Soup. It's what runs the universe. In a place where steaming hot monobrew is as good as gold, you find yourself crash landing on a planet ripe with tasty ingredients. Now all you need to do is build a factory, harvest stuff, defend your base, and send your soup creations to other planets so you can corner the market. All in a day's work in the latest PixelJunk game Nom Nom Galaxy.
Nom Nom Galaxy is a sidescrolling simultation that neatly blurs itself over to sandbox territory. You'll immediately be reminded of titles like Starbound and Terraria when you boot up, but as soon as you get into the swing of things, you'll see just how serious this game takes its soup production. You'll build, you'll explore, then you'll build some more because what you built before wasn't very efficient now that you're a soup-making mogul.
Each planet you crash on is filled with things you can use to make soup. Grasses, vines, seaweed, stuff that grows on trees, and even ambulatory enemies that look suspiciously like corn and tomatoes. You have two basic moves at your disposal: melee attacks and a handy buzzsaw. The former is great for knocking enemies away or taking out large groups of plants without much fuss. The buzzsaw will slowly pummel everything it touches, including chunks of dirt getting in your way. Terraforming is part of the package
Getting ingredients is one thing, turning them into soup and selling them is another. Your factory is comprised of simple machines that take ingredient input and produce cans of soup. Carry those cans to soup rockets to send them off for sale on other planets. Pretty simple. Now, things get more interesting when you start expanding beyond one ingredient and a few soup makers. Sure, you can manually carry things back and forth, but it's not very efficient. Instead, expand your base or hire some helpful robots to do the carrying for you. Nom Nom Galaxy throws in a few limited-ability machines that do simple tasks in your stead. Need something carried horizontally? There's a 'bot for that. How about vertically? 'Bot for that, too.
Farming and fighting are also part of Nom Nom Galaxy's repertoire. Non-enemy ingredients can be brought back to your base and planted instead of turned into soup. As long as you can replicate the ingredient's original growing conditions (on a ceiling, underwater) you can make more, and this time you won't have to walk across the planet to harvest. Even better are the robots you'll eventually unlock that automate much of the farming process. Chain them together with your other 'bots and you've got yourself a fine and fancy soup factory. Pop up a few shot towers to defend against rival soup industries and you're pretty much set.
The element of experimentation is definitely one of Nom Nom Galaxy's strong points. Not only is each ingredient a new kind of soup to make, but the combinations turn exponential with each new discovery. The worlds you work on are usually pretty small but contain a lot of surprises in the form of new foes, new plants, and new robot pals, encouraging you to strike out and find what you can find whenever there's a free moment.
Speaking of free moments, co-op is practically necessary to get the most out of Nom Nom Galaxy. Because the pacing is so slow, going it solo can feel a bit plodding, even if you're soup-driven from day one. Add another player or two and suddenly the work is split, allowing people to focus on the things they like doing best. Enjoy tweaking your factory base for maximum soup distribution? Stay at home and work on that. Rather be out exploring for brave new ingredients? Tell your buddies you'll be back in a few days.
Getting a co-op game going is a breeze as well. Both local and online play are supported, and you can turn your world into a cooperative one at any time. Just pop open the menu, go online, and you're gold. Local players can join in arcade-style at the press of a button. The game really does feel like it was built for multiple players, so much so that single player mode feels a bit lacking by comparison.
Nom Nom Galaxy sits in this strange area between simulation and sandbox game. Certain conventions from each genre have been kept or omitted, and the result feels a bit awkward for the first few hours of play. Fall damage, for example, would be a logical inclusion in a sidescrolling game. Here, though, it slows things down in what is already a slow-paced game. You're supposed to build ladders to reach new places, but sometimes it just feels more natural to jump and dive, you know?
Another thing you'll have to get used to are block physics. You know how in Terraria, Minecraft, and every other sandbox game out there, blocks magically float in the sky? If you knock out the ground level of a mountain, the rest of it stays in place just fine. That's not the case in Nom Nom Galaxy, and boy did it take me awhile to remember that. It's easy to prop things up, there's even a special support structure made specifically for that. But until you get that through your thick, soupy skull, expect a lot of base corridors to fall on your head.
I started off treating Nom Nom Galaxy as Terraria with soup rockets, but by the end I treated it like a soup selling game and left the exploration to Marco Polo. This, it seems, is the key to getting the most out of this unusual but supremely entertaining game. Grab some friends and keep an eye on the latest soup trends, you've got a lot of mixing, farming, and fighting to do.