When PixelJunk released Nom Nom Galaxy, I was certain it’d be a ridiculous affair! Why, I hear you ask? Simply put, the entire game is about creating (and sustaining) a galactic-wide corporation that sells soup. And only soup. Say what now? The PixelJunk series of games (which includes the interesting PixelJunk Eden) are developed by Q-Games and Nom Nom Galaxy is their latest offering. The title spent a fair chunk of its early life in Steam Early Access and earlier this month it finally emerged from that primordial goo to be presented to eager gamers.
In Nom Nom Galaxy you play as an Astroworker, jettisoned from whatever or wherever you call home like so much worthless proletariat and flung to some far reaching planet in the name of capitalism. Your boss, Robo-Shacho (you guessed it, he is a robot), quickly informs you that you work for the great and ambitious Soup Co. Your one true desire, you ask? To make the greatest soup from the rarest ingredients found throughout the galaxy (or a not-so-swift but relatively painful death, which is apparently an alternative)! However, some pesky rival companies have the same idea and will battle you for a monopoly on the soup market in whatever part of the galaxy you’re currently setting up shop.
Essentially the game works like this: You are dumped with pretty much nothing but a saw and your fists on some far flung planet and are left to create (read: destroy, plunder, loot) a little bit of you to leave behind in the living landscape. Unfortunately for the landscape, the little bit of you that you need to leave behind is a grotesque soup factory that needs to be fed all manners of ingredients to produce soup. Two ingredients come together to make a can of soup, and all manner of recipes can be found as there is a huge variety of ingredients. Ingredients include, but are not limited to, living animals (a sausage cow, for one – don’t ask), plants, and things that I don’t fit into our own natural taxonomy.
Once you’ve harvested your ingredients you take them back to the factory and deposit them in a soup mixer. This mixer produces a can of soup (value is variable – you really only find out what you made AFTER you’ve made it and how much it’s actually worth), which must then be taken to a rocket pod to be shipped off the planet and to your patient consumers somewhere else (presumably not on the planet you’re on – otherwise you would have just driven).
While you’re dancing around the countryside drilling away the landscape to find those ever juicier ingredients, you start to realise that your opponents are doing the same. You never see them, but for a counter in the top right of the screen, that informs you that they’ve just sent ANOTHER dang rocket full of the good stuff to their customers and they’ve just won another 5% market share. Sometimes a robot rock star will choke on an ingredient you’re currently actively using and the market will decide it’s had enough of that nonsense and x ingredient is just no longer accepted/popular. This may result in you binning entire cans of soup, because these events (and the ingredients you’re now meant to avoid) may earn you negative market share for not following the whims of the mob. If this isn’t enough cause for concern, every now and again the company you’re trying to outcompete decides to send a flying murder squad of robotic soldiers to blow you into submission.
Because competition is serious out there when soup is the name of the game! In addition, since you’re just a single lonesome employee you often struggle to match the output of your competitors while also fending off legions of robots wielding angry death from the skies. The solution? Why… make your factory automated of course!
This is honestly where Terraria meets the bit of innovation I had been waiting for. For the first few levels you are doing very Terraria like things. It’s a similar style game where you essentially mine resources (although the living ones in Nom Nom Galaxy look a lot more innocent than in Terraria) and build (in a much more simplistic way) a rather straightforward factory to both produce soup, and ship it off. But to help you farm resources (or move resources from A to B, or move soup cans from A to B) you can hire scores of little robots.
Each robot has their own designated job (and name – for instance all BOBS would hypothetically throw ingredients up or down elevator shafts). In addition you’ll be using conveyor belts and farming ecozones of flora you’ve artificially created yourself in order to better maximize the production of resources you actually like using and moving them to the parts of the factory that they need to get to. All of this is so you can crush the soup dreams of your mystical opponent (and mostly to stop the flying death robot monkeys from attacking). You essentially “win” when you get to 100% market share.
If you’ve gotten to this point of the review and you’re still thinking “why didn’t I just take the blue pill?” then I’ve got some good news. Yes. The title is all manner of crazy. I don’t really understand half of what is going on and I don’t know if half of what I do understand is even really part of the actual story the game seems to want to tell. But if you’ve played any Minecraft and/or Terraria then the game is easy enough to pick up and get stuck into. And it still provides a great deal of fun if you’re into those sorts of titles. The direction and aim of each new level is to constantly drive you to be less reliant on yourself and to maximise efficiency (more automation! More robots) while the game constantly throws little curve balls at you (on this planet you can only have a maximum of three rockets, or on another planet you can’t use a jet pack to move around in the air, etc). You’re going to get a lot of interesting exploring done (or not if you just want to make delicious soup for your robotic overlords) as each world is.. unique .. to say the least. Before you know it you’re going to be creating sprawling factories producing soup on a scale never seen before!
A major detraction for me, however, is that the game really starts to feel repetitive once you start to get the hang of how everything works. Besides putting restrictions on certain technologies (or certain ingredients) the game fails to remain as engaging as a true open world title like Terraria does. Moving from world to world to harvest ingredients in exotic locations has certainly lent itself to a more narrative approach, but each time you face many of the same problems in a slightly different guise (and you can only recreate your ideal soup factory layout so many times before even that feels a bit samey).
I can’t help but think that Terraria really hit the nail on the head with a single constant world but with an evolving world state, because in Nom Nom Galaxy repetition between levels does not lead to perfection. It leads to me questioning why I’m making the 100th barrel of the same soup for the same consumers in this slightly different level that is slightly more difficult. This is especially true when the tongue in cheek stab at Capitalism that serves as the games main rhetoric isn’t anywhere near as engaging as I’m sure they would have liked.
Last Updated: September 8, 2015