REVIEW: Nanoquest (PC)
[Editor’s Note: Due to incomplete backups of RFSHQ’s content, this article contains media that is missing from its TwilightFoundry.com republication.]
Can Do Interactive / Fable Multimedia
Games created for educational purposes are a common occurrence and a cheap ploy to get students to “learn” the school’s curriculum. Games that revolve around adding, subtracting, reading, and other basic school principles are frequently put into production, but NanoQuest stands out as a game that attempts to teach players a little bit about nanotechnology and other scientific fields of study. NanoQuest is thinly veiled under the selling point of “aimed at the Playstation generation”, which is believable because the game looks and plays like an unlicensed (and rejected) Playstation One title.
As you are introduced into the world of NanoQuest (Ireland) you are greeted by Professor D’Arcy who apparently loves to help mankind but hates pudding at the same time. Joining her are our two completely inept “heroes”, Jack and Orla, one of whom is thrilled to be using the Atomic Force Microscope, and the other whose facial expressions hint they couldn’t give a shit either way. After some dialogue about the quantum shrinking device you can choose your player who opts to stay behind when Professor D’Arcy offers coffee. Just like in every science fiction movie ever, your character is a complete idiot and ignores everything the Professor said about the shrinking machine and walks into the chamber to have a look around. Your character is oblivious to the fact that the antagonist Doctor Jurgen O’Kelly (who tortures small animals *gasp*)has other plans which involve taking digital pictures of papers and locking you in the shrinking chamber (and subsequently shrinking you down to “nanosize”, which I can only assume is the new increment in french fry size on the McDonald’s menu).
Nobody seems to mention why Doctor O’Kelly wants to shrink things, possibly to compensate for something, but other than that no evidence or plot is provided. O’Kelly either really fucking hates you; or you just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time when O’Kelly planned on dicking around with the quantum scaling machine. Either way, once your character enters the realm of shitty Windows desktops you are greeted by the “nanoworld”; it’s just like this world except, as the game’s tagline mentions, really small. In today’s “Playstation generation” obviously the first thing to do when shrunk is use your cell phone to call your friends and take pictures for them to put on MySpace, which is exactly what happens. The cinematics end once you enter this new world full of rainbow colors and hamster balls intent on killing you, and you are finally given control of your player.
Your mission is to collect pieces to build a “nanocar” and send them to your partner so he can build it for you. I’m beginning to assume that “nano” is the new “cool Internet prefix” like “i” and “e-“. If the game wasn’t already unfolding to be a monstrous piece of edu-crap it will be the second you try to move. Instead of keeping up with the animation your character simply glides along and gradually builds up speed. Trying to jump from platform to platform will prove difficult as you can perform two jumps: a crappy short jump that essentially moves you nowhere, or an exact duplicate of the Six Million Dollar Man jump that will send you hurtling through nanoworld. If for some reason you decide to fall off the level you won’t die, you just get thirty seconds added onto your total time as a penalty. That’s right; you can’t kill yourself even if you tried. Throughout the entire game you’re plagued by techno music loops that resemble remixes of music you hear in department stores. Once you collect your “buckyballs” and “nanowires” the level is over and you get to play as the other character in the “educational” part of the game – walking through the laboratory passing up a plethora of stupid “nanofacts” and even an entire museum full of, you guessed it, more nanofacts. When you get to the lab you enter the next level which lays out everything onto the Atomic Force Microscope. I don’t know how accurate this game is but since it’s educational I’m hoping for the best. According to NanoQuest, the atomic microscope is made up of entirely the same hexagonal crap as the nanoworld environment, and the needle that moves parts around is a GIANT TRANSPARENT PYRAMID which ends up getting in your way.
Once the car parts have been pushed into their defined places on the pattern you switch characters and get to drive the junker you just assembled without any form of propulsion whatsoever. They managed to include a clearly visible safety harness, but no engine. If this game is so educational how the fuck are you able to drive a car on a flat surface without any force? I suppose those questions are going to be answered in the follow-up hit game “InternalCombustionEngineQuest – It’s a loud world”. Driving the car is insanely hard as you will slide all over the place and be chased by more possessed hamster balls. Periodically trains will drive by and shake the environment. They never mention what a “train” is, but I can only assume they mean “steam engine”, and if so, why the hell am I not riding that to the warp?
Once you race to the finish you are supposedly “out” of nanoworld and you begin to grow to normal size. However nobody seems to notice that O’Kelly is still in the room fucking with everything so he walks up to the 6-way power strip and literally unplugs the shrink machine. A giant chamber capable of changing the physical properties of matter is also capable of running off of 110 volts of AC current and can simply be unplugged effectively trashing your plans of returning to normality. This brings us to the final level, inside the computer which is now overheating thanks to O’Kelly’s fetish for completely shitting on your life. Parts of the supercomputer overheat themselves over and over again, so I can only assume that at the core of this quantum scaling machine lays an Xbox 360. To restore working order you have to jump around and collect power cubes cleverly disguised as children’s blocks. You’ll incur many time penalties thanks to the wonderful jumping physics, and when you finally do make the jumps you will be demolished by sliding color bars of death, laser beams, and of course pathways that resemble penises.
Collecting all of the power cubes will fix the computer and let you finally return to your normal size and also grants your character the ability to be unintentionally seductive. I had a picture here at one point, but I lost it. When all’s said and done the cutscene moves to Doctor O’Kelly who is seen standing in the middle of nowhere surrounded by darkness. A car pulls up and there is a quick exchange of briefcases and hand shakes. Yes, some shady crime lord paid Doctor O’Kelly a huge sum of money to unplug one machine while hiding in the corner. It’s a small world indeed.
Dracophile’s Final Words:
Graphics: Created to please kids who grew up in the era of the Playstation, Can Do Interactive and Fable Multimedia did a great job completely missing the target and creating what appears to be an environment made entirely out of code from Atari Jaguar diagnostic cartridges.
Controls: NanoQuest‘s controls would be great if the game was reworked into “JumpThroughFieldsQuest” but unfortunately it isn’t and the level design demands tight controls which sadly are just not present. Thanks to a combination of moon gravity and superhuman strength you will spend a lot of time overshooting your jumps.
Music: NanoQuest tries too hard to match the feel of that space-age genre of techno music seen in many space shooter and adventure games. What the developers came up with instead was a choice selection of the most uninspired music ever displayed in a PC video game.
Replay Value: At one point in time the developers offered a trip to Paris to the person who could get the highest score possible in NanoQuest as well as in an attempt to phase out the use of the “i” prefix iPod Nanos (irony alert) were given away as prizes too. If you have to offer lavish gifts to get someone to play your game, then you failed at making it fun.
Overall: NanoQuest gets credit for attempting to appeal to science teachers, but aside from the museum “level” this game has no educational value unless you’re supposed to be teaching either patience or how not to design a game. Come to think of it, this entire production is comparable to the demos seen in commercials for Devry University’s game design class.