Chicken. Beef. Bisque. Ramen. Who doesn’t like soup? I love soup. So does PixelJunk makers of great indie titles such as PixelJunk Monsters and PixelJunk Shooter, and they want to spread their love of soup across the universe. The silly premise, whimsical humor, and distinct art styles attempt to draw players into the seedy and sometimes dangerous side of cosmic soup production. Nom Nom Galaxy while having that casual pick up and play feel with many bright spots is hampered by a few boulders that prevent this title from reaching escape velocity.
Nom Nom Galaxy is similar to games like Starbound and Terraria. The premise and art style for this game are vibrant and unique and one of the game’s notable points. Items that can aid you are marked on your 2d world. Matter cubes that allow you to build machinery, tunnels, girders, and more are highlighted as lighter blue squares in the ground for you to buzzsaw through. Enemy creatures resemble real-world foods with a deadly twist. In no time you will be building your hamster city of tunnels, antigrav lifts, soup makers, soup rockets, and turrets for defense. Enemies, soup customers, and your base modules, all have a lighthearted design to them that will draw you into the game.
One of the nice touches Nom Nom Galaxy brings is the inclusion of gravity to the game world. Dig under your base with your swirling buzzsaw with brute negligence, and you could cause a cave in that will render half your base inoperable. There is sparse enemy variety typically three maybe four types per planet. Destroyed enemies drop ingredients that usually lead to tastier soups versus soups based solely on alien plant life. You are embroiled in a tug of war battle another corporate faction for soup market dominance. So combining alien plants with alien creatures in broth filled bliss to shoot off to other planets is essential to stay ahead of the AI. Each Progresso-type canned good you shoot off into space will improve your market dominance 5-8%. Consequently your consumers can tire of your repetitive recipes and you can lose ground. Periodically the game will display news broadcasts indicating which ingredients are in demand. Heeding to these news bulletins will mean gaining market dominance quicker. In later planets, these ingredients are in distant areas of the planet, never where you started. Planets are not procedural so these elements are always there regardless of replay. Start gaining dominance and your AI opponent will send a team of enemies to try and dismantle your base. Defenses can be placed to save your assets, and you can also personally assist in base defense.
I would love to go into detail about additional game elements that I enjoyed, but I’m afraid there’s not much else. The soundtrack is lighthearted but forgettable. Making soup becomes a repetitive chore you begin to wish you could pass on to some hated sibling. Granted the game has multiple technologies that can help you progress towards full automation within your own base. By the time I had grinded several worlds I stopped caring about what else was out there. Repetition killed my enthusiasm.
Tunneling and walking for 20 minutes to pick up a rare plant only to head back to my base and realize that my last two soups were not well received by galactic customers and half my base was under attack is disheartening. That’s when it hit me, if the last 45 minutes of soup making were identical the previous 90 minutes, why do I want to go on? Yes, there are robots that move items for you on a static horizontal level, or vertical, intended to break up the repetition, but it’s not successful. There are other midgame base components that allow you to grow food items closer to your main base. No matter what the tech level is, you are essentially punching a vine, or a hot dog buffalo in the face, getting an ingredient bubble and pushing ‘B’ to make a soup. There is no strategy, just grind harder. There’s no complex exploration system, just make it to the leftmost or rightmost edges of the map and bring back the rarest ingredients.
Inviting a friend into your match does little to change the monotony. Add to that a strange issue with co-op, where at the start of each day we would experience strange slowdown lags, even if it was between only the two of us with sub-100 ping. Once our base was established my partner was grabbing 1-2 ingredients to make Soup #1 and I would do the same for Soup #2. Sure, you can diversify soup recipes and even carry more than one item (at later levels in the game). But it all boils down to dropping two ingredients into a machine and waiting for a can.
I love soup, I’ll even gladly you whip up one of a dozen soup recipes I’ve mastered. When I was a teenager, I ended up working a few months at a fast food restaurant. This establishment made burgers, hot dogs, chicken and other sandwiches. By the end of my greasy tenure I hate all of these foods. It would take years before I could stomach anything that resembled the petroleum doused carcasses I served other humans. The same starts to happen with Nom Nom Galaxy. You begin to detest the similar worlds, the predictable gameplay. There is no variety and that leads to no fun an reason to keep playing.
PixelJunk has produced many lovable games that appeal to casual game fans and dedicated gamers alike. Nom Nom Galaxy’s art design, music, control are all excellent. However, its lack of depth and repetition kills what could be an enjoyable exploration and crafting adventure. These drawbacks hamper this title from really taking off and soaring into the hearts of gamers as many other PixelJunk games have in the past. Still, there is fun to be had in Nom Nom Galaxy, and maybe even a laugh or two; perhaps check it out for yourself if you are looking for a Starbound alternative, but wait until Nom Nom is on galactic clearance.Steam PixelJunk