Sometimes, all you need is Love. In the case of the point-and-click science fiction graphic adventure Blood Nova, that sentiment runs especially deep as the hero of our tale is the soon-to-be empress of a vast, interstellar empire aptly-named Love. The Velaya Empire has brought peace and stability to an extensive array of interconnected star systems.
However, the empire’s influence on the outer regions of its territories is beginning to unravel. The current empress suddenly declares that she’s abdicating her throne, leaving her eldest daughter Love to rule in her stead. Many argue that the spoiled heir apparent is a poor choice compared to her younger sister Bliss, a sentiment with which even the reluctant Love can’t help but agree. Love is on her way to complete the transition alongside her loyal bodyguard and childhood friend Kel when the space lighthouse they’re visiting, The Looping Vale, gets attacked by saboteurs and assassins. As conspiracies surrounding the empire and the outer territories reveal themselves, can the pair survive long enough for rescue to arrive? Will Love be able to prove to everyone that she is fit to rule? The roughly four-to-six-hour tale that unfolds to answer those questions is compelling and entertaining for fans of the genre.
Blood Nova is an enjoyable point-and-click adventure with a beautiful sci-fi aesthetic, developed by Cosmic Void and Ross Joseph Gardner. I love the game’s world-building. The lore inherent in the futuristic and intergalactic setting runs deep, and there are some genuinely creative and unique concepts and designs on display. In addition, I adore how the game creatively mixes modern storytelling with a nostalgic presentation to significant effect.
I liked the central duo of Love and Kel as I made my way through Blood Nova’s narrative. Kel is a practical-minded person who balances Love’s more flighty nature wonderfully while also having an interesting backstory, and I appreciate their back-and-forth dynamic. Love is front and center of the story and makes for a superb narrator with personality and hidden depth. Initially seeming to be little more than an irresponsible party girl, the events at The Looping Vale test Love in unexpected ways as she becomes that much stronger throughout the story. Her journey of self-discovery helps to hit home the messages ingrained in Blood Nova. She also has some of the best dialogue and inner thoughts! Other characters don’t get as much screen time for various reasons, such as the sassy robot custodian of the lighthouse AVA or the psychic Maralesh alien. Still, they’ve some genuinely standout moments too. I especially like the sense you get for characters you only see snippets about, such as Love’s little sister Bliss or the two princesses’ mothers. The inclusive and diverse cast certainly helps breathe life into this sci-fi universe.
Being a point-and-click graphic adventure, the gameplay falls on the genre’s often tried and true tenets. You-as-Love (and even temporarily as a second character later in the narrative) view an area of The Looping Vale. There are challenges or puzzles you must figure out to advance the game and move the plot forward. There are several areas of interest to interact with and potentially acquire clues or helpful items in a given location. You have an inventory of collected trinkets that you can use in various ways: combining them to make a new item, for instance, or using them in conjunction with a device you may have just found. Once you’ve performed an action that successfully propels you to the game’s next stage, you can find the next clue or puzzle to solve. This cycle is pretty much the core component of gameplay, and it is what moves you through the various levels of the lighthouse.
I never found any of the puzzles to be too challenging or frustrating. Often enough, if I was stuck on one for a while, I just had to backtrack a bit and recall what I might’ve seen earlier that could’ve been a clue I hadn’t realized at the time. Or I’d experiment by trying to combine or use items differently to see what would work. Everything in the game has a pretty solid and understandable rhyme or reason to it when you step back and mull things over, which I greatly appreciated as I carried on with its different puzzles.
The visual and art direction for Blood Nova is both eye-catching and nostalgic. Aviv Salinas was in charge of art and coding and did a fantastic job! I love the almost old-school aesthetic of the pixel art found in Blood Nova, and the use of a tritone palette color scheme is visually striking. The game is awash in various shades of greens, blues, and reds: the darker corridors paint a bleak picture, while the brighter lights contrast with a stark beauty. The up-close sprite-based character portraits for important characters are incredibly detailed, and I like how visibly distinct objects of interest are in each area. Blood Nova’s font is clear and easy to read, fitting perfectly with the “old school” vibe of the visuals. There are two-speed options for font, Normal and Instant. Instant is the recommended speed for players, and I found in my playthrough that it works exceptionally well.
The game’s music is made primarily by Donovan Jonk of Megahammer Studios, with additional OST work supplied by Jordan Mallory-Skinner and Brian Manown. Here is a sample from the OST to give you a sense of the soundscape. The soundtrack fits with the visual aesthetic of Blood Nova perfectly, and I particularly enjoy some of the tracks that play in the later scenes when intense plot reveals happen. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t provide voice acting, and sound effect usage is sparse but significant as Love and Kel investigate the lonely lighthouse.
As far as weaker points are concerned, I’m hard-pressed to say that Blood Nova has many. The game is well-designed and easy to play, though some might find the lack of controller support a minor grievance. Specific dialogue transitions are sometimes strange, as they can appear somewhat rough whenever a character not in the same scene speaks up over a communicator or some such gimmick. But the most significant weak point to me in terms of the title’s design is probably the “travel by map” mechanic. You have to click a map icon on the lower right of the screen to move between different areas. This map traveling occurs even if you’ve supposedly opened the door to a different location that you’d expect to be able to click and go through in a similar type of game. In that way, it comes across as an unnecessary extra step. On the other hand, traveling by the map lets you progress almost in a fast travel way between various points depending on where you are without having to backtrack, so it feels a bit like a catch-22.
Beyond that, I wish you could spend more time with the characters. I love the plot’s focus on Love and Kel. Still, I wouldn’t have minded if other characters, such as AVA or the mysterious Estria, had been given more time in the spotlight since what you get to see of several of the supporting cast is quite interesting. While managing to be a self-contained and satisfying story in its entirety, Blood Nova also feels somewhat too brief. The world-building, lore, and characters in the title are so fascinating that I’d gladly spend several more hours with them. However, I give the game credit for not overstaying its welcome either: it is simply a testament to the gameplay and writing that I wish there were more of it.
Blood Nova is a quick but ultimately satisfying and entertaining journey of the point-and-click variety. I grew to love this sci-fi tale while playing it, so much so that I’m hoping there might eventually be a return to this story universe and setting. Those new to graphic adventures might want to consider giving Blood Nova a chance due to its shorter length and well-designed gameplay elements. Those already familiar with the genre might find a fascinating story. It’s true what they say: sometimes, all you need is Love!