Review: Super 3-D Noah’s Ark

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As a species we’ve landed on the moon and split the atom, but we still struggle with making good edutainment games. Even our classics in the genre like Oregon Trail and Encarta MindMaze had their flaws, leaving us with no truly great educational games. Now, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that Super 3-D Noah’s Ark is that game, or that it’s even a great game. But it’s plenty fun, and the way it manages to be fun deserves some recognition in how endearingly off-kilter it is.

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So the Lord did his flood thing and Noah is cruising around on his spacious ark when all of a sudden the critters start getting rowdy. You’re six days out from the waters receding so you’ve got to calm the animals before they get biblical on your ass and that means force-feeding them until they pass out. Luckily Noah has all sorts of tools to help him do that, from souped-up slingshots to watermelon launchers. There’s a whole mess of secrets to find in each level of the sprawling ark as well if you want to score some extra fruit.

The way this actually plays out is what’s so great about S3DNA. This is a first-person shooter, practically a re-skin of the original Wolfenstein 3D. That means perfectly flat, gridded maps, 2D enemies and items, and mostly hitscan combat. You run around shooting enemies to put them down and reach the exit, except as it’s posed here you’re slingshotting animal feed into faces until they happily fall asleep. There’s a fair bit of exploring too, to turn up new wep-er, feeding tools, health and ammo, and other secrets. And for the edutainment angle, there are items that quiz you on bible facts like the length of the ark in cubits and how many sons Noah had and reward you with health and ammo for getting them right.

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I know this sounds like a cute family title but the action is 100% classic FPS. It’s got a super weird feel to it (especially if you’ve ever played Wolf3D) because the combat is actually intense, requiring you to snipe from corners and strafe through danger. Your feeding tools behave exactly like guns, with varying attack speeds and a weird spread to shots that lets you one-shot one enemy and then miss six point-blank shots on the next. The hitscan attacks are probably the biggest reason the game feels so weird, because there are literally no visual effects for your attacks. Every time you fire your slingshot, nothing actually happens. There’s no projectile, no impact, and no reaction from enemies when they get hit. The only way you know you hit is when they fall asleep and on bigger enemies that can take dozens of invisible hits.

The same is true for the sheep and camels that spit invisible loogies at you, which can make it very challenging to avoid damage or even realize how much you’re taking. And that’s what’s really remarkable about this title, that a family friendly bible game is actually really hard. You can certainly play on easy or super easy if you want to get through it but normal is going to have the good Lord’s flock kicking your ass all over the boat. There are six chapters, each ending with a boss that will machine-gun spit you to death unless you snipe it around corners. Noah also has limited lives that earn him a full game over when they run out, but just losing one restarts the map with all of your accumulated weapons and items gone.

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I’m not sure how many people are looking for a new coat of paint on their 20-year-old FPSes, but for anyone that is Super 3-D Noah’s Ark is a fun and surprisingly challenging spin on a classic genre. There are around 30 levels chock full of enemies and secrets (and even secret levels!) so getting through the game once even on easy is going to take an hour or more. Playing on normal or (God forbid) hard is going to extend that playtime significantly as you get burned down by agitated ostriches. The only other warning I’ll give is that if you’ve never played an old old FPS like Wolfenstein and you’re susceptible to motion sickness, the weird way the flat ceilings and walls move might trigger it. Because of that I can only play it for 10 or 15 minutes at a time, but I’m still having fun sedating livestock with watermelons to the dome. Now we just need a Wolfenstein: The New Order style revival for this, because as far as I’m concerned it’s just as deserving.

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