Indie Quickie: Nexus: One Core

It takes a lot longer to fully review a game than it does to get a good sense of what a game is. Even with a full-time staff of writers it would be impossible to fully review the thousands of games that are released every year. Indie Quickie is our way to offer snap impressions of the countless indie titles small teams and one-man game studios are releasing literally every single day, and to help guide players to worthwhile games they may not have heard about before.

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What is it? An endless spaceship runner with a nifty color-swapping fusion / unfusion twist.

Who made it and where can you get it? The game was made by Hyde Games and comes from the publishing tag team of Bulkypix and Plug In Digital. It sells for $9.99 on the major digital PC game portals like Desura, Gamersgate, and Steam.

How much did we play? Countless runs in all three included play modes over the course of about two hours, many ending in embarrassingly early failure. My longest survival time so far is 200.05 seconds (on easy of course).

Any technical concerns, hardware requirements or other details you should know about? One of the opening splash screens flashes a suggestion to play with a gamepad, and I would concur with that recommendation. The precision of analog stick control makes for a much tighter experience–though keyboard controls work well enough and key rebinding is available.

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Why should you play it?

    • Ikaruga-esque: Nexus is not a shmup, but it does have certain commonalities with Treasure’s classic. Instead of a brutal bullet hell shoot ’em up, think of it as a blistering obstacle hell dodge ’em up. You pilot a ship up a narrow, vertically-scrolling gauntlet of procedurally generated passageways, shifting blocks, rotating spinners and other hazards, and, depending on the mode, attempt to survive as long as possible or gather as many points as you can before crashing. Then you start all over again and see if you can do any better on the next run through a different sequence of randomized obstacles. The ship steadily picks up speed too, so the longer you survive the more your reflexes, pattern recognition and foresight are put to the test. The Ikaruga comparisons are twofold: for starters, this game is hard. Like seriously hard–but in a good way that rewards sticktoitiveness with a feeling of great satisfaction after pulling off a lengthy, tension-filled run. And then there is the clever color fusion mechanic. The ship consists of two colors fused together, and by tapping the gamepad shoulder bumpers the ship changes between the single colors or fuses both of them together at the same time. Switching up the neon paintjob on the fly is the driving force behind the whole game, as colored gates and walls are only passable/breakable when the ship is fused with the matching color, and certain blocks react like magnets, either splitting apart or linking together depending on the active color. Dipping and dashing around both stationary and moving barriers alone would have been tough enough. Adding the color fusion dynamic into the equation only intensifies the challenge.

    • Play That Funky Music: Another highlight is the game’s hypnotic soundtrack. The thumping drum and beat electronic jams perfectly complement the sci-fi visual motif–expect lots of shiny metal surfaces, neon lights, and eye-popping outer space vistas–sucking you into a zone of focused mesmerization, like you’re glowsticking it up at a space station rave after popping a couple ecstasy tablets. I got so locked in that once I had stopped for a break after the first hour, I felt like I had just broken out of an endless runner trance. From the options menu, you can even customize the playlist to only your favorite tracks. Give it up for DJ Nexus!

    • Nice Loadout: For a runner, Nexus sure has a solid feature set. Three mode variations do a good job of mixing things up. Standard, one-life survival is the main draw, but I actually preferred Collect mode, in which the goal becomes picking up collectibles for points and staying alive long enough to build a sky-high multiplier. Of course, this also provides another opportunity for the color fusion mechanic to work its magic, as the collectibles too come in different colors that can only be tallied if the ship is of matching neon. Each mode progresses through a series of four unlockable difficulty settings, and with each step up the ladder the starting ship speed revs up and at least one or two new level design tricks are introduced to increase the pain. Local and online leaderboards, one for every mode and difficulty, allow you to compare times and scores with other players. You’re even given a respectable number of customization options, both on the technical side–re-binding controls, adjusting resolution, tweaking basic and advanced graphics settings, and managing the soundtrack playlist–and as far as changing the ship’s color scheme and unlocking additional body designs. Co-op is another feature that is likely to be a major attraction for players who have a local buddy to play with. Unfortunately there is no online functionality so I wasn’t able to test it out, but just the idea of two ships flying side by side, merging together to create the color fusion, sounds like it takes the challenge to a whole other level.

Parting Thoughts: How much entertainment value you’ll be able to squeeze out of Nexus hinges entirely on how strong of a propensity you have to replay games with a single hook–aiming only to improve your score/survival time with each pass–and, of course, how much pain you’re willing to withstand on the endless path to runner greatness. I’ve unlocked most of the difficulty levels and posted some high rankings on the easy and normal leaderboards within my first two hours of playtime, but the hard and nexus difficulties routinely kick my ass within about 20 seconds, so there’s a lot of work to be done before any sense of fusion mastery is achieved. If you’re up to the challenge, Nexus: One Core is a slick game that’ll hone your reflexes and maybe even sear your retinas as it lures you back for just one more run.

Disclosure: A free Steam code for NeXus: One Core was provided to VGBlogger.com for coverage purposes.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!