Nuclien Review

The recent Nuclien (out now, $0.99) is a deceptively simple looking game – both in graphics and concept – recently released by Springloaded, but appearances here can be quite misleading as odds are the bulk of people who step up to bat with this title are going to be sent back home crying bitter tears of shame. All the game asks of the player is if they can count numbers up and down in sequence, as well as differentiate between squares and circles, all while fighting against a brutally short timer. While the game starts out easy enough as to potentially border on the insulting – with the player doing little more than tapping buttons as they appear – it quickly becomes an all encompassing reminder that you, as a lowly human, will never be able to pull off the snap based reactions that Nuclien will all too quickly demand of you.

Any numbers that appear in circles you will have tap in the order of highest to lowest, any numbers that appear in squares you will have to tap in the reverse order, and when both appear you will have to tap all of one kind before you move on to the other. Successfully doing what is asked of you adds time to the countdown clock – wherein a stage ends in failure if Nuclien’s clock runs out – while there is a time removal penalty for each and every accidental miss tap that occurs, all of which is a sound idea in practice until the countdown clock itself begins having an upper maximum of less than a second. Trance like techno music will play during all of this, and pulsing beats will be added to the background music – not unlike the primary mechanic of Rez – with each number that you successfully tap in sequence.

While chasing numbers in sequence – to a very limited count down clock – is difficult in and of itself, the really twisted part comes into play when the numbers begin splitting into smaller buttons when you tap them. Let’s say that you have to count up squares labeled 0 and 6, so you take the most obvious action and tap the 0 first and then immediately move on to the 6 – due to how the timer never leaves you time to think – and immediately thereafter become horrified when the game fails you for pressing the button you thought was next in your speed driven reactionary haze. What happened is that the second you tapped the 0 it disappeared and became replaced with two buttons that said 1 and 7, so you now have to press the 1 before the 6 as it is the new lowest number in the sequence (by the way, the 6 will also sub divide when you finally do press it correctly). Add to this the fact that all the numbers – and the shapes they are found in – get randomized each and every time you play,  and one quickly realizes that they must do all of this without spending even a fraction of second in thought.

Representing a small amount of reprieve here is that players can spend the points they earn from successful runs (as well as points they buy via IAP) at an in game store to purchase permanent upgrades to the starting value of Nuclien’s count down clock. This seems like it would be useful, but a 100% increase to your starting time doesn’t exactly do much when a mission starts you out with a clock that had a fraction of a second to begin with. So whether you buy IAP currency – or grind your brains out on the early easy levels – it will be only the Gods of Numeration that make any real progress into Nuclien at the end of the day, which I guess is appropriate for a game whose opening claims that the techno fueled acid trip you are watching is your sequencing the DNA of an emerging universe.

iFanzine Verdict: There is a scene in the Ghostbusters film where the other worldly villain asked the heroes if they were Gods, and a person may well have to be one to do anything other than perpetually fail in Nuclien. That said, for the limited group of people out there who actually are Gods — or are at the very least numerical savants — the snap based cerebral challenge this game presents may well be the answer to all of their wildest dreams they never even yet knew they had. For those of you who are unsure as to which side of the fence you sit on, at least the game’s low price tag means that your wallet won’t be hit too hard in the process of discovering whether or not you are a God of Numeration.