Thursday, April 4

Review: Nuclear Throne [Nintendo Switch eShop]


Before the Switch became the consistent home of indies I played them almost entirely on PC. It’s been a real thrill to see so many of the titles I loved in that space finally being ported to Switch after hoping to be able to enjoy them again, of course now with an option to take them on the go as well. Among the last holdouts, and one I had been hoping to see the most, was a roguelike shooter by the name of Nuclear Throne. At long last it’s now here and despite its comparatively simple looks when put up against the likes of Enter the Gungeon and some others, its pacing, variety, and style of play are as solid as ever.


For me the essence of what makes Throne superior to the rest of the games in the genre is the mix of its base characters and the terrific variety of mutators you’ll be able to choose from as you level up. Each character has its own strengths and weaknesses, probably my favorite being Melting who starts out very low on health but whose ability to explode corpses can really do some damage if you’re able to survive long enough to take full advantage of it. Sometimes you’ll get lucky and a key mutator for the character you chose will come up right away and other times no matter how much you pray to the RNG gods it just won’t be happening in that run. This is the essence of the unpredictability of the game (and genre) though, and to its credit, there are numerous weapon and mutator combinations that can be highly effective if you know what you’re doing.


While Throne may not be as gun-centric as Enter the Gungeon, and doesn’t have the sheer variety of crazy weapons it boasts, as you progress deeper into the levels it has some surprises of its own. Super-powerful mutli-shot weapons will become available to you, and they’re often extremely effective, but they’ll also chew through ammo rapidly. If you’re able to pick up some mutators that increase ammo drops or award you with ammo randomly for killing enemies perhaps you can hope to keep up, but more often than not you’ll need to keep one weapon for tough spots and reserve the other for being your safe standby. Depending on your build melee is absolutely a viable choice as well, especially since your swipes can either cancel incoming enemy fire or even deflect it, but obviously that can be a dangerous proposition (though the fact you can hit enemies through walls is a handy tidbit to be aware of).


On the downside there’s first and foremost no denying that this is a challenging twin-stick shooter that will give you a strong mix of emotions all over the spectrum from run to run. You’ll go deep one run and then die right out of the gate in the next few sometimes, but that’s OK, just the way roguelikes work. In addition, there’s no doubt that cosmetically it’s dated, especially since it isn’t natively a widescreen game and has bars on the sides even. Throw in a more zoomed view than many of its contemporaries have and there’s an almost claustrophobic element to Throne, though I’d argue that also helps to distinguish its feel in some regards as well.


Though it’s pretty clear in places that Nuclear Throne has aged a bit since its original release, its unapologetic degree of challenge and wide variety of builds still make it one of the best twin-stick shooters on the Switch. This isn’t a game you’ll really ever master per se, you’ll just have deep runs where things click and you’ll find success. With some great unlockable characters, each with their own style of play, Throne has no shortage of personality and continues to push you with a “just one more run” mentality to work to get further. If you’re ready for a challenge, and can deal with its visuals having aged a bit, Nuclear Throne absolutely delivers one of the best roguelike shooting experiences on the system without question.

Score: 9

Pros:
  • Each of the game’s many characters have special abilities and sometimes limitations that make them each play distinctively
  • The wide variety of mutators will force you to constantly experiment with build combinations and continue to keep each run feeling fresh
  • In general Throne does an excellent job of balancing risks with reward in just about everything

Cons:
  • There’s no denying the game can be brutally hard at times, depending on what you’re able to put together in any given run
  • Visually it’s showing signs of its age, with the added oddity that it doesn’t run in widescreen