The Early Access Report: NomNom Galaxy, Running With Rifles and Carmageddon: Reincarnation
Welcome to the early access report, a regular round-up looking at the most interesting early access games of the moment. Here we try new alphas and revisit old ones to separate the promising gems from the bug-ravaged time wasters.
This week's report represents a spread of the type of games you find on Early Access: NomNom Galaxy is mechanically promising, but needing polish; Running With Rifles is already a good game and will just expand on the service; and Carmageddon: Reincarnation is on there despite needing more bodywork. It would't pass its MOT.
A lot of open-world games with destructible land have vague goals. The journey is the destination, as the saying goes, and they hope you creativity becomes the game. NomNom Galaxy isn't one of those games: you land on an alien planet with the express goal of making the tastiest soup in the universe, while fending off the unwanted competition from MEGA-SOUP Inc. The developers have played adventurous, malleable, 2D games and decided that form could use a little bit of function.
The devs are Pixeljunk, so you'll already know that it's going to be stylish. Soup can be made from anything you find in the crust of the planet, but first you need the means to make that broth, dropping an office into the ground and watching the planet's ground crumble beneath the weight. With that in place, you start building out, digging out corridors with a cutting blade attached to your arm. It scoops out the ground, and releases resources (matter and tech tree resources), and any ingredients that you might find. Each soup is made from a pair of ingredients that you feed into a soup machine. And then you need to load your recipes into a rocket and send it back home, obviously. You can set up a bunch of soup machines to make the same soup, but with a brand new bisque you'll grow your marketshare.
The world is an interesting pile of systems, though it's not as open as any of the other games in the genre: you can shape a factory, but the planet isn't terribly deep, and when you're away from your base you need to seek out pockets of breathable gas or you'll die of exposure. As you progress, problems start being ironed out, particularly in movement: you start off with a weak jump and slow speed and you have to carry each ingredient back to base seperately, which is immediately frustrating, but upgrades can be grabbed that boost both stats (a hoverboard and pogo stick), as well as adding more interesting methods of transferring ingredients back to the base (robots and conveyors).
The little ecosystem is fascinating: you can plant the ingredients to create a little farm, so you can have easy access to ingredients to mix and match and create new soups. The world also has wandering creatures who'll populate your growing soup empire, walking off with anything you leave lying around and making the world feel annoyingly alive. There's the added pressure of MEGA-SOUP Inc's progress, who launch raids on your facility at regulars intervals. I'm not a huge fan of the fights, that turn it into a slight Tower Defense game. The relaxing soup making game and factory sim is good enough.
There is some trouble with the controls: the game can't decide if you're using a joypad or not, and it didn't recognise mine when it was plugged in, despite being able to control menus with it. I still think the base movement needs speeding up and a better, higher jump given as standard, and it really needs a quicksave and not just a daily back-up, but it's a surprisingly moresome broth and recommended.
As is Running With Rifles, though the fight is for control of a map and not the universal soup market. Why fight if not for broth? It's an open-world, top-down soldier sim. It's cartoonish enough to welcome you in with a smile, but also a grim little meat grinder that's worth your attention.
Each fight is an ongoing battle between endless armies over a large map with changing objectives. You spawn near the middle of a map and take control of a squad and the game starts suggesting orders, first telling you where you're most needed ("Battle Erupted Near Airport"), and then getting more suggestive, presenting tactical options like "Approach Airport From South West". You can follow the orders, or you can take your squad to wherever you deem necessary, giving them commands that simply say where to go and when to regroup.
It's a fun shooter, and even the cartoony style doesn't detract from the rattle of the guns and the perfectly grim little smear of red meat it leaves behind. You and the AI can scale buildings and hop barriers, and they have neat moments of fear when outnumbered, tossing a grenade and backing away from the explosion hoping it takes you out. With that movement comes the opportunity to attack and be attacked from any angle, which makes choosing movement and cover a hugely important part of the game. It takes practice, and you'll die a lot, but almost every death has an obvious reason.
It's really smartly made. Single and multiplayer games are interchangeable, and if you want to make a game you're part of open to friends, you just toggle it in the menu. Online, it becomes a game about hounding and pincering the enemy. It's great. A cheap, shining example of an Early Access game.
I can't say the same for Carmageddon: Reincarnation. It is the return of the 'classic' pedestrian trouble racing series, and suffers from the problem of perhaps being launched too early. At least it's honest about this: everything in the game has a percentage tag next to it to show you how completed it is, and what's in there is about 50-70%.
The few tracks on offer are half-built, and the splatty people behave like animated sprites. There's very little fun in whacking one with a car and dragging their body along in a bloody racing line, and the loopy and busy levels are actually confusing in their half-finished form. Even with a few prompts, I've been lost more than once. It's also suffers from a performance perspective: if it's not lagging, it's crashing. One crash managed to take my whole PC down with it and required a restart.
It's not even the most spectacular crashing game on Early Access—that's Next Car Game—so for now there's better, half-built options for you to consider. I'll try again in a few months.
Worth Buying Now?
NomNom Galaxy: Yes
Running With Rifles: Yes
Carmageddon: Reincarnation: No