Nuclear Throne is the rare game that I fail at over and over again, but keep coming back to. It’s such a satisfying twitch shooter that I’m constantly on edge and terrified for my life in the later levels— very accurately describes it as a “roguelike shooter of insidious grace and flexibility, with every single moving part a source of terrible fascination.” When I saw an online multiplayer mod pop up last week, I was immediately compelled to play it—what better way to alleviate the stress of an intense roguelike than to have a friend there to help? What an innocent though that was.
works shockingly well, and is a ton of fun, but if anything, it makes the game more stressful and frenetic. My co-op partner Tom Marks can attest to that, as I spent most of the later levels in our sessions shouting “oh god oh god oh god” as everything on the screen exploded constantly. We exploded a lot of stuff, Tom and I. It was a good time, and co-op adds an interesting strategic twist you won’t find in single-player. When your partner goes down, the game gives you a limited window to revive them and split your HP. If you leave them down, you start taking damage and die yourself. We ride together, we die together. Mutant freaks for life.
I’m still a little amazed that this mod exists. Nuclear Throne shipped with local co-op for two players on the same PC. Nuclear Throne Together takes that mode and brings it online, with full Steam integration (friends list, invites, etc.). I’m no programmer, but I’m pretty sure writing solid netcode for someone else’s game—especially when the source code for that game isn’t publicly available—is a hell of a task. Modder Vadim wrote on his website: “Should you have an impression that reverse-engineering an existing large game to poke few thousand new lines worth of code into it isn't a bad idea – it very well is.”
Oh, and that’s not all it does. As Vadim wrote, “Nuclear Throne never was a coop-centric game, and thus coop mode didn't receive enough attention, remaining ridden with various small bugs. This mod changes that, fixing pretty much every known issue, and giving coop some much-needed polish.” He also fixed some other game bugs while he was at it.
From my hands-on time with the mod, it worked perfectly about 90% of the time. In a few moments of heavy action, with tons of explosions going off on-screen, Nuclear Throne lagged to the point of entirely freezing up. This happened about four or five times across three runs (we even made it to the Throne in one of them!) and usually lasted a handful of seconds before clearing up. I believe both of us were on stable connections, though Vadim notes that “the mod requires somewhat-low-latency (100ms delay / 200ms ping) connection for comfortable play” and Comcast could be to blame for our little lag spikes. Either way, they didn’t get in the way of us having fun. For the majority of our time playing Together, it was smooth shootin’.