Developer: Nightspade
Price: Free
Version Reviewed: 1.0.0
Device Reviewed On: iPad 2, iPhone 5

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★½☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★☆☆
Playtime: Rating: ★★★½☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★½☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

When the nuclear apocalypse comes, odds are it won’t wind up creating a world like Adventure Time where candy people, magical dogs, and half-demon vampire queens have fun adventures and learn subtle life lessons. No, it’ll probably be more like Nuclear Outrun: a frantic romp where not everything is understood and morality is dubious at best.

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Yes, this game is published by Gamenauts, most infamous for Ninja Fishing, which cloned Vlambeer’s Flash game Radical Fishing that eventually turned into the excellent Ridiculous Fishing. Gamenauts at least appears to have learned their lesson: this is an official, credited port of the eponymous Flash game by Nerdook Producations and brought to mobile by Nightspade.

Players must shoot at zombies in their constantly-accelerating vehicle as a nuclear missile falls in the background behind them. Getting combos of zombie headshots extends the thirty second timer to the player’s doom, though taking too many hits from the zombies and other hazards will mean the end coming sooner than the bomb dropping will. Along the way, coins will be collected for upgrades to the guns and vehicles on later runs, and survivors can be rescued, each with their own special effect.

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The problem with Nuclear Outrun is that nothing has an impact. The game gets so chaotic that it’s hard to tell what is blown to bits and what isn’t, resulting in the tiny little cuts that will doom a run eventually. Bullet firing for many weapons has an unsatisfying feel to where I question if anything was fired or really hit.

It all becomes about managing the chaos and mitigating the hazards by getting more powerful weapons that can clear out the screen more effectively and being able to take more blows as much as it is about developing skill. Perhaps it is possible to find a skillful balance (it will most likely be found on the bigger iPad screen if it is), but the person with the biggest truck and biggest guns will be the one left standing when the nuclear apocalypse comes will be the head honcho. Just like in real life.

While frantic chaos can be a fun formula for a game, there needs to be substance behind it, and that’s just what I found lacking in Nuclear Outrun. Those who can stomach the Gamenauts connection will find a game with shallow fun and a great soundtrack that uses a wildly differing set of moods to surprising effectiveness.

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