“Your ship has run out of fuel. Your only chance for survival lies within an abandoned space station…” This is the premise of MTMB Studios’ delightfully retro and completely free Null Divide+. A top-down shooter distinctly inspired by classic NES games, this simple quest for fuel is short but surprisingly enjoyable.
The aforementioned deserted space station is, naturally, not empty at all. Mysterious alien machines lurk throughout the hallways, actively impeding your innocent search for fuel. Five missions await you, each one requiring the tracking down of keys to open a variety of doors and, as tradition dictates, the end of a level ultimately leads you to a boss battle. Defeating each of these various super-machines results in the acquisition of new co-ordinates for you to explore.
The formula is elementary, but refreshingly effective in its execution. At first, the controls are simple as you tentatively direct the ship around with no weapon to combat enemies. Thankfully, progressing through the missions and exploring every route available leads the player to find various upgrades.
These provide the once humble starfighter with greater offensive, defensive, and strategic abilities. This renders the controls more complex as you struggle to manage the broadening array of tools at your disposal. Attempting to dodge incoming attacks and retaliating as the number of threats grow soon becomes a difficult task. Given the lack of an intricate story line, the evolving shape of the difficulty curve is welcomed.
The ever-tantalising view of seemingly unreachable destinations lying beyond sometimes damage-inflicting barriers is a frustrating tease. The aim of this, however, is to encourage the player to return to previous areas later with advanced gadgets in tow.
Traipsing backwards to triumphantly move past obstacles is repetitive, but rewarding, as hidden artefacts and further nifty upgrades are waiting to be discovered. Unfortunately, this is the extent of any sort of development.
Of course, the lack of an enthralling storyline will repel some, but others will openly indulge in the mindless fun of shooting enemies, hunting down items, and navigating the expanding game world.
The minimalistic graphics are archetypal NES aesthetics, though the vivid colours and sharp quality lend a modern touch. Even the use of old-school fonts is reminiscent of vintage 80s games.
The infectious synth of the chiptune soundtrack ties the whole package together neatly. The constant stream of endearing tunes is so reminiscent of soundtracks gone by that any sentimentalist, or committed hipster, will no doubt get the sudden urge to root through their old cartridges and further indulge in the kind of nostalgic atmosphere that Null Divide+ does so well to invoke.