Think back to a time when if you wanted to play a video game you had to tune your television to channel three. A time where players learned shortcuts, strategies, and easter eggs through hours of trial and error, instead of a quick Google search.
The eight-bit era of video games brought with it a boom of artistic creativity in game design and is remembered fondly by those who lived through it.
In today’s day and age, retro-style games evoke a sense of nostalgia in the gamers who spent their youth playing Mega Man and The Legend of Zelda. Sometimes the nostalgia is so strong that it can blind the player to what is, in reality, a deeply flawed game. Who doesn’t like to be brought back to simpler times?
In the case of Nogalious though, smartly crafted levels that challenge the player to think on their feet, simple but effective weapon and combat design, and attention to detail make this game more than just another nostalgia trip.
For example, occasionally the player will find themselves at the end of a board but will be unable to progress. So naturally, the first reaction will be to go back and scan the level with a fine-toothed comb looking for anything they missed. Eventually leading them to try climbing up vines past the border of the screen, or jumping down subtly marked holes and will naturally allow them to discover a secret area with the key to progression.
There are some drawbacks though. When you finish an area, you will tend to hold down the joystick which will continue to move Nogalious forward. Even before they can fully grasp the new obstacles that lie ahead. On more than one occasion, this will cause Nogalious to walk right into an instant-kill trap placed frustratingly close to the start of the level.
Combat is serviceable. There’s a decent variety of weapons that all have unique strengths and weaknesses. Although, the sword is easily the most powerful weapon thanks to its lightning-quick hitbox activation.
One issue to note is the color palette. For those gamers who suffer from color-blindness, it can be an issue. The foreground and background occasionally blend in together, and can even cause eye and headaches. While it isn’t egregious, and shouldn’t count against the game, it would be a nice touch if the developers added deuteranopia, tritanopia, and protanopia filters for those afflicted.
Overall, Nogalious is a fun callback to the golden age of video games. It doesn’t re-invent the wheel. However, it doesn’t need to. While aggravating at times, most of the issues can be chalked up to the nature of retro-style video games. That’s just how it was back then. The music is fun and energetic. It doesn’t hold your hand, but it’s never so difficult that progression will cease for lengthy amounts of time. Everything about the game is just fine, minus the minor hiccup about the color palette which only affects a small portion of the player base.
It wouldn’t feel out of place sitting on a twelve-year old’s shelf back in 1986, and that is one of the best compliments a game like this can receive.
Excellent level design: Levels are refined and well thought out. They are created to both challenge the player, but also allow them to naturally learn how to deal with the obstacles in front of them.
Obnoxiously placed instant-kill traps: Multiple times throughout the game, you’ll encounter traps set in a way that you won’t get a chance to react to them when you first attempt a screen. In Nogalious, “game-over,” means starting from the very beginning and robbing the player of a stock is beyond frustrating.
While it’s not going to blow you away, Nogalious will most certainly give those looking for their nostalgia fix a few hours of pleasure, and there is nothing wrong with that.