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Episode 422

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Episode 421

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Episode 420

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Nitronic Rush

Nitronic Rush
Game Name: Nitronic Rush
Platforms: PC
Publisher(s): DigiPen
Developer(s): Team Nitronic
Genre(s): Survival driving game
Release Date: November 11, 2011
ESRB Rating: E
Big Ups: Solid gameplay, fantastic soundtrack
Big Downs: Short

I friggin’ love free games and who better to release them than students at Digipen Institute of Technology? Team Nitronic has created an amazing game called Nitronic Rush. Inspired by Tron and Rez, this San-Francisco-Rush-esque game offers engaging and pulse-pumping gameplay in the form of a classical arcade rac … well … I am not sure what kind of game it is. The disclaimer shown at the start of the game answers my confusion with this, “Nitronic Rush is not a typical racing game. It’s an experimental survival driving game.” A survival driving game? Even after playing through Nitronic Rush, I still do not grasp what that means. I would describe the game as a futuristic Trackmania meets Tony Hawk. Whatever the game may be, Nitronic Rush, though brief, is a very strong start for an up and coming developer.

Nitronic Rush has a couple of different game modes, the main being Story mode. A story mode in a “racing” game you ask? Yes and it totally wets my noodle. I am a geek for AI systems going awry, and the game’s simple story provides this. Essentially it goes like this: city was built; “perfect and all powerful” AI system was installed; AI system goes rampant and oppresses the city. Very Tron-like isn’t it? Sure I can tolerate copious amounts of movie references and ideas, but the glaring OBEY billboards from They rub me the wrong way. It’s blatantly obvious messages that really turn me off to a game. However, it’s easy to look past as the rest of the game totally earns itself merit. Story mode is comprised of seven brief stages that can each be completed in roughly two minutes or less, but time trials are not the primary focus of the game. Instead, players are challenged to take their time and use the fantastic in-air vehicle control to do stunts that amass points. The game skillfully tells you this by inserting scores into the local leaderboard (there is an online leaderboard as well). So when you speed to the end of the first stage and think you have achieved the top score, in actuality your laughable 1,500 points with a two minute lap time is eclipsed by the imposing 19,000 points with a five minute lap time. Suddenly lap time is a side note. From this stems three different styles of play: quickest lap time, highest score, or best score in the quickest time. To further mock you, Team Nitronic has placed the option to enable track ghosts. This doesn’t just have you racing against the sole top phantom,but  instead you race against multiples giving it that Trackmania feeling I was talking about earlier.

I also mentioned earlier that the controls are spot on. My only complaint is, with the liberties and allowances the freedom of the controls allow, the functions should remain consistent. You can drive on some walls but not on others without any indicators on why. The car has typical driving game controls. Another disclaimer at the beginning suggests that the player uses a controller to utilize trigger controls and stick controls for tougher acrobatic sections. What Nitronic Rush adds to the monotony that stems from car racing games is the ability to fly. Flying not only helps ensure you make it across large gaps, but also allows you to explore the stages. At first, it seems the exploration allows you to access shortcuts but as you go along you might find some interesting easter eggs. In my playthrough, I only found one such easter egg but I do not doubt there are several others. Even if there aren’t others, the potential of the concept is engaging and rewarding. To score points, the player must do stunts by utilizing thrusters strategically placed around the car. As you do stunts, not only do you gain points but your car’s temperature meter is decreased dramatically. This meter acts as a gauge to limit the use of boosters and flying. Because if you overheat, KABOOM!

The level design matches the setting and story perfectly. As you race through the crazily snaking tracks dodging various hostile objects, it becomes apparent that the CORE guardian, that sexy rampant AI I was talking about, is desperate to stop you from infiltrating its bowels and freeing the city from its oppressive reign. Each level has its own unique scenery as well just to keep the game from sinking into a lake of redundancy. As you rush through these lush vistas, heavy techno tracks slather your brain with beautiful soundscapes. Just go watch the trailer for the game is you don’t believe me. My hairs literally stand on end every time I watch the Digipen logo pulse to the beat of the music. Though not fully incorporated into Nitronic Rush, the music does alter depending on the player’s actions.

Nitronic Rush is an amazing debut game for baby developer, Team Nitronic. Created as an experiment by several students at Digipen, Team Nitronic clearly rocketed beyond mediocre expectations with Nitronic Rush. Hopefully this will not be the last time we hear from them. Maybe with better financial backing, they can create a game of the same quality without the brevity that plagues Nitronic Rush. Though there are extra challenge levels, they are still few and offer only a momentary extension to the core game. Maybe users will find a way to add new content to the game but as it stands, I must give Nitronic Rush a Minor Distraction. However, it is free. I pray you acknowledge and experience this wonderful contribution to the gaming industry.

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