Q-Games' PixelJunk series has always had its own quirky style, and while the developer's experiments may not have always hit the mark, they've at worst been worth a look. With the company's latest game Nom Nom Galaxy landing on Steam – it's time to find out what the chefs in Kyoto have cooked up with their take on the sandbox genre.
As a new Astroworker for SoupCo, you'll be helping the company corner the galaxy's soup market by keeping ravenous aliens supplied with a steady supply of delicious broth. Like the soup that you'll be producing, the game has a number of ingredients thrown into the mix that make for a tasty experience. Starting with a sandbox stock, the firm's added a dollop of base building, a dash of resource management, a smidgen of tower defence, and finally topped it off with a generous seasoning of both online and offline co-op.
The main mode that'll introduce you to the game's mechanics is 'corporate conquest' which sees your Astroworker sent to a variety of worlds to gather ingredients, make soup, and blast it into space to your waiting customers. Each planet that you arrive on is presented as a side-on cross-section, and you'll guide your Astroworker across some marvellously rendered 2D cartoon landscapes, burrowing into the ground to collect blue matter and ingredients that you'll use to build your base or make soup respectively.
To begin with, you'll have a limited number of structures that you can build, but even with this relatively modest selection, actually getting to grips with what works and what doesn't from a layout perspective takes a little time. Despite a couple of tutorial levels – which feel more like information dumps than teaching tools – you'll need to try and fail a couple of times to get to grips with certain gameplay nuances.
The sense of accomplishment when you build a smooth running facility gets even stronger as you unlock more and more toys to use, and whereas in the early stages you'll have been harvesting and delivering all of the ingredients to your soup machines personally, you'll start to introduce robots and conveyor belts to take a lot of the menial tasks out of your hands. That said, you can't rest on your laurels too much as you'll need to make sure that there's a steady flow of the right ingredients, while at the same time ramping up production so that you can deliver the soup to market faster than your competitors.
As you gather more and more market share, your business rivals won't take too kindly to you stealing their slice of the soup pie, and they'll do anything that they can to stop you from cornering the market. Consequently, you'll have to repel occasional attacks from their minions as they aim to destroy or disrupt your production plant.
Fortunately, there are a few defensive options in your bag of tricks that you can use to protect your base from these assaults. However, even with a few strategically placed sentry turrets, there'll be weak links that the invaders will worm their way through, so more often than not you'll have to get your hands dirty fighting them off yourself.
While these skirmishes certainly keep you on your toes – and can really throw a spanner into your well planned works – they're by far the weakest part of the gameplay. There just isn't anything gratifying or impactful about any of the combat, and whether you're defending your base or trying to pacify some of the more aggressive ingredients for your soup, it all feels like a chore, only succeeding in making you itch to get back to selling your concoctions.
Thankfully, once you've completed any of the conquest stages, you can replay them either from scratch or with your constructed facility fully intact via the S.O.O.P Simulator, which has all the fun of blasting broth into space without any pesky rivals trying to sabotage your efforts. Adding to the longevity of the game further are 'galactic challenges' which refresh every few days, and let you compete asynchronously with other players in a variety of events ranging from races to sales challenges.
Nom Nom Galaxy has an odd premise that's been blended into a surprisingly interesting sandbox experience. While some of the gameplay ingredients don't necessarily work that well together – with the combat in particular leaving a bitter aftertaste – you'll at least be able to cleanse your palate with another draft of its fun base building and resource management, and that'll keep you coming back for more servings.