Nanostray 2
| Nanostray 2

Video game plots are never the most accurate indication of things to come, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't take lessons from the storylines showcased in futuristic space shooting titles. They invariably involve mankind being threatened by an alien menace with us only able to muster a single ship with which to fight back.

While Nanostray 2 admirably tries to introduce a novel narrative that involves collecting samples to stave off a malign virus, it's still essentially about our feeble species trying to repel an overwhelming force from beyond the stars with nothing but a sole spacecraft.

Surely there's such a thing as mass-production in the future?

Upon firing up Nanostray 2 you're greeted with a pretty considerable table of options. Story Mode sees you starting your noble quest on one stage before opening up different levels that can be tackled in any order you fancy. In this mode, the action is interspersed with largely superfluous cut-scenes that attempt to elaborate on the wafer-thin plot. Completed stages are made available in the Arcade Mode, which is a much more traditional 'score attack' affair.

The Challenge Mode is a far more intriguing proposition. Here you're given a set aim for each test, such as collecting a certain number of tokens or scoring so many points without dying. These tasks last around half a minute and are therefore perfect for short-burst, portable gameplay; some of the later ones are so fiendishly difficult they will have you glued to your DS for quite some time - possibly more than the main game itself. Completing the various challenges consequently unlocks Simulation Mode, which is essentially a collection of mini-games loosely based on old arcade classics like Breakout and Asteroids.

As far as the main game is concerned, the shooting action takes place over several horizontally- and vertically-scrolling levels. Aside from the opportunity to select a powerful sub-weapon before you begin a stage and the ability to reposition your defensive satellites in order to tackle enemies above and behind you using the L and R Shoulder buttons, there really isn't an awful lot of innovation on display here, and unsurprisingly the gameplay soon becomes worryingly repetitive.

However, the one element of Nanostray 2 that unquestionably succeeds in holding your interest is the visuals. To say this is one of the finest looking games on the DS would be an exercise in understatement; while the original Nanostray was certainly no slouch in the graphics department, this is even more lavish and graphically appealing. At times the game veers tantalizingly close to PSP-quality aesthetics; the levels boast astonishingly complexity and plenty of detail.

Sadly, as appealing as many of the stages appear they're shamelessly derivative, owing more than a little debt to the likes of legendary blasters such as R-Type, Radiant Silvergun and Gradius. While we understand that it must be incredibly difficult to come up with any fresh ideas in the space shooter arena these days, surely there's still a little room for inventiveness?

The DS isn't exactly inundated with shoot-'em-up titles and after the encouraging first game we had high hopes that this sequel would be an essential purchase. While it undoubtedly represents a definite improvement over its predecessor, we still can't help but hanker for something a little more original. Most should find it relatively engaging but if you're a hardcore shooter fan that has experienced this kind of caper a million times before then Nanostray 2 is unlikely to hold your interest for long.

Nanostray 2

Nanostray 2 looks gorgeous and is eminently playable, but sadly it lacks imagination and becomes disappointingly repetitive all too quickly