As of late, shooter games have made a comeback onto the video game scene and gamers seem to really be appreciating this. I grew up on some of the most difficult and punishing shooters ever made so seeing the genre making a resurgence of sorts is a positive, in my humble opinion. Therefore, when I got the chance to review the new shooter Nighthaw-X3000 from Polish developers N94 Games and developers AAG Studios, I jumped at the chance. Rocking your eardrums with hip 1980’s tunes and intense shoot ’em up action, this shooter will have you pulling out your parachute pants and spiking that Mohawk while you defend earth from alien invaders. So what are you waiting for?
Nighthaw-X3000 offers 2 player co-op which is a must in a shooter game and a feature that many triple-A game developers routinely refrain from including in their games these days. As an ace fighter pilot, you take on the role of James Polecki and you’ve come to kick ass and drink beer, and it just so happens that you just drank your last can. This is an arcade shoot ’em up to its core so expect to have to hone your skills to stay alive. If you are familiar with shooter games, then I don’t have to explain to you how to play this one; just point the front of your ship at the bad guys and shoot. They will shoot back so you have to avoid their ordnance while dodging energy barricades, air mines and killer turrets.
This game wouldn’t be a throwback to the eighties if the visuals weren’t done in amazing neon pixel art. From your tricked-out fighter to the ships, emplacement guns and attack craft of the enemy, everything is created in brightly colored pixels that blaze off of the screen. Many of the greatest shooters of all time came from this era so choosing to follow this design style was a no-brainer for N94 Games. There is a good variety of enemy designs that helps to flesh out the levels but there was one area of the game that fell flat; the backgrounds.
The flat, bland backgrounds in Nighthaw-X3000 really does a disservice to the game and was a big distraction for me while playing. Listen, I just downloaded a couple of SNK gems (Alpha Mission II (1991) and Blazing Star (1998) ) to my Switch that were made in the 90’s and they put this game to shame. Backgrounds in Nighthaw-X3000 are usually black or just one color grids that only give the impression of movement because of the grid-lines that scroll down the screen. This was a missed opportunity to really make this game stand out and I think that it served to hurt N94’s offering.
One cool thing that I really liked was the fact that the backgrounds will slant from right to left depending on the action on-screen which sees you going from traveling up-screen to diagonally. This adds a level of difficulty to the game as you need to be more aware of your surroundings or you will most definitely ram into a laser barrier or catch one of the enemies shots up the tailpipe. There are also power-ups that will make their way down the screen but you have to beware that your gunfire will destroy them if it comes into contact with it. That was a little frustrating as on multiple occasions while playing, the power up would appear after I had sent a barrage of shots in anticipation of killing a foe, only to have it hit the power up instead.
Overall, I will say that the crappy 80s B-movie soundtrack was fun to listen to while I made my way through the levels. The on-screen action is frenetic and made my heart race. This is a bullet-hell shooter is there ever was one and it holds its own with gameplay that kept me coming back for more. However, the boring background visuals really marred a game that almost had everything that could be expected from a game from this era. Nighthaw-X3000 is available now on Steam for $4.99 which isn’t terrible for what you are getting. You will have fun with this game just don’t expect a lot from the dreadful scenery.
This review is based on a copy of the game provided by the publisher.
Take a trip back to the 1980s.
Challenge - 9/10
Gameplay - 7/10
Design - 6/10
+ Soundtrack is amazing!
+ Gameplay is fast and fun.
+ Lots of challenge and strategy.
– Backgrounds are dreadful!