by Thomas Mikkelsen
reviewed on PC
Cute, but crippled
Nom Nom Apocalypse follows the indie trend of designing cute, family friendly characters and cartoony aesthetics - a la Overcooked - but doing so over a lacklustre game that plays more like a student project than a commercially released game. A top-down, roguelite, twin-stick shooter, Nom Nom Apocalypse ticks all the boxes of what youíd expect in the genre, but the execution feels amateurish at best.
Mangled Microwaved Muffin Mess
Set in a world where a catastrophic microwaving incident involving muffins sets off an explosion that turns said muffins into monsters, and as a result, has you fight all kinds of fast-food themed enemies including tentacled burgers that rush you, spidery fries that spit at you, and many more. Youíll do this as one of a range of fast-food employee themed characters, each with their own special perks and powers, and using various weapons you pick up as you progress.
The trouble starts almost as soon as you start playing. Charming at first, youíll notice that as you progress from one section of the map to the other, a black screen will fade in and out marking the loading of the next section. Youíll appear, seemingly teleported, to a place roughly centered from the direction you came but sometimes far enough away to leave no recognisable features on your screen to keep you orientated. This not only causes confusion, but, is a very noticeable lack of polish that you donít expect to see in a game released in 2020. Even as you load in the next section of the map, you don't have to unload the assets on which the player character is standing and you can easily keep their location data stored in the background to make it appear to them that nothing has happened. This is also not such a memory heavy game that a fade should be necessary. Seamlessness would have done a lot for Nom Nom Apocalypse, and it would be fairly easy to accomplish from a tech/design standpoint. That, and many other unpolished results, are what give this game such an amateurish feel.
Donít Embrace the Buckshot
The weapon you start with is a standard machine gun, but the first one you get the chance to pick up during the tutorial is a Mustard Shotgun. Donít pick it up. Do yourself that favour. Its spread is ridiculously random and the fire rate is frustratingly slow. On multiple occasions I found myself missing an enemy that was directly in front of me because the buck shot spread everywhere except the middle. The only scenario in which itís somewhat usable is against large enemies, and only if youíre standing close to them - which tends not to be a very good idea in the first place. Even against a horde of enemies, I found that spraying with the machine gun yielded better results than that useless shotgun. The microwave laser gun does a steady stream of damage, but itís fairly low, so itíll take you ages to kill an enemy with it. By far my favourite weapon was the Chilli gun, which shoots a burst of flaming chilli cheese balls at your enemies. In addition to being fairly accurate, it sets them alight, causing damage over time. What should have been my favourite weapon, based on the type of player I am, is the fork crossbow. It shoots a high-damage fork very fast and very accurately, but it was somewhat let down by its slow rate of fire.
Every character, in addition to their dodge and special powers, can throw meat cleavers at the enemy. This is meant as a secondary attack when reloading and offers you a way to pick up objects like ammo, money, and health from a distance. When I was stuck with the shotgun, I found myself defaulting to the knife throw on multiple occasions to get rid of single enemies. It proved more reliable at hitting them and does a fair bit of damage, too.
The developer of Nom Nom Apocalypse appears to feel that shaking the screen is something everyone will love and is a form of visual feedback that should be triggered every time a bullet leaves your gun. Itís not. It becomes annoying instantly. Itís the sort of thing youíd leave for heavy blows dealt by enemies or explosions, not every single shot. Everyone has an old aunt who is just discovering that Facebook has filters, so they put bunny ears or sunglasses on every single photo they post. Itís that in video game form.
And then comes the subject of co-op. Nom Nom Apocalypse is designed as a co-op game and itís actually quite OK as one. I might even give it a go at my next party. But here, again, the amateurish nature of its technical design shines through. The game does not automatically detect your controllers. Mouse and keyboard are default, but I have a Steam controller and as I tested this game with a friend, he was going to use that while I went old-school. Already in the menu I could see ďJoystick 1Ē and ďJoystick 2Ē with no indication which one was my controller. And since it was the only one plugged in, I had to guess which one it was. I guessed wrong, activated a non-existent controller, and locked myself out of the game since no input was being registered from either mouse and keyboard or my steam controller. With that fixed, we went into the game and actually enjoyed ourselves.
Until level 2. I had only been able to beat the level 1 boss by myself once but with my buddy next to me drawing its attention, we didnít have a big problem with it. Once Level 2 started, it was like sprinting head-first into a brick wall that is somehow also sprinting toward you. Soon thereafter, I packed my laptop down and poured myself some lovely chamomile tea - my go-to move to calm my nerves when Iím particularly frustrated. It helped.
Nom Nom Apocalypse is not a game Iíd recommend. There are plenty of twin-stick shooters out there and most are better technically designed and offer better gameplay. The gameís only redeeming value is that itís passably fun in casual couch co-op and it offers remote play together (a feature I absolutely adore). But again, youíll probably find better ones on Steam without much difficulty. This solo project could really have used some more polish before being released into the wild or a helping hand to take care of the not-too-technical stuff like dynamic asset loading and automatic controller detection.
Numerous technical problems, amateurish gameplay design, poorly executed weapons