Review: Nom Nom Galaxy (PS4)

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Title: Nom Nom Galaxy
Format: PlayStation Network Download (409 MB)
Release Date: May 12, 2015
Publisher: Double Eleven
Developer: Double Eleven, Q Games
Original MSRP: $14.99
ESRB Rating: E10+
Nom Nom Galaxy is also available on PC.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
In Nom Nom Galaxy, you play as an employee at a soup company. The citizens of the galaxy love soup and the companies that make it are fiercely competitive. This is why they send you to remote planets with no resources to try to scrounge up soup for the hungry people of the galaxy. There you must build up and harvest resources and build a factory to make new and unique soups, all while competing with rival soup companies. The goal: gain 100% of the market share for the region and beat out the competing soup company.

The game is a 2D exploration/building game. Upon landing on a planet, the first thing to do is to start building a base. The base is built with piece parts such as an office, power generator, soup machines, soup rockets, and tunnels. Once the base is underway, you have to start gathering ingredients. To help with that, you have access to a buzzsaw that can easily cut through the soft earth in the levels, allowing you to dig for plants and animals that can serve as soup ingredients.

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All soups in the game are made from exactly two ingredients. Once two ingredients have been put into a soup machine, that machine will only make that kind of soup. If you want to try a soup with new combinations of ingredients, you have to build more blank soup machines. After the soup pops out of the machines, it needs to be loaded up onto a rocket where it gets blasted off to hungry citizens before returning with profits.

… the loop slowly becomes tedious …
Thus begins the basic cycle: gather ingredients, make soup, load soup in rocket, repeat. Although it’s enjoyable initially, the loop slowly becomes tedious over successive levels. Because you’re working against a timer of sorts (a rival soup company seeking to gain some of the market share), it’s hard to do some of the things that would be less tedious, like exploring for more soup stuffs. Exploring becomes even harder to do when the rival soup company occasionally sends enemies to attack your factory. Bases can be equipped with defense turrets adding an element of tower defense, but the turrets never seem to be able to take care of an enemy threat on their own.

Fortunately for the tedium, there are some more gameplay mechanics. As you complete planets, you’ll gain access to robots capable of automating some of the soup-processing. By four or five planets into the game, there are robots for carrying stuff, throwing things up and down passages, gathering, planting, etc. Setting up the base to accommodate the automation takes some getting used to, but it does help relieve some tasks and allows you more time to explore and find better ingredients.

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Sadly, even with the automation, the game didn’t ever seem to fully click for me. Every time I’d try to go explore too far, my base would get attacked, requiring me to return and help out the defenses I had built. Or I would find some good ingredients but the limit of only carrying two at a time would inhibit my ability to return to my base with all of them. The game seemed to be actively designed to keep me from exploring despite other mechanics seemingly wanting me to explore. The fun I had found in building a base was being sucked dry by the time I was on my fifth planet, building nearly the same base as I had on the first planet.

… the game is very pretty to look at …
Later planets do try to spice things up with vehicles to discover, rarer ingredients, and occasionally some base building restrictions but the game just felt like it was taking too long to ramp up to that point. Other modes include free-play when a planet has been completed once, plus some challenges that cycle every couple of days. Completionist-minded gamers might like that there is an encyclopedia of all ingredient combinations to fill out and a ton of pins to collect for doing things like “walk X distance” or “kill Y enemies”.

Visuals:
Although it is not in the title, Nom Nom Galaxy does seem to be part of the PixelJunk series of games. The PixelJunk games are known for using relatively simple graphics to make beautiful looking games and Nom Nom Galaxy is no exception. Nothing about the sprites or graphics at a base level seems overly impressive but when looked at as a whole, the game is very pretty to look at. Add in some nice variety in the color palette between worlds and some slick menus and you’ve got a game that seems to be more than the sum of its parts.

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Audio:
Similar to the visuals, the PixelJunk games often have good music and again Nom Nom Galaxy doesn’t disappoint, at least in terms of the quality of the music itself. One of the advantages the previous PixelJunk games had is that they all have relatively short levels, five to ten minutes. A planet in Nom Nom Galaxy can take much longer and that really puts a strain on the music, as good as it is. The background music on the planets is soft and feels very appropriate for the building and exploring but by twenty or thirty minutes into a session I was mostly tuning the music out.

… an extra set of hands really does make the game more enjoyable …
Online/Multiplayer:
It is very nice that it is included because co-op might be the way to go for this game, if possible. All of the planets can be played cooperatively and having an extra set of hands really does make the game more enjoyable. Co-op makes it easier for one player to go explore while another tends to the base or it leads to smoother base operations when both are loading up soup ingredients and managing rocket deliveries.

The game provides the full suite of options for co-op as well: online with random people, online with friends, and couch co-op split-screen. Players in an online session do stay partied-up after completing a world and will all move into the next world together, a nice touch.

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Conclusion:
There’s nothing wrong with Nom Nom Galaxy at the lowest level. Building bases and automating them is enjoyable. Exploring a world and finding new and better ingredients is interesting. The light simulation aspects of trying to ship the right soups and beat out a rival company seem good. But somehow when it’s put all together the game never managed to fully grab me, especially after several levels of largely the same formula. A few minor changes on some later planets help, however it only left the game feeling mediocre. Not the soup-er awesome game I was hoping it would be when I saw the PixelJunk logo on the game’s splash screen.

Score:
6.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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