A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Nuclear Throne is a grisly downloadable dungeon-crawling or "roguelike" shooter. It focuses on mutants duking it out in a postapocalyptic landscape across a series of diverse, randomly generated set pieces. It's designed to look and feel like a game from the 1990s, an era when challenge was emphasized over realistic graphics or Hollywood-style storytelling. In line with games from that era, the game is cartoonishly violent and very challenging. Players will see lots of red and green blood along with mangled remains and will hear death cries from enemies. Corpses also can be used as explosive projectiles, but the impact of the violence is limited because of the cartoonish visuals. Nuclear Throne also is still in Early Access on Steam, meaning more content is being developed and rolled out to the consumer version; it's an evolving product and not yet fully finished.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's it about?
In NUCLEAR THRONE, players choose from one of a handful of character classes; blast enemies such as giant rats, maggots, shotgun-wielding ravens, and cowboy-hat-wearing robots; and do it again on the next level. The emphasis here is on strategically advancing through each stage by utilizing each character class's unique abilities (for example, the rogue can unleash a rolling wave of explosions but must deal with an interdimensional police force chasing her). As you play, you can "cash in" radiation to enhance your stats. Nuclear Throne is about army-crawling to survival, further enhancing your character, and winning firefights to sit on the titular chair.
Is it any good?
Younger players may not connect with Nuclear Throne's dated visuals, but the difficulty assures anyone a well-earned sense of accomplishment after advancing to the next level. What seems like "another" retro-style game is actually a title with plenty of nuance and strategy -- especially when you notice the game adapts to your experimentation. For instance, if you scoop up every power-up, you'll be thrown tougher enemies at a more unrelenting clip. This gets even thornier -- in a good way! -- when you factor in the dozen mutants you can play as. Some are far more difficult to unlock than others, but they all have considerable trade-offs and perks. For example, Melting starts with a max of two hit points but gains far more experience with every kill.
As the variety of playable characters implies, there's lots of ways to die in this game. It’s all very cartoony, making the explosions, violence, and spraying bullets (or slashing swords) more funny than shocking. It’s gory but nowhere near as brutal as a shooter and certainly no worse than your average mayhem-filled episode of Looney Tunes. Regardless, it's a race to accumulate buffs between stages after collecting enough experience, balancing your play style against your character's inherent strengths and weaknesses. It all adds up to making running and gunning not only exciting but also thought-provoking. A rare balance and a true achievement.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the difference between real-world violence and cartoon violence. Does a game all about shooting influence your behavior or feelings about violence in the real world? Do you think cartoonish violence is as dangerous as realistic violence?
Talk about Nuclear Throne's graphics. Why would a company or players want a game that intentionally doesn't strive for realism?
Discuss the idea of being a marginalized member of society. Though the outcast-mutant premise seems far-fetched, what elements that resemble reality does Nuclear Throne have?
Talk about the need to improvise strategy as a mode of critical thinking in a game. Are there ways these newly created tactics can be carried into day-to-day life?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.