What happens when you mix Terraria (or Minecraft, if that’s your poison) with a strategy game, a tower defense game, and a healthy predilection for soup? You get PixelJunk Nom Nom Galaxy, a new game from the masters of addictive gaming, Q-Games and Double-11. Let me show you just how addictive making soup can be. Trust me: it’s more fun that it sounds.
Nom Nom Galaxy envisions a strange universe where every economy is now hell-bent on producing and selling soup to consumers who are utterly crazy about the stuff. Massive megacorporations have risen to meet this need. Congratulations! You’re the latest cog in the soup wars machine! Welcome to Nom Nom Galaxy.
In Nom Nom Galaxy, you are tasked with building a mega soup factory on an alien planet. Not only do you have to build it, you also have to run it, get ingredients, and get the stuff shipped offworld, and on top of this defend your factory from the evil competitor soup corporations who want to wreck your market share. It’s sheer crazy, and the weird thing is that it just WORKS. At the risk of sounding fanboyish (and I try to curb it, for the sake of professionalism), I freaking love this game so much. It’s the kind of game that had me lying in bed late at night, thinking about how better to run my soup factory, how to get better ingredients, and how to plan the factory better the next time to not only get the ingredients to the processing core faster, but also how better to organize my defenses. It’s the kind of game that gets in your head.
The game is a 2D sidescroller with a very cutesy, almost hand-drawn graphical style. Thank the Gods of the D-Pad, the developers have done away with the blasted pickaxe that Terraria-clones are famous for, and instead has given you a handly buzz-saw that cuts through rock and terrain like it ain’t no thang. Unlike Terraria-clones, you can’t carry vast inventories worth of rock and useless junk. You’re fairly limited by what you can carry at any given time, and most of the time, what you’ll be carrying is ingredients for soup. Strategically, it makes sense to scout the areas out and figure out what each planet has plenty of, and plan your soup machines in that way–once you’ve set a soup machine with ingredients, it’ll only accept those ingredients, and there’s no way to change it bar scrapping the machine. Oh, and I should mention that some of the ingredients can be hostile. You’ve not made proper soup unless you’ve fought off an army of angry tomatoes first.
As you get richer you’re more able to finance helpers, better equipment, and so on; things that make the game far easier to play. The other easy way to play it is to gang together with up to two other friends and work together (or with one other person in local split-screen), and this section is truly where Nom Nom shines. The multiplayer portion of the game is co-op only, and you can either join friends to get souped up, or jump into a random person’s game to help things along. Or hinder, if you choose, but trolling will likely get you booted from the game. Communication isn’t REALLY necessary, because you can happily do your own thing and the game will continue regardless, but it does make coordinating your efforts easier. Local multiplayer is roughly the same idea, and it’s the kind of game that you can happily play alongside a young gamer. They may even learn a small lesson in economics.
You’ll inevitably find that once your high-tech soup kitchen is in full swing, the enemy corps will start to send minions to dismantle your operations, and this is where the game’s defense system comes into play. You can deploy defense turrets along the weaker sections of your factory, but quite often you have to go in and hand out a few kicks yourself. The turrets are fixed, and as I discovered quite early, the enemies will happily exploit any insufficiently-defended portion of your structures.
The larger portion of the game, once you’ve gotten the factory built and seeded enough ingredients around you, is just to keep going until your market share hits 100%. This can be more difficult than it sounds if you haven’t set things up in an optimal way. One thing I do knock the game for is that the tutorial is three sections long, and each time you’re given a factory to work with that already has some of the more advanced mechanics unlocked. When you start the game proper, you’re dumped on the planet and expected to get things going from complete scratch. It’s a two edged sword: on the one hand, you’ve been shown what kind of operation is possible with Nom Nom Galaxy, but on the other, you’re left a little frustrated that your first few operations aren’t going to go as smoothly as all that.
When I mentioned above that you have to play till your market share has to reach 100%, that isn’t quite accurate either. Your market share has to be 100% at the end of the day–so if you’ve held 100% until the last moment, and a competitor grabs 2%, you have to play through another day. At the end of each day, your factory workers presumably knock off work, and you’re shown an earnings report on what soups you’ve shipped, and so on. I don’t mind this part. What I do mind is that any ingredients you’ve been hauling around the surface (or under the surface in many cases) disappear, and your hard work is erased. So even if you’re just outside the soup machine with ingredients in hand, and the day ends, then that’s it. You lose those ingredients and then you have to schlep around to find more. It’s tiny niggles like this that mar an otherwise almost ideal game.
During play, we also encountered one or two minor glitches. The worst one occurred at one point where the game seemed to crash, and then didn’t save the state of the planet or factory, meaning restarting what had been up till that point several hours of play. Thankfully, we only encountered this once, but it does seem that the game needs at least one patch at some point.
I’m going to give this game a “highly recommended” rating, because it’s a brilliant lot of fun. It’s the kind of thing that requires a good few hours investment into playing, but the ways of playing are reasonably limitless. It’s also the kind of game that will make you lose track of a great deal of time, so caveat gamer. I honestly didn’t think that soup production would be this much fun.
Final Score: 8.5 soup prawns out 10
Developer: Q-Games, Double-11
Platform: PS4, Steam
Age Rating: 7+
RRP: R204 (PSN Store)
Release Date: 13 May 2015
PSN Store Link: https://store.playstation.com/#!/en-za/games/nom-nom-galaxy/cid=EP4415-CUSA01373_00-NOMNOMGALAXY0000
Steam Store Link: http://store.steampowered.com/app/226100/