Nom Nom Galaxy Review: Soup’s Up!

Pixeljunk Studios have developed a reputation for crafting visually simplistic yet charming titles featuring endearing gameplay experiences that both innovate and surprise. Pixeljunk Shooter captivated us with its impressive use of dynamic liquid physics while Pixeljunk Monsters offered one of the most engagingly strategic tower defence games we’ve ever played. New for Pixeljunk Studio, Nom Nom Galaxy seeks to develop on the building and mining sub-genre with a unique blend of strategic and action orientated elements, and fortunately, it combines these mechanics rather well.

The objective in Nom Nom Galaxy is in itself, rather simple; ship out more soup from your planet than the rival soup company competing with you. The means in which you accomplish this task are however, drastically more complex. In order to ship soup from the planet you need three things, soup factories to manufacture the soup, rockets to take the soup into space, and ingredients for the soup. Building these structures in Nom Nom Galaxy is made easy thanks to a largely intuitive system allowing you to snap connecting structures together with relative ease. Choosing where to build and how to pipeline resource to the factory you build is where most of the games challenge and depth stems from.

Each of the Soups within Nom Nom Galaxy are made with distinct pairs of ingredients. These vary most significantly with regards to the means in which they’re acquired and in particular, whether the resource gained from killing local wildlife, or harvested from plant life. The difficulty with both of these tasks is in streamlining the process, getting large quantities of the ingredients to your factory, in the shortest amount of time while ensuring that these resources are sustainable. Creating farms for plants is dependent on the respective plant required conditions, some plants grow under water, some on the ceiling, some grow in direct sunlight, while others require darkness. Wildlife posses a similar range of qualities, presenting themselves in certain environments, but not others while natural resources distribute themselves throughout the terrain, and must be mined out. It adds a lot to what you need to consider when building your factory. Scouting the environment and planning your strategy is often essential for success, and it’s rewarding to see a long-term game plan pay off with a victory.

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A crucial component of crafting your soup factories in Nom Nom Galaxy is automation. In order to create an efficient factory, you must automate the process of acquiring your soup ingredients, and in order to do so you must place a wide variety of different robots around your factory. There are robots that can throw soup around the factory, others that can carry ingredient, others that can harvest plants and you’ll need to use them all as you progress to quickly produce the large quantities of soup required to beat the games stages. Structuring your factory in this regard, alongside decisions on where to build and the resources to farm make Nom Nom Galaxy a rather strategic experience, as you’re rewarded by making the correct decisions relative to the environment you exist in at any one time. The environment itself changes too, and you shift between levels you’ll find yourself encountering a wide range of distinct terrain types and local wildlife respective to each.

Exploration can play a crucial part too, as you’re rewarded for experimenting with different soup recipes. Some ingredients are harder to come by than others, possibly existing underwater, or deep underground. Other times you’ll need to travel simply because your existing factory requires additional resources to increase its power capacity, or simply in order to expand the factory further. Sometimes there are rare resources available on the map too, such as vehicles, or trapped npc’s that can be employed within your own factory. Exploring itself is made satisfying courtesy of the games mining mechanic, which instead of the typical pickaxe allows you to use a mid-ranged buzzsaw-esque device in any direction around you. It’s possible to clear out vast areas of terrain within seconds, and this prevent the game feeling like tedious manual labor, as carving through mountains is enjoyable and fast rather than a slow and arduous process.

This is an experience that expands as you play too. As you complete each of the games levels you’re awarded with distinct devices or NPCs that can assist you in creating your factories. Robots can be crafted to carry or throw resources around the factory, while vehicles can be made in order to traverse or mine the environment faster. It makes the game feel rewarding as you’re continually adapting your strategy based on new tools and gadgets you’re granted.  This system of unlocks makes revisiting planets entertaining too, as you’re able to get a new experience with the new tools that you didn’t previously have available to you, leading to a different strategy and better score.

Building turrets becomes essential as the game progresses, as you will find rival soup companies bombard your base with hostile forces. These tower defence mechanisms are relatively barebones however, with initially just one turret available to you, and even when you fail to effectively defend your base with these turrets you can typically simply punch your way out of a bad situation anyway. Of course, if your office is destroyed then it’s game over, so responding to these attack alerts in one way, or another, is rather imperative if you want to succeed in Nom Nom Galaxy.

Unfortunately however, sometimes the strategy employed for each planet can be relatively similar from one to the next. Beating the rival soup companies is often relatively easy once you’ve gotten to grips with the games core mechanics, and you can get into a pattern or routine of things to build, and resources to farm that feels almost universally effective. To mediate this the game encourages you to attempt to craft new recipes, restricting new areas of the solar system unless you’ve produced a certain number of unique recipes. It’s an interesting mechanic but doesn’t quite do enough to prevent you from falling into a routine, as it’s often easy to craft a few new recipes alongside, while building the factory in a fairly similar manner for each map.

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Success itself is somewhat undermined by the manner in which it’s defined however. Success in N0m Nom Galaxy is defined by market share, if you earn 100% market share then you win the planet. It seems a little odd that 100% market share is what’s required to complete a planet considering 60% market share would certainly be a mark of success within a planet with a mere two soup companies, but more is the issue of the arbitrary nature of these figures. The competing soup company on each planet is entirely invisible, they do not exist on the same map as you and aside from defeating the goons they send to attack your base you cannot interact with them in any way. It makes success feel a little superficial at times, as you’re not directly better than the AI, rather your factory simply produced soup faster than the threshold for success on each planet. Despite this, the process of building your factory is still enjoyable, similar to the manner in which success is still enjoyable in the rather one-sided experiences that tower-defense games offer.

Despite these concerns, all of the games features are better experienced when the game is played co-operatively. The ability to focus specific players on specific tasks within your factory makes the entire experience feel vastly more efficient, as you’re able to each focus on an individual task at any one time. It’s more enjoyable too, co-operating with friends lends depth to the experience through communication and as such it feels more rewarding to succeed together than alone. Additionally, playing with multiple people means you can simple get more done, leading to more room for exploration of the environment and subsequent discovery of new recipes.

And that’s all there is to it! No boss fights, no explicit climax to the experience, you simply build bigger and bigger factories on harsher, more challenging worlds, until you’ve beaten them all. Once complete you can play a mode that allows more freedom to build, allowing you more time to create larger factories on each planet but there’s nothing explicit to push for within this mode outside of any sheer enjoyment you get from playing the game. It’s fortunate then, that the core gameplay experience is one that’s rather satisfying, progressing and beating the opposing Soup companies across various planets is enjoyable and unlocking new tools at the end of each serves as an appropriate incentive to continue playing new levels.

Nom Nom Galaxy is an interesting title where a focus on a specific objective within distinct time-pressured environments makes it for a uniquely strategic, adaptive experience as you’re required to efficiently produce factories for soup. The process in which this is achieved has an appropriate level of depth to keep the player engaged, while the core gameplay is accessible and enjoyable enough to prevent the experience from feeling tedious when played for longer sessions. Nom Nom Galaxy can still become somewhat repetitive over time however, especially when visiting a series of planets featuring similar terrain. Fortunately co-operative play goes a long way to mediate this issue providing a genuinely co-operative experience with ample opportunities to assist each other in your soup making endeavours. Ultimately, if you enjoy strategy, co-operation and relatively in-depth base building then Nom Nom Galaxy is definitely worth a look, and this is especially true if you happen to have a friend, or group of friends with similar interests. 

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Author: Jozef Kulik

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