Vostok Inc. Nintendo Switch Review

Developer: Nosebleed Interactive

Publisher: Wired Productions

Release Date: December 7th

Price as of Article: $14.99, £8.99

Story

It is a big universe.  There are many planets out there.  Wouldn’t it be a shame for all those resources to go to waste when there is all of that sweet, sweet moolah just waiting to be raked in?  Never fear, for Vostok Inc. is here to ensure that every planet can become part of an all-encompassing money-making enterprise!

You have assumed the role of the newly appointed CEO of Vostok Inc.: a company which has taken its financial interests to the galactic level.  You are a very hands on CEO.  You lead the charge by taking a small spaceship with a never-ending supply of firearms to explore the galaxy landing on planets to colonize them.  Never mind the hardships and toils of the people you are leaving on the planet to work, and even if you build something for them, it is only to exploit them.

Throughout your journey, you will always have your trusty consultant, Jimmy giving you encouragement throughout frequent phone calls.  He is full of humorous little quips referencing other games such as Duke Nukem and Metal Gear Solid.  There is even a reference to the underpants gnomes episode of South Park.  He will eventually start repeating his jokes over and over again.  Once this becomes a pattern and you tire of it, you can block Jimmy’s calls from the menu.

Vostok Inc. South Park Underpants Gnomes reference

 

The story is told entirely from Jimmy’s perspective as you are a silent protagonist.  Every time that an enemy approaches you, Jimmy is always at the ready to communicate with them with an ever-present grin.  It doesn’t matter how intimidating the opponent.  Jimmy’s confidence in Vostok’s new CEO and his love of moolah pushes him to bravely face down any opponent with his unceasingly witty words.  He will stop at nothing to colonize every planet imaginable whether you are facing down cute animals with an apparent fascination with death, a space-age mafia or some aliens with large brains who are convinced that homo-sapiens are little more than pets or babies stumbling around the universe.

Vostok Inc. baby speak

 

The story in Vostok Inc. isn’t deep, but you will hear many of these little interactions between Jimmy and other characters.  It is mostly there to serve as padding for the gameplay.  You will see many humorous little descriptions below the facilities you can build on the planets which shows the uncaring nature of major corporations in an ironic way, but it comes off as the devs using this game as a platform to make their political statements on the affairs of the world, capitalism and man’s over consumption of Earth’s natural resources.  This game ends up feeling like a criticism of modern corporations when you begin to analyze it.  It’s fine that they do so as this is precisely why we have the freedom of speech.  However, I do have to wonder if it is really necessary to push these views in a game such as this.  It comes off as satire and is presented humorously though, so I didn’t mind seeing it here too much.

 

Vostok Inc. Hydrocarbon Generation

Who cares about acid rain and O-zone? Certainly not Vostok Inc.!

Audio

The music is all done via synthesized sound effects.  Most of the songs maintain a quick beat that certainly suits this sort of shoot ’em up genre of game.  The electronic-style sountrack is perfect for flying around in your space ship while shooting down enemy aircraft and blowing up meteors.  It is the type that you can move your head to and it loops very well, but after a while you just stop paying much attention to it while you are focusing on surviving.

Having said that, the soundtrack for the third stage is infuriatingly upbeat.  The song and the stage as a whole feel almost out of place with the rest of the game.  It isn’t bad, but it does feel a little odd when set next to the rest of the levels.  Then again, it is also good to have a little bit of a change of pace every once in a while.  There are limits, though.

If you want to listen to the songs anytime you want, this can be done from the menu in the synthesizer lab.  Here, you are able to select any one of the 9 songs, break them down piece by piece removing parts such as the drums, keyboards or other parts of the audio to find the balance you like.  However, the problem is that once you leave the synth lab, the song stops playing.  That is a real shame considering it would have been great to be able to play your favorite songs on any stage while tweaking them to your liking.

There is no voice acting in Vostok Inc., but when the characters speak, there is a garbled noise.  It isn’t anything special, but it certainly fits the lighthearted atmosphere and tongue-in-cheek storytelling found within this game.

Visuals and Performance

The visual in Vostok Inc. are crisp and clean.  The reds, blues and greens of the mobs, your ship and the planets pop out well when set on the dark background of space and the stars.  The menus are well designed and easy to follow as well.  However, one thing I noticed was that your ship’s information such as its remaining health and energy could sometimes obstruct my view of the ship while trying to dodge enemies.  It would have been nice to be able to set transparency to this in order to avoid that issue.

There are many different kinds of enemies to be discovered in this game.  While the mechanics of several of these MOBS are copied over to later stages, all of their designs are different which is always appreciated.  Not many simple recolors to be found here.

There are over 40 planets to be discovered across six solar systems, but you will not be able to see much of them aside from their profile as seen from space or their atmosphere in the facilities screen when you land on them.  Unfortunately, there is no way to explore the planets.  It would have been nice to get to land on them and see what they are like but it is understandable that you are unable to do this in a budget indie title.  There isn’t much depth to these planets in the end though.  None of them have unique facilities that can be built and there isn’t any information on them such as their compositions, weather or even a page with a description of the planets.  They are just kind of there.

Mercury in Vostok Inc.

You will find new planets in Vostok Inc. but there are familiar ones to be found as well.

I didn’t encounter any real problems while playing Vostok Inc.  It seemed to be a nice and stable little game.  There were a few small frame stutters I encountered here or there, but they were very far and few between.

The game makes nice use of HD rumble.  It is especially noticeable when destroying objects or when you are boosting.  However, later on in the game, the system will almost always be vibrating, so it is nice that they included an option to turn off the rumble if you get tired of it.

This is a game with a ton of resource management, so it would have been very nice to have some touchscreen controls for the menu.  Unfortunately, this game doesn’t support the touchscreen in any way.

Gameplay

If you enjoyed old-school shoot ’em ups, you will find yourself right at home with Vostok Inc.  It is a very enjoyable game where you will fly your ship around a 2D space exploring 6 solar systems.  You will constantly find yourself under fire as enemy ships very frequently and randomly spawn all around you.  This certainly helps to keep flying around engaging and fun.

You engage enemies in combat by flying around with the left stick and aiming/firing your blaster with the right stick.  Be careful to not let your energy drop to below zero as you will start to take damage to your health once it does.  Your energy replenishes automatically when it is not in use though, so if you start to take damage, you can boost out of the way using ZR to recover.  Be aware that boosting also uses your energy as well, so you will need manage this carefully when you are in a tight situation.

Upon defeating enemies, they drop the currency of this universe: the all-powerful moolah.  And you will need boatloads of the stuff as you progress through the game.  You will initially start with nothing at all, and it will be dropped in small quantities.  However, as you land on planets to build facilities and kill enemies, you will level up.  Leveling up makes enemies more difficult, but they will also drop a significantly more moolah.

Occasionally, enemy scouts will appear.  You will have a few seconds to kill them.  If you fail to do so, then a locked screen battle will start.  During this time, you will be unable to flee and many enemies will begin to appear.  There will even be some familiar enemies that will follow new patterns for the locked screen battle.  These can be rather difficult, so you will need to be careful once it starts.  If you make it through the battle, you will be rewarded with a large sum of money.  However, if you die, it isn’t quite over yet.  The battle will end and you will appear in your escape pod.  You will need to be extra careful after this happens.  The screen will zoom in on your pod giving you less of a field of view and your pod has a very small amount of HP.  Taking a couple of hits will result in your pod being destroyed and you will lose half of your moolah.  Once you are in your pod, you will need to immediately head back to the mothership to repair your ship.

You can land on the mothership in each solar system to level your ship up.  You are able to enhance various aspects of your ship such as its energy, health, boost speed and energy recovery speed.  I found that energy recovery proved to be one of the most important features to boost since that will help you recover quickly when you are surrounded by powerful foes.

Another page allows you to enhance your radar in various ways.  You will find out rather quickly that simply trying to find planets while following their orbital lines takes a ridiculous amount of time.  However, if you buy the radar upgrade that makes planets you select from the menu appear on your radar and then the upgrade which shows the distance, you will be able to fly directly between them with no problem.

The last page on the mothership allows you to upgrade your weapons systems.  You will initially start out with a basic machine gun.  You can upgrade it periodically, or you can cycle through the first selection to buy two other weapons: a laser or homing missiles.  Then, below that are two rows where you can buy the same weapons.  By activating them at the same time, their effects combine to create interesting new abilities.  For example, combining the machine gun and the laser, you will end up with a weapon that shoots lasers which reflect off the sides of the screen.  Combining the laser and two machine guns results in a lightning attack.  The weirdest one I found was having the laser, the homing missiles and the machine gun put together.  I will let you find out for yourself what that results in when you play.  Let’s just say that it is downright silly.

Weapon upgrade screen in Vostok Inc.

This may not be fancy, but it ended up being my go-to weapon in this game.

 

The most reliable way to rake in the moolah for this game is to land on planets and colonize them.  You will start out by building mines that cost M507 while only bringing in 0.1 moolah per second.  I’ll abbreviate that as 0.1 MPS from here on for simplicity’s sake.  You will be building facilities such as the Media Corporation which costs M15.227 Quintillion for the first one but initially yields 90.000 trillion MPS.  As you go, you can buy upgrades for each facility which increases its production incrementally, and some of the upgrades increase your productive capabilities based on the number other specific facilities you have constructed.  For example, your liquid processors become a little more productive for each mine you build if you buy the Happy Powder upgrade for the processor.  There are an incredible number of facilities and upgrades you will be able to purchase and you can go back to any previous solar system to upgrade facilities and build new ones on any planet you had already visited.

Colonized planets will constantly generate income for you, and you will need to return to planets in order to collect the money.  You can turn on an ATM satellite which will automatically transfer any money generated to you without you needing to return to the planet.  It may not be wise to use this option too much at the start of the game because you will lose half of your money if you die.  Once you are comfortable with the game and can confidently go about your business in the solar systems, then it could be very beneficial to keep a constant flow of money from ATMs on every planet since it can help you to quickly build as many facilities as possible on each planet as you find them.

Vostok Inc. Building Facilities screen

You will end up spending a lot of time on this screen.

I really enjoyed this resource management aspect of the game.  It was the very reason I kept on returning.  There is a constant sense of progression as literally every single second the game is turned on, you are making progress thanks to the residual income from your colonized planets.  You may even find that sometimes when you stop playing to watch a movie or eat dinner that you might just leave the game on to generate more income so once you come back you can reinvest it into planets or upgrading your ship.  Even as I sit here writing this review, I have Vostok Inc. open on my switch with money just rolling in.

Building facilities isn’t the only way to bring in large sums of cash.  As you level up and invest into ship abilities, the money from killing enemies and destroying meteors will go from the hundreds to the quadrillions.  In fact, if you want to, you could spend the entire game without investing into a single planet just focused on looting enemies and bosses.  You won’t progress nearly as quickly as you would if you invest into planets, but it is still possible.

Another way to increase your income is to find managers, executives, investors and consultants floating out in space.  After buying the associated radar, they will appear randomly, and you will have a short period of time to find them.  If you make it to them before they die, they will help increase your productivity dramatically.  Managers stay on your ship until your ship blows up, and each one you find will increase your productivity by 3.0%.  Investors double your current amount of moolah, and consultants increase your productivity by 777% for a few minutes.  Executives are the ones you will really want to find.

Each executive increases your productivity drastically provided you keep them happy.  This is done by selecting them in the menu and giving them gifts.  Also, they won’t disappear even if you die.  The other great aspect of the executives is that each one comes with a unique mini game inspired by the small, classic handheld systems of the past.  I had one of them when I was a kid that had Tetris, a driving game and several other small games on it, and I really appreciated these in Vostok Inc.  They really took me back to my childhood, and they make a nice distraction when the main game starts to get slightly repetitive.  Take a break to play one of the mini games while your residual moolah continues coming in.  You can even pick up gifts for your executives while playing the mini games.

Executives in Vostok Inc.

Not doing a very good job keeping my executives happy.

There are a total of 13 mini games for you to find in this game some of which are surprisingly developed.  These include a couple driving games where you need to avoid obstacles, a minimalist scrolling shooting game and a 3D first person shooter with one small stage.  The credits were especially appreciated since it is a fairly detailed scrolling space shooter arcade.  There is only one stage for the credits.  I would have loved seeing multiple stages for the credits, but what they already put in was a pleasant surprise, so I will not complain.

To progress through the solar systems, you will need to accumulate a certain amount of moolah.  Once you reach that number, a boss will spawn.  After defeating it, you can then purchase a wormhole to the next solar system.  That is the structure you can expect all the way through the end of the game.

 

Vostok Inc. Dreadnought

Dreadnought is the first boss you will encounter, and he will test everything you learned in the first stage.

 

* If you see this review posted on another website, it was originally written by Brian Myers for switchwatch.co.uk.

value

There is a lot of content to be found in this game.  I found myself completely unable to put it down for three days.  Even while writing this review, I found myself constantly taking little breaks to fly to a new planet and colonize it with the money accrued while having the game set up on the side the whole time.  This is a very addicting game, and I do believe that it is priced very fairly.  It takes a little while to get the ball rolling with your money, but once it gets started, you will never feel like you are wasting time with it.  You could probably rush to the end in about 10-15 hours, but if you want to make your company as successful as possible, you could easily invest 25+ hours.