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Novadrome: how not to make a trial game


There are two ways to make a trial version of a game. The first way is to give players a healthy chunk of gameplay that gives a sense of the fun and variety that a game has to offer. The idea here is to get a player genuinely excited to own the game. Some good examples of this are the Prey and Lost Planet demos, which allowed players to experience several levels, play online, and gave them access to lots of cool weapons. The other way to make a trial game is to give players a very narrow view of the overall game, hoping that players will buy the full version just to see what they are missing. Unfortunately, this method can backfire and make players assume that the entire game is limited and not enjoyable. Such is the case with Stainless Games' latest Arcade offering, Novadrome.

There might be a fun game in Novadrome, but we'll never know, because the trial version did very little to whet our appetite. Novadrome has over 20 vehicles to choose from, but the trial version gives you access to only two vehicles that aren't very different from each other. There are several weapons to obtain in the game as well, but the trial version gives access to one -- and only one -- of the most boring weapons ever devised. Just hold the fire button down ... yawn. If that doesn't sell it for you, why not have fun poking around on the entire three arenas the trial version affords you.

The gameplay seems a little chaotic, and not in a good way. There's simply too much stuff going on at once, and it doesn't feel very cohesive. The cars are small, and so are the power-ups. This makes power-ups easy to miss, and forces players to turn around for a second pass, wasting time to do so. The controls don't make this any easier either. Powersliding is relegated to a button for some reason, rather than being a function of braking during a turn. It's disconcerting when all you want to do is turn around quickly -- especially when you're being tailed.

Honestly, with more weapons, vehicles, and tracks, Novadrome might be passable. But as it stands, we're left with 8 cars chasing each other and all using the same boring weapon (imagine Street Fighter, only every character has exactly the same moves). It's very possible that the faults we see in the trial version could be overlooked with the addition of some variety. Unfortunately, based on the trial version alone, Novadrome is impossible to recommend, especially for 800 points. There just isn't enough content here to make a valid assessment, and so the only assessment we're left with is that Novadrome just isn't worth it.

Let this be a lesson to Arcade developers (and publishers) on how not to build a trial game.

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