Publisher: Wrecked Angle Studios
Developer: Wrecked Angle Studios
Release date: March 16, 2018
Platforms: Steam
Price: $6.99 (USD)
Players: 1 player

Nova Flow is the debut title from Melbourne studio Wrecked Angle. It is a fast-paced first person puzzle/platformer hybrid, and it has no shame in hiding the fact that it is all about how fast you can traverse across the game’s futuristic landscape. Speedrunning is the clear objective within the game, as it rewards players who can use the game’s mechanics to proceed through levels the fastest. But on the other hand, players who fail to acclimatise to the quick pace of the game will find it much harder.

Each of the game’s levels is broken up into five sectors, of which there are four stages within each sector. Each level slowly introduces new gameplay elements, particularly across the first two sectors, in which prompts are displayed on screen instructing the player how the mechanics work. All of these elements combine to make up a level, but they are introduced slowly to allow players to learn how they work and affect the gameplay. In order to traverse across the futuristic landscape, the player is equipped with the Nova Cannon, a plasma gun that shoots in one of three colours. Platforms are either horizontal, vertical or diagonal, and are either transparent or opaque. The Nova Cannon can fire at transparent platforms, affecting its physics, while opaque platforms cannot be altered. Blue platforms give you a boost in speed, red platforms act as a springboard, and yellow platforms grip you to its surface.

Other than controlling platforms, the Nova Cannon is also used to deactivate laser gates, as well as hidden switches, which bring upcoming platforms into your direction. Initially, when these elements are introduced, they are the primary objectives of that level, but later sectors regularly combine these actions together. While it does feel immensely satisfying to work your way through levels at breakneck speeds, some of the more difficult levels require a combination of tricky techniques to successfully navigate through an area. As a result, if you happen to miss a step, you are forced to stop, make a run up and try to clear that jump you failed the first time. In these moments, the game feels like it breaks that immersion, that feeling of the adrenaline rush you get from speeding through a level. In short, this game will punish lapses in concentration, and the further into the game you get, the greater that feeling of being punished is.

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Hidden switches in the game bring platforms in your direction, which you’ll need to find to complete levels. These each have their own colour.

Once you get to Sectors 4 and 5, each checkpoint feels like an arduous task in and of itself. Almost every interval has virtually no margin for error. These levels are played at such speeds and require such precise movements, that if you make a mistake but somehow survive, you won’t have enough momentum to carry yourself to the next platform. In particular, most of the checkpoints in Sector 5 need to be played at full speed, and any slight drops in speed will not allow you to clear the next jump. I found myself stranded on a platform after crashing into a laser gate, or failing to operate a cannon switch about as often as I happened to be plummeting to impending doom.

The controls in the game are rather well-handled. Nova Flow allows you to use either a controller or the keyboard and mouse combo. Using the cannon’s controls, you are able to work your way through many different scenarios. While the game does allow you to use a controller, I found myself preferring the keyboard and mouse layout the further I got into the game. The precision of the mouse in particular became useful, especially in Sector 5. In one of the later levels, there is a part where you need to speed boost on a ramp, open a blue laser gate, proceed through a blue super square (which sends you to the maximum speed in the game), make a few quick jumps, turn right and fire at a red laser gate, make another jump, aim left and fire at a yellow switch. Completing all that in about three and a half seconds becomes really tough on a controller. Since switches control the path of upcoming platforms and bring them into your direction, you’ll want to activate them as soon as possible, because if you leave it too long, you’ll have nowhere to jump to next.

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Super squares, introduced towards the end of the game, instantly propel you to reach maximum speed. You’ll need to use the momentum they provide to beat the hardest levels, which requires superb reaction times.

When you’re dealing with a fast-paced game, it’s important to have good music to amplify the intensity. Nova Flow seems to succeed in this area. The music is an upbeat, bouncy electronica that changes depending on the level. Easier levels have calmer music, and that intensity ramps up as you progress throughout the game. The soundtrack definitely matches the aesthetic of the game, in that each time you zip through levels at preposterous speeds, the music is right there with you, bouncing up and down with your cannon, while you’re dashing through. Visuals are also very effective as well. The use of the three primary colours to distinguish speed, jump and grip work exceptionally well, as they clearly stand out from one another.

Despite all its frustrating qualities, Nova Flow is still an incredibly fun title. Its interesting and quirky gameplay mechanics are gripping, but the difficulty spike in the last two sectors will test players. But Wrecked Angle have a formula that works quite well, in a platformer with as much fun as it is a challenge. If you are after a game which will test your concentration and reaction times, you’d be well worth making the purchase.

Nova Flow is available now on Steam.

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