germs) and lots of cut scenes. We need something to hang onto, a bigger reason to continue the fight versus, you know, playing a different game.
That aside, there's no denying Nano Assault's high level of polish. This is a wonderful first attempt on Nintendo's portable, and we look forward to a sequel. For now, don't pass up the opportunity to experience one of the finer efforts from Majesco. Considering the publisher's past efforts, games like this one are rare.
What's Hot: A fully realized microscopic world full of dangerous bugs, impressive 3D effects, nice mix of ground and flying stages, bonus modes, items to unlock.
What's Not: Zero personality, some 3D stages too intense for the eyeballs.