From the team who brought us the award winning X-Com series, Laser Squad Nemesis is a two-player turn-based strategy game with a difference. Anyone anywhere who has got an e-mail account can play. And now, with a retail release with Just Play, the game is available in stores in UK.
Setting up the game is easy, and with the click of a few buttons, you're in to the game. You can play a league or just a friendly game, and with the opportunity to play with anybody who has an e-mail account set up, Laser Squad Nemesis takes multiplayer to a new level.
In Laser Squad Nemesis, there are currently three different races to play with, each with their own characterists and appearance: The laser-equipped Marines are fast but carry less armour, and the robotic Machina have less speed but more defence. The goo-spitting Spawns however are a totally different story all together. If the Queen eats one of her opponents, she'll be able lay another Spawn egg to expand her force... Enough said.
At the beginning of the game, you are given a specific amount of points to spend on your team.
The game is turn based, and uses a unique system of plotting orders, testing them, and watching the results unfold.
With each turn, the player gets up to 10 seconds worth of gameplay. By clicking the character which you want to play with, you first "Issue Orders" and tell your guy where to go or which action to carry out. In the corner of your screen, it will predict how long it will take your unit to carry out this move. So long as your action is 10 seconds or less, you can then "Test Orders" to see what your orders will look like in action, and once you are happy you can "End Turn".
After you've made your turn, you must press the Play button to watch the results of that move.
During the whole game, you can rewind and play back all of your moves so far, which can help you to plan out your strategies.
The game is set on an isometric map with different rooms and mazes to walk through and around. For this reason, if you think disposing of your enemy should be easy enough, it may be another thing just getting to him.
To kick off the game, there are four tutorials, which do a very good job in explaining the basics. As you might expect, the tutorials work by offering you an instruction and waiting for you to carry out the right move. This lets you play the game at your own pace, so you can digest the information at your own speed.
Although the basic areas of gameplay are explained well, the tutorials could have been a bit more in depth.
For example, in each race there are different types of men - commanders, snipers...etc, but they could have done a better job explaining exactly the role of each of these. "What exactly is a Grunt?" I asked myself, as I shot down a door and guided my character round through the maze that lay ahead.
OK, so the role of the Grenadier might be pretty predictable, but there still would have been no harm in explaining the characters' roles in more detail.
This isn't all that much of a problem, since like with any game, the more you play, the more you become familiar with the roles of each of the characters.
The only other problem present as you start to learn the basics is the complexity of the maps themselves. With a large amount of corridors and doors to get around or smash down, it can take a little time just getting used to your surrounding, and if your opponent already knows it like home and you're still getting to grips with it, you're at a disadvantage.
The interface in Nemesis is nicely laid out, with simple buttons, which display a description when highlighted over. The map can also be scrolled with arrows on the top and bottom and either side of the screen.
If strategy games aren't always that easy to get in to, Laser Squad Nemesis is certainly an exception. You'll be ready to go to battle in no time.
However, another problem became apparent as I played the game.
If you scroll to the other side of the map and then play back your orders so far to watch your men in action, it will not scroll back to where your men are located. This doesn't affect the learning curve, and admittedly you can zoom out or just keep scrolling until you find your team again, but it can get too easy to get lost if you are not careful.
Since it is an e-mail based game, you may feel unfamiliar with the way in which Nemesis is played, but luckily it is implemented well and gameplay is hassle free.
The host of the game must have a subscription to the game, but the second player doesn't need one and as long as they've got an e-mail address they can play.
If you've subscribed, you simply type in the e-mail address of your buddy, and away you go...
In addition to the 30 battlefields available to fight in, Laser Squad Nemesis also has a map editor. You can create a new map by placing down tiles manually, or even edit an existing location.
Codo have kept things simple but sweet, giving players a 2D isometric view. Although not being state-of-the-art, the graphics serve their purpose, and work well with a game of this sort.
Players can zoom in and out if they wish to seven set sizes, and although the detail isn't enhanced as the map is enlarged, it does give you a closer look if you need it. Zooming out is also useful for locating your team if you get a bit lost...
There are a variety of different maps to play in, each with simple yet pleasant designs set in a well-designed environment. The trees and lampposts act as nice decoration, but they also react to the intensity of shots and will fall to the ground or break apart.
The animations are basic, but the characters are well rendered, and where the game lacks in graphical detail, it most certainly makes up for in addictive gameplay.
The sound effects in Laser Squad Nemesis are adequate but nothing to get excited about. The sounds accompany the animations well and although quite basic they are effective in their own right.
To sum it up, the game is truly fun and addictive, and doesn't lose its appeal since every game is different.
It plays like an interactive board game, since you make moves in turn with your opponent and since you're in control of the speed of the game. And you never know the exact outcome of each turn until you've played your move.
Like chess you've got different units in your team, different characters who have a variety of roles, and different strengths that can be used to their advantages depending on the situation that occurs. However, the difference is that you choose where to place each of the units, and where to guide them around the "board".
It's the feeling of anticipation and uncertainty that makes Laser Squad Nemesis so addictive. Even if you've made a good move, you've got to wait until the other player has done his damage before it's over to you again to make up for lost time.
Codo say that Laser Squad Nemesis is a continually evolving game, and with the help of their fans they promise to add more races and maps to the game over time.
This will certainly give the game more life and keep players coming back for more... which can't be a bad thing when you're paying every three-months to subscribe. It is worth knowing however that subscribers get to contribute to the development of the game, which should help build up an even bigger community to a game that already had a big following even before its retail release.
And you can be sure that any attachments you receive from Laser Squad Nemesis are welcome ones.