Best Part:Novel mechanic, developed well.
Worst Part:Aesthetically bare-bones
7 Nanocycles is a novel flight game with a strong enough hook and smart enough design to recommend it. It is disappointingly bare-bones in some areas, but it is comfortable and runs well so it would probably shine on a mobile VR platform.
7 Nanocycles is a novel flight game, placing you in the cockpit of a ship without any method of self propulsion.
Your task is to fly through coloured cuboids that bestow thrust on your ship, giving you the manoeuvrability and propulsion needed to line yourself up for the glide to the next one.
At first this new mechanic is kind of confusing, and it’s not helped by the minimalist aesthetics. Although neon wireframes on a black background make for a lightweight and readable game, A visible sky and ground would help out on later levels where it’s hard to remember precisely which direction is down. It would certainly enhance a game in which battling the force of gravity is a central mechanic. A greater sense of visual realism would also increase the sense of danger.
If the visual design of the world is basic, your cockpit is Spartan in the extreme, with no internal details at all. Its purpose seems to be to simply limit the field of view that needs to be displayed and to provide a visual frame of reference to reduce simulation sickness.
You won’t mind the purely-functional cockpit once you get going, though, as 7 nanocycles quickly draws you into its neatly designed levels. Across its seven stages and 30 minute playtime, the game maintains a good balance between challenging and fun; layering on new concepts, gradually ramping up the difficulty and, most importantly, not overstaying its welcome.
Two design choices give this short experience a positive and satisfying emotional payoff. First; a climactically difficult penultimate stage followed by a nice easy final level to provide a bit of catharsis. Second, your end goal is subtly visible on most of the earlier stages – so although it’s never been directly communicated where you’re going, you instinctively know when you’ve arrived.
My biggest criticism, design-wise, is just that in some cases it can be quite difficult to hit the end of level checkpoint in such a way that you’d be able to ride it straight into the next level. You frequently fly right through it. It still counts as hitting the checkpoint but it means your sense of flow is broken and your visual reward for making the next level can often be the ‘retry’ screen. This could easily be remedied by making the checkpoint cuboids extra ‘sticky’ so however you hit them you’re propelled in the right direction for the next stage.
Talking of checkpoints, all games which involve frequent failure and rapid iteration should include an instant retry button. When you keep messing up there is nothing more infuriating than having to wait a few seconds for the restart menu to appear…
7 Nanocycles is a fun game at its core, with a strong enough hook and smart enough design to recommend it. It is disappointingly bare-bones in some areas, but it is comfortable and runs well so it would probably shine on a mobile VR platform.