TouchArcade Game of the Week: ‘Nauticrawl’

You know, picking just one game for our Game of the Week is always a tough task, but this week saw an unusually high number of really cool releases, which included an unusually high number of paid premium games. I really feel like I could have gone in a number of different directions this week, but in the end it was Nauticrawl from developer Spare Parts Oasis and publisher Armor Games Studio that really struck me as a unique type of game and a really great fit for mobile. The game originally launched on PC back in 2019, and a remake of sorts titled A Rogue Escape released earlier this year as a VR title, which feels like the ultimate realization of the game’s premise. However, I think a little touchscreen and a good pair of headphones is a pretty close second when it comes to the ideal way to enjoy Nauticrawl’s unique formula.

So what exactly is that unique formula? Well the premise is that you’re an escaped prisoner in some sort of future hellscape on a planet with an uninhabitable atmosphere. You try to make your grand escape by hopping into one of the totalitarian government’s massive metal vehicles called a Nauticrawl. The problem is, once you’re inside, you find yourself staring at a huge dashboard filled with monitors, buttons, dials, and levers, and you realize you have absolutely no idea what any of them do. If you don’t figure it out, and figure it out fast, you’re a sitting duck for those who are trying to hunt you down following your escape. In fact “escape" is the perfect word here as this portion of Nauticrawl is very similar to an escape room game. Pressing buttons, moving levers, and generally poking and prodding at every little thing you see in order to see what it does and try to understand how it works, all in an effort to get the huge hunk of junk to move.

However, once you do sort of learn your way around the Nauticrawl, things get even more interesting from there. There are numerous systems to keep track of to keep the thing running safely, and if you fail to manage these properly there will be deadly results. In addition there are elements of a roguelike dungeon crawler in Nauticrawl. Yes, really. Once you learn how to move you’ll explore the map looking for ways to continue advancing forward, all while strategically using any and all resources you come across. And just like my favorite types of roguelikes, death can come suddenly in Nauticrawl, but with each failed attempt you learn a little something that will help you get even further when you inevitably try again. It also helps that there’s some excellent lore uncovered while you play, and I found myself anxious to hop right into another run after a failed attempt just to learn more about this fascinating world.

It’s likely not to everybody’s tastes, but if anything I’ve just described sounds like the types of things you enjoy in a video game, Nauticrawl should be right up your alley. It’s familiar elements of various genres mashed together in a unique way and with a tremendous sense of atmosphere. You could see now why the VR version is probably the way it was meant to be played, but I do find the direct contact you have through the touchscreen with all of the dashboard’s gizmos a wonderful way to interact with the game. My biggest complaint is that Nauticrawl on iOS runs my device very hot, so hopefully that’s something that can be addressed. Other than that though I’m loving everything about exploring every inch of this world. Nauticrawl is extremely difficult, extremely opaque, and doesn’t hold your hand in the slightest, but offers major satisfaction for those willing to spend the time to learn its intricacies.

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