There is a famous novel by Isaac Asimov entitled Fantastic Voyage, from which was drawn a huge number of screenplays, including Joe Dante's Innerspace. Even The Simpsons made a Halloween episode about it, while Seth McFarlane took inspiration from it to send Stewie Griffin in his father's gonads.
Neither is the world of video games new to this type of narrative. Games like MicroBot or Nucleus enacted the journey into the human body. Even the old Dr. Mario puzzler is a take on the epidemic control.
Nano Assault EX, therefore, is not a very original game. But the idea has been well crafted on the Nintendo 3DS. We control a spaceship that has to clean up some cells infected with bacteria and viruses by zapping them with a laser beam.
We're in dual-stick three-dimensional shooter territory, set almost exclusively on the circular surface of cells. In some ways Nano Assault EX reminds of Super Stardust and the planetoids in Super
Mario Galaxy: it takes just a few seconds to make a complete revolution around them, and just a few minutes to explore their entire surface.
The cells are of different shapes, and are home to all kinds of enemies. There are small viruses that can be annihilated with one or two shots, more resistant flagellate bacteria, large parasites and, finally, huge monsters more similar to the bosses of a science fiction game than to an actual pathogen.
The enemies, on the whole, do not look realistic. The cells, on the contrary, look like 3D scans from an electron microscope. The effect is really impressive, especially after activating the handheld's 3D slider.
The game is divided between Arcade mode -fighting for highscores - and a Story mode. The latter must be played in its entirety in order to unlock all the game's levels, and is characterised by an increasingly challenging difficulty.
The cells are divided into groups, and at the end of each group there is a climatic connection level. In these , the game becomes totally different, changing from being a top-down 3D shooter to a classic Star Fox-like three-dimensional shooter. Our ship travels through the synaptic cleft, fighting monsters that are directed toward us, and the difficulty increases significantly compared to the other levels. At the end of the level there is a final boss, who we have to beat through three different states.
It is worth recapping that, except for these connection levels, the game is a dual-stick shooter. In short, in order to play one moves the ship with the left stick and controls the direction of the shot... with the right stick. That's right: to play Nano Assault EX it's advisable to own a Circle Pad Pro, an accessory that makes the experience infinitely better, although its absence does not prevent you from playing.
Without the Circle Pad Pro, in fact, the direction of the shot is assigned to the face buttons. Unfortunately, the buttons do not allow a precise firing at 360 degrees, but only at intervals of 45 degrees. Consequently, the game without this accessory increases in difficulty - almost exponentially.
During combat you collect bonuses that increase the number of lives, while in Arcade Mode you can get coins to unlock the soundtrack and other extras. In Story Mode, however, you unlock secondary weapons, which allow very powerful shots that turn out to be extremely useful in boss battles.
Nano Assault EX is a very fun game, with attractive graphics and gameplay that's built to be played several times. Unfortunately, without the Slide Pad Pro, the game loses its value. But if you already own the controversial accessory for Nintendo 3DS, the game is definitely recommended.