Review: Nom Nation
Throughout my lifetime I’ve managed to come across many different forms of educational games or ‘edutainment’ and I’m often left shaking my head. I’ll fully admit that I spent hours playing games like Math Blaster when I was growing up but even that wasn’t because it was fun. I just would have much rather spent time on Math Blaster than actually writing out math problems on paper. The same tends to go for most other educational games. It’s always in your face and hardly ever fun. I spent about two and a half years working for a non-profit in which we, on a few occasions, played host to companies trying to pitch us on their “Edutainment Program” that we should purchase for the kids to learn and have fun at the same time. These were ‘games’ developed by people that didn’t have the first clue about game design. I say all of this because when I tell you that Nom Nation, despite being completely educational and packed with nutritional information, is unlike any educational game I’ve ever seen and by far the best demonstration of what’s possible for games like it.
Nom Nation is targeted at teens with the goal of teaching how different types of food effect your body. It never feels like it’s “preaching” good health or anything of that sort. Nom Nation instead presents a creative, unique and challenging platformer that is a blast to play.
The world is in a bad place now that Jabber the Gut, head of the McFattass Corporation, has stolen the Holy Book of Nom. Within this book lies nutritional facts that the Noms worship and live by in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle. It’s up to you, the last Chef, to find the lost ten pages of the Book of Nom and defeat Jabber the Gut. The gameplay itself is mostly simple. You’ll go through ten levels (five different worlds) collecting grain, eating noms, and platforming until you find each lost page. Where Nom Nation sets itself apart is that it finds a way to combine its educational aspect with some really cool gameplay mechanics that just flat out works. It also helps that the game has a great art style (which includes some really great animations) and a really great soundtrack.
Food in the game is represented by ‘noms’. As you go through each stage you’ll run across noms all over the place. The tutorial serves as the games way to lay the foundation for food groups while also explaining how each food effects your body. The way this works into gameplay is through virtue of specific noms giving you special powers. For instance eating a spinach nom will give you super strength and enable you to break through barriers while eating beans will give allow you to boost yourself into the air through the power of farting. Eating something sweet or drinking coffee will give you a sugar rush which allows you to run faster and jump farther while also blurring the screen. Eating fatty foods will make your character incredibly fat and much slower than normal and exercising (dancing in front of a boom box) will make you extra skinny. (Oddly enough petting a kitten will also make you super skinny as well.) But it doesn’t stop there. While you can only fit two noms in your stomach at once you’re given the ability to combine the powers of each nom to create other abilities. Combining a nom that gives you super strength with a nom that gives you bad gas will allow you to create fart bombs. Alternatively eating two noms that give you extra strength will send you into a blind rage. Lastly two many sweets will leave you feeling nauseous and vomiting all over the place.
Gaining powers from the different noms is great on its own but the last two major parts of how Nom Nation works really pulls everything together. The HUD shows a few different things that you’ll want to take note of as you play the game. The stomach shows which noms you’re currently digesting, the heart display shows the condition of your heart and the Vitality meter at the bottom shows what Vitamins you’re getting in your nom diet. As you eat noms the game warns you that some noms will have a bad effect on your heart and that you should be careful not to consume too much of those types of food. Doing so damages your heart and, if things get real bad, you will suffer a heart attack and immediately drop dead. On the opposite end of the spectrum is the Vitality meter. If you get all the recommended Vitamins you become shielded and it’s much harder for enemies to take you down.
Outside of the main levels is the Nom Temple. Within the temple you can view which noms you’ve discovered as well as what trophies you’ve earned. There are four hidden rooms that you can unlock in the temple but they simply lead to another area that allows you to play around with specific nom powers.
There are however a couple things to address as Nom Nation does have some, albeit minor, issues. I noticed that on a few rare occasions the game had some issues with hit detection that sometimes resulted in me taking damage. They were rare occurrences and never took away from the experience. Second is that in some instances it would be difficult to see where I needed to jump as the next platform would be out of sight. Again this was typically a rare occurrence but noticeable when it did happen. The worst thing I can even think about when it comes to Nom Nation is that it will not be available in the US region. (There’s apparently a browser and iOS version on the way however.) Though to be honest it’s probably a testament to how good the game is that I’m so bummed out it won’t be coming out here.
I can’t think of the last time I’ve been legitimately excited about a game in the same way that I’ve been excitedly telling friends about Nom Nation. Heck, I loved nearly every second I spent with it. The fact that this could be something used to teach kids about healthy diets just made the whole thing that much sweeter. It sucks that this won’t be coming to any other region because this just isn’t going to get the attention that it so rightfully deserves. That said if you’re able to pick up Nom Nation I can’t recommend it enough. This is one of the best that Minis have to offer.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation Portable version of the game.
What I Like:
- Educational gaming done right.
- Great art style and animations
- Awesome soundtrack
- Gliding through the air with the power of farts.
- Petting kittens to get skinny
What I Dislike:
- Only available in a few regions
- Rare collision detection issues