Review: Nova Drift

Nova Drift is Jeffrey Nielson’s neon-tinged daydream as to what the genre of asteroid shooters can be in the enlightened age of opportunity. If you were to ask me what I feel defines the asteroid shooter genre — please, don’t all ask at once! I would tell you that I regard it as the quintessential arcade activity. The goal always seems to be to get you to pump your quarters or more recently, your free time into space simulations where control is minimal, but the gameplay is finely tuned to ensure that you’re having a good time

Where Nova Drift is at it’s best is the RPG-like upgrade system. It’s not hard to understand, per se, but it gives the game that always-be-pumping-quarters-in feeling. There’s a multitude of upgrades that are randomly rolled for selection each time you level up. They will always impact your weapons capability, your shield or your ship’s health. Nova Drift’s current delight comes from its fast-paced matches. Arcade games are all about giving it another go, and another, and maybe another five after that. And randomly rolled skills means that there’s a new playstyle for every new playthrough. I’m certain that you’ll find yourself enjoying hours of getting in a groove and building your best battleship.


During my most successful playthrough, I prioritized my upgrades to focus on my health and shield. For a few levels, it was hard to take out much with my medium-range tri-shot. But then I rolled “Rampage,” which further helped me with my shield and health, but also stipulates that I must always be using the boost. Any sense of control was gone right away, but I believe that balancing out of speed and defence aided success. I had all the bullet-sponging of a tank with the speed of the best berserker.


Telling of his very obvious work, Neilson maintains a very organized and detailed development blog. I certainly don’t want to speak negatively about one person’s work on a beta. But one thing I would like to see is changes to the game’s sound direction. There is currently only one in-game track, and it doesn’t feel like it adds to the groove I find myself in while playing this game. I am finding that I tune the music out while I’m running through the stars. The BPM does pick up, and between the beeps and bloops of enemies do help me get into the mood, but I’d love to hear enemies introduce themselves with more sounds. I’d love for music to shift further as I speed up, slow down, find myself outnumbered, and lastly when I have a showdown with a boss.


Nova Drift is very much a game that’s still in early access. But there’s clearly a brilliant game developer and community keeping it blasting off ever forward. It’s available over on Steam.

And it is well worth the current price if you’re looking for an arcade title that is a great option for chilling out and relaxing. True to arcade-style games, this is one that will keep you pumping in time to try and get a higher score. What’s playable right now is still only a fraction of the overall games, and it seems like Nova Drift is in shipshape.