Developer: Channel 4
Version Reviewed: 1.0.1
Device Reviewed On: iPhone 4S
Graphics / Sound Rating:
Replay Value Rating:
Let’s just cut to the chase, Nom Nation is awesome. The amount of thought and care put into this throwback platformer rivals some of the classics it’s paying homage to. This game would be worth buying in actual stores so the fact that it is free on the App Store only sweetens the already delicious deal.
Set in a fantasy world where a heartless corporation uses a clown to sell horrible fast food to children, Nom Nation follows a lone chef dedicated to bringing down the clown and recovering the holy text of the benevolent food people, the Noms. The irreverent story and tone works great with the game’s retro art style. Everything from the floating monk spirit guides to the irradiated, fried food enemies to Chef’s jiggling fat and dumb face is presented in full, chunky, pixelated glory. Level themes include the standard forest, fire, and ice worlds but the game wouldn’t be a true tribute if it didn’t include some clichés. Add in a chiptune soundtrack enjoyable enough to listen to on its own and it’s safe to say that this game has style to spare.
Nom Nation is more than just a stylistic success though as the gameplay feels just as lovingly crafted. The most prominent mechanic is Chef’s ability to eat any of the various foods, or Noms, he finds. Some Noms just replenish energy but others have more specialized effects. Noms high in protein like bacon and steak provide super punches whereas sugary snacks and drinks give speed bursts. Even some enemies can be turned into new tools. The archive encourages players to discover all the Noms out there and players can even combine Noms for new powers and defensive bonuses. They must be careful and patient though as Noms need time to be digested and certain combinations can even yield lethal heart attacks. It’s a surprisingly robust system that shows how the food motif goes deeper than mere aesthetics all while not-so-subtly advocating for healthier diets.
Complementing these power-ups is the intricate level design. While it never relies on backtracking like a true “Metroidvania,” each level is shockingly dense with plenty of secrets to find. Even just getting to the exit involves going left, right, up, and down and usually involves using a couple key Noms too. It’s almost like A Boy and His Blob in the way players must adapt and transform to progress. There are only 10 stages and a boss fight but they are each fairly long and made up of multiple segments divided by checkpoints. It’s an example of quality over quantity.
No game is perfect though and Nom Nation does have a few issues. While it isn’t as hard as some of its retro forefathers, touch controls simply aren’t good enough for the level of precision platforming required in certain sections. Also, the more exploration-orientated environments occasionally make finding the path forward more difficult, confusing, and frustrating than it should be. Still, Nom Nation looks great, plays great, and doesn’t cost a dime. There’s literally no reason to not have a taste.