Sawbuck Gamer

Nuclear Justice

More Than A Beating

Nuclear Justice has a clever hook but not enough to keep players on the line.

By Anthony John Agnello • June 20, 2012

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.

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10 Responses to “More Than A Beating”

  1. Spacemonkey Mafia says:

    I love the fiscal ingenuity that turns an assets limitation into a game design tweak.
       Don’t have the time and financial largess to make a free game with multiple scrolling backgrounds?  Just keep the dude put and let the enemies come to him.

  2. stakkalee says:

    I agree with @Spacemonkey_Mafia:disqus about the resourcefulness of reusing the background a la 60s cel animation, but the rest of it just seems phoned in.  Adult Swim is really uneven on games – some are brilliant, and some are content to settle.  This is one of the latter ones.  It lacks the replayability of 5 Minutes To Kill Yourself or even Bible Fight.

    • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

      I imagine it’s pretty dull. I have no interest in playing it even for the low, low price of zero. I’m just tickled by the low budget to high concept alchemy.