Sawbuck Gamer is our daily review of a free or cheap ($10 or less) game.
Nuclear Justice looks dumb. It’s got a wailing guitar soundtrack, hair-metal character, kidnapped presidents/girlfriends, and escaping prisoners, just like every other parody of ’80s games. Whatever. Give it a chance, though. The glib veneer of the Adult Swim label washes away like a temporary tattoo to reveal a well-considered hook beneath the typical cartoon bluster. Justice isn’t just another referential time-waster. I mean, it definitely is that, but there’s a little something more.
The goal is to punch and headbutt escaping prisoners before they can get past you. Rather than walking through a series of halls from left to right on a linear journey of punching, though, you need to stay put and defend a prison gate. If prisoners pound on the gate for too long, the level ends. That’s a mild twist on the typical brawling routine, but that there’s some strategy in learning the game’s combination moves, which is impressive. Slide kicks will knock prisoners back from the door, while a ground punch will fell multiple enemies.
It’s a shame that there isn’t more of a game on which to hang those flourishes. Prisoners drop money after they’re downed, and those funds go toward upgrading your stats (and those of the wall). It all culminates in a boss fight at level 20, but by then the novelty of the hook has worn thin. Nuclear Justice is more than it first appears, but less than it could be.