The Nokkians 2
The Nokkians 2 is a new vertical shooter by Awoker Games. Using the term "vertical" is a bit of a lie, as one of the key features of this casual shmup is its game-altering screen effects which twist, turn, rotate and scale the entire game world as you play, making dodging bullets only half of the challenge. Add in a load of achievements, a great soundtrack, and gameplay that won't frighten the casual gamer, and you've got a great shooter that can actually draw you back for multiple playthroughs.
The Nokkians 2 messes with your head like it's its job. Not only will the screen mirror itself and rotate around, it'll also blur out, twist at all angles, fly into the background, or disappear altogether. This happens right in the middle of play, without pausing the action for even a moment. Dodging bullets and enemies seems simple at first, but when left becomes right and up becomes a small point in the distant background, it's a different matter altogether.
The controls are kept simple, and you'll soon realize they're the only thing you can rely upon in this bullet-soaked red vector world. Use the [arrow] keys to move, [S] to shoot, and [D] to unleash your special attack. These controls are relative to the game environment, not your eyes, so even though your perspective will change, the controls do not. Tapping [left] while looking straight-on will move you left, and you'll fly in that same direction even though to your eyes you're going down and to the right. The fact that the controls don't change may make you kind of mad at first, but once you see the variety and frequency of visual effects the game throws at you, you'll be thanking the shmup gods in the sky that you've got something stable to rely upon.
Two modes are available right from the start: story and challenge. The former is an arcade mix of short level spurts filled with enemies and projectiles and ending with boss battles. The latter is a boss rush mode without the fancy screen distorting techniques, just straight-up you vs. those big ships with loads of guns. You also have a choice of ships from the beginning: the fast NightStar, or the powerful and well-armored OmniLaser. Each has different stats and weapons suited for different play styles, though the latter will likely be a good choice your first time through the game.
Achievements are another layer to experience in The Nokkians 2. They range from simple trophies that commemorate playing for several minutes to rewarding you for beating bosses and being generally awesome at the game. There are 42 in all, and as you earn them, you'll gain bonuses to ship stats during either game mode. A great reason to come back and replay the game!
Analysis: The first time The Nokkians 2 tips the game world around, you'll feel lost. Scrambling to find the right key to press, crashing into ships and bullets left and right, who would do this to a poor gamer like yourself?! But, after it happens a few times, you'll learn the best weapon in The Nokkians 2 is actually being calm. Focus on the game, not the controls, not the relationship between you and the game. If your point of view is from the ship, not from your eyes, things get much easier and you'll get much better at this interesting game.
The Nokkians 2 is very friendly to non-shmup fans, as it plays a little slow and has easy enemy patterns to pick up on. Actually, the patterns are so simple, veteran shooter fans might not feel the love, as some of the depth present in serious shooters is notably absent in this casual title. With all the achievements you can nab, though, replays and experimentation are still encouraged.
The Nokkians 2 is an excellent shmup that's friendly to non-twitch gamers and does some great things with the interactive medium. With the vector graphics and screen effects, you'll feel like you're in a mid-80s sci-fi music video. That you can control! It's not for everybody, though, as some of the visual effects can be disorienting, But after you play it for several minutes and finally die, your first reaction when you exit the Nokkian trance will be "wow".