Review – Razerwire: Nanowars (Steam)

Razerwire: Nanowars is the Steam debut of Screwdriver&Pigeons and that should come as no surprise to me, since both the title and its developer have been quite creative with their naming conventions and the contents of the arcade casual I shall be reviewing today. Appearances are deceiving, of course. I actually had fun, in spite of my initial reservations.

There isn’t a story to Razerwire: Nanowars. I would have appreciated at least a static wall of text with some Sci-Fi technobabble, since the power-up descriptions fit that bill. Alas, no introduction whatsoever. Can’t say that I’m disappointed as I wasn’t expecting a narrative to a title which emulates the arcade feel of games from several decades ago. Indeed, I wasn’t even born when arcade cabinets were all the rage in gaming. Feel free to imagine whatever scenario floats your boat. I’ll just go with “evil alien insects are attacking and humanity’s only hope is a shoddy satellite with a laser wire attached to it.” Quite the Space Bug Catcher, in fact. Nanobugs, sorry. Which means that our brave defender is a satellite operated by ants. I’m reading too much into this, right? Okay, nothing to see here, move along citizen.

My money’s on Unity, since “something” is telling me that Razerwire: Nanowars isn’t powered by the Unreal Engine. Regardless of this, the game looks the part and even features several visual filters that can bring back the memories of long past gaming days. You can play with no filter at all, but where’s the fun in that? Feast your eyes on all that frantic action from the perspective of the Arcade, the ‘80s or my favorite, the “Old TV” filter which almost made me smack the monitor in hopes of finally rendering those colors without glitches. I’m kidding of course, since the effect is both intended and well simulated. Razerwire: Nanowars really shines when it just focuses on simulating something that it’s not. Is that a bad thing? Well, I’ve had my share of contemporary arcades that didn’t even undertake this minimal effort, so I’m tilting the scales in Razerwire’s favor. No unplanned bugs or glitches and definitely no crashes or frame rate drops. It all went smoothly and it scales perfectly on 4K resolution.

Synthwave music. The soundtrack actually contains ten songs, but I was far too busy just handling the on-screen onslaught, so I couldn’t really notice if those songs were very different from one another. What I can tell you though, is that they never bothered me either. No reason to mute the sounds and listen to something else. As far as the audio section is concerned, I couldn’t ask more from this genre.

As simplistic as it may seem, the gameplay offers a fresh perspective, at least through the fact that you aren’t shooting back at those waves of menacing bugs. There’s no actual “pew pew” in Razerwire: Nanowars, but you can toggle some missiles or plasma shots which aren’t as accurate as one would expect. No, the main defense and offense against your foes, remains that laser cord that disintegrates aliens upon touch. Consider it a “windscreen wiper” to a certain extent. Levels are calculated by how many waves of insects you’ve overcome. Game progress gets autosaved after each consecutive set of 20 waves. That is truly helpful, since the satellite has no regenerating health or access to self-repair modules. The structural integrity it loses can’t be recovered until the inevitable restart from the previous checkpoint. The first 100 waves may be a relative breeze, but from there onwards, expect to “die” a couple of times until you survive 20 more waves for that autosave. Enemy types are well diversified and they move and attack in distinctive patterns which force players to constantly adapt their approach and also remain alert to cloaking and teleporting aliens.

Of course there’s a high score system and a leaderboard. What arcade (casual or not) could do without one? Quick reflexes save the day, as long as you got both the skill and patience to advance upon that ladder. If you play for fun however, you can simply rejoice at the unlocking of new power-ups which spice things even further. Upgrades to health, recovery time (for the wire) or several automated weapons, can be unlocked by natural game progression. A thousand score points yield an upgrade point which can be invested in the titular power-ups. They have a three star rating and as you can imagine, both unlocking and maxing them out, takes A LOT of time. I should mention that the “line holder” must never touch the foes directly, or it will suffer a temporary malfunction which leaves the satellite vulnerable to bug attacks. No worries, there are at least 500 waves inscribed on a Steam Achievement. Good luck getting to that point though. You’ll need it.

Definitely not a straightforward affair, Razerwire: Nanowars still gets repetitive faster than I’d like to admit. Playing it in “short bursts” might cancel out this issue. The incentives for progressing to insane levels/waves are there and they don’t require that much grinding. Theoretically, even if you’re constantly failing the waves before the next autosave, you still gain upgrade points that eventually allow you some breathing room. Naturally, I suggest you focus on fully upgrading the health pool of the main structure as well as minimizing the downtime of its auxiliary “weapon”. What more can I say? Razerwire is more than decently priced for what it offers and I can only hope that it’ll sell enough units, to warrant the introduction of Steam Trading Cards along the already present Achievements.

All the screenshots you see above, have been taken by me in-game through the Steam Overlay.

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