Friday, August 16

Mini Reviews: August 16th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Exception [Nindie Choice!] - As a massive fan who has always loved the movie TRON you know that a game set inside a computer where you play a warrior of sorts who must overcome enemies and obstacles to succeed will get my attention. While the action platforming of Exception may not quite get to the heights of coolness of that classic movie franchise it still manages to throw a unique look and feel, as well as some smart stage designs into the mix. Stages play pretty quickly (assuming you survive) and with each pivot and transformation they throw things at you a little differently. Granted, your movement at times can feel a little sluggish and perhaps there’s simply not an amazing degree of variety in enemies and situations but regardless this title has a fresh feel, looks spectacular, and generally keeps you coming back for more action.

PC Building Simulator - This may be about as niche a title as I’ve played on the Switch, and yet as someone who has assembled my own PC from scratch more than a few times, I’m happy to say that PC Building Simulator absolutely delivers the authentic goods. If you’re a build enthusiast or would like to get a taste of what being one entails, this game will not only walk you through the minutia and meticulous process of placing each component, it will also have you working with real top-notch hardware. In the Campaign you’ll take over a small PC repair business and spend your time turning things around by doing everything from simple virus removal and diagnostics to incrementally more ambitious assembly tasks. On the other hand if you have the hang of the controls, which admittedly could use better instructions as you get started or when you’re having trouble, you can go into Free Build mode and simply go nuts trying to construct the mega-rig that you could only dream of being able to afford. Control quirks and initial struggles to get used to how things operate aside, as instructive gaming goes this may be the most successful title of its broad kind I’d played on Switch.

Gravity Duck - Sporting a relatively simple premise with a weird twist on gravity shifting, in that there are spots where you will shift 90 degrees to walk on the walls as well, Gravity Duck is a decent but not amazing budget puzzler. While the controls when you shift to the sides do make sense to a degree, you’ll always move in the direction you press regardless of orientation, their digital movement and lack of nuance can be aggravating when there are times where nuanced analog controls would have been a great help. Overall I’d say it’s a take it or leave it proposition, but if you enjoy this type of challenge it’s not bad for the price of admission.

Sagebrush - With an isolated setting in what appears to be an abandoned compound of a religious group Sagebrush is all about a slowly unraveling mystery to discover what happened. Exploration and some problem solving will help you make your way through new areas where you’ll find audio recordings (that often feel like they’re relayed in a linear fashion, though somehow spread out in many locations) and assorted notes that will help you piece together a picture of things. This is one of those games where the idea is that the payoff at the end of the journey will justify the pretty dull and uninspired path to get there, you’ll need to decide whether that’s enough to justify your interest.

Tuesday, August 13

Mini Reviews: August 13th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Pix the Cat [Nindie Choice!]Classic arcade action fans who appreciate a game focused on chasing high scores will likely get a kick out of Pix the Cat. To give you an idea of the action is plays like a mix of Pac-Man and Snake, with some visual flair reminiscent of Chu Chu Rocket. You’ll be looking to move over eggs, form a line of chicks that will follow you (OK, so maybe there’s a bit of Flicky in there as well), and deliver them to targets positioned elsewhere on the screen, progressing quickly to the next stage once you deliver them all. While there can be enemies in some cases to contend with your most typical enemy is time since each run only lasts 5 minutes. To get further you’ll need to be more efficient and keep your combos going, which will keep your pace steadily increasing. The one issue is definitely that the analog stick and even the Pro D-Pad don’t fare as well as I’d like as the speed picks up, with the controls starting to feel sluggish. Alternative stages, some more puzzle-oriented modes, a multiplayer Arena, and various fun modifiers unlock as you progress but the core is all about patterns, optimizing your path, and trying to keep ahead of the movement as best you can.

Quench [Nindie Choice!] - This is a title I initially checked out at PAX East and it made enough of an impression I was excited to get a chance to play more of it. Working a bit like a mix of a god game and a puzzler, Quench will have you using elemental powers to aid herds of animals, though primarily your initial bunch of elephants, through a variety of environments and situations. You’ll need to use rain to replenish the land or put out fires, wind to clear away sand or divert enemies, quakes to clear boulders, and lightning to zap thorny vines or even revive fallen animals. Your resources aren’t unlimited so you’ll need to work out what paths you want to take and make smart and careful use of them as much as possible to replenish the land and keep your herds moving towards their goal. With a relatively slow pace and naturalistic themes it should appeal to the crowd looking for a more soothing experience to enjoy.

Doughlings: Invasion - This variant take on the classic arcade shooter ala Space Invaders and others keeps things pretty simple but as you progress manages to consistently change things up a bit. Your default character and gun are very straightforward but as you collect thumbs ups dropping from slain enemies and eventually genetic modifiers you’ll gain power-ups that will temporarily juice you up and allow you to do more damage. Probably my biggest complaint is just the lethargic pace you tend to move with, making this a better recommendation for people who enjoy a milder action challenge than those looking for intensity.

Grave Keeper - In principle this should be a solid and entertaining game, combining twin-stick shooting with hack-and-slash combat as you work through waves of enemies and bosses. In execution though, the pacing is too slow, the upgrades are too lackluster, and the feel of mobile grind-fest roots permeate the experience. There are almost constantly challenges or objectives you’ll unlock, which will give you some currency, which you can then use to incrementally upgrade your gear, but nothing really excites. Just overall it plays out too vanilla and lacks in excitement from its sluggish pacing.

Tap Skaters - One button action games always have a very mobile feel to them but Tap Skaters in particular feels like an experience far better suited to your phone or tablet than the dedicated Switch. You’ll tap the button (or the screen) to switch to the next platform as you make your way down a mildly random structure, avoiding obstacles and other skaters. This is a grind to take your mind off of things as you wait for an appointment for a few moments at a time, not something you’ll likely enjoy in anything more than bursts, but again it would probably simply be better on a mobile device.

Saturday, August 10

Mini Reviews: August 10th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Pillars of Eternity Complete Edition [Nindie Choice!] - Damn RPG lovers, the Switch has been a terrific return to Nintendo fully delivering a variety of options in this genre. Pillars of Eternity further solidifies that statement, providing a deep, satisfying, and even challenging experience depending on how you set things up. What makes it stand out is that this isn’t another JRPG, it’s a conversion of a more classic PC RPG, with a different perspective and feel, going with an isometric view and pausable real-time combat. The struggle to make the interface friendly for console moving from mouse and keyboard is real, getting the hang of navigating menus and hitting every possible screen you’ll need to manage your characters and gear can take some time. Once you settle in though it’s a very satisfying experience that should appeal to a pretty wide audience.

Subdivision Infinity DX - I’ve been a fan of the space dogfighter/shooter genre since way back in the day when it was pretty well defined by the Wing Commander series. Ever since then there has been a slow but steady stream of titles that have roughly hit some of the same marks but just haven’t been able to reach that same level of quality, including a few already on Switch. Subdivision Infinity DX does a fair job of trying to provide an approachable control scheme and mildly exciting missions fighting against craft both small and large, even throwing in what would amount to boss fights here and there. However, the overall lack of speed and lack of nuance or complexity the controls frustrated me more often than not and up against some of the competition already on the system it just couldn’t keep my attention as much. That said, for people who aren’t familiar with the genre this may be a stepping stone that’s more approachable than the likes of the much tougher Everspace.

Shadows 2: Perfidia - I’ll just come out and say it, for the most part the indie titles that have tackled horror so far on the Switch just haven’t generally been great as a whole. You can tell what they’re aiming for but for the most part the creeping sense of dread just hasn’t been there for me. While Shadows 2 isn’t what I’d consider a great title, it reuses assets pretty well everywhere and mostly has you trudging through very similar maze-like corridors completing very rudimentary puzzles, I will at least give it credit for using a blend of visuals and sound to give me a feeling of unease. So while the experience may not satisfy the gamer in me very well if you’re looking for something that may give you the creeps this may be one of the better budget-friendly options available on the console.

The Forbidden Arts - The pitch of a side-scrolling adventure where you’ll use elemental powers to combat evil is always a good start, but while The Forbidden Arts has some flourishes in places for the most part it unfortunately fizzles. With the action moving between a somewhat funky 3D overworld where you’ll typically explore a somewhat empty space and side-scrolling platforming with combat nothing quite feels polished. Dialogue is sparse and perfunctory, combat is repetitive and generally pretty clumsy, and the platforming is pretty generic as a whole. Your elemental attacks at least look interesting, and try to add some excitement, but on the whole this title struggles to make an impression and keep you coming back for more.

#RaceDieRun - Filling a space somewhere between a racing game and an endless runner we have #RaceDieRun, a game that can sometimes hit a satisfying groove but that is also just a bit odd. Unlike your typical endless runner where you’ll generally stick to lanes that you’ll move between here you have more full control on the course, having the option to quickly shift over in a roll move or simply navigate depending on the situation. As you progress, the winding tracks will continue to get filled with more barriers and hazards that will send you back to the start, and each run is scored, giving you bonuses for things like using your boost the entire time or not dashing. The stretch objective of grabbing a pill-shaped item that is hidden on every track is nice but pursuing these was usually aggravating, mostly pointing out to me how limited your abilities to control your movement are, but some may relish the challenge. There aren’t many options like it on the console, so credit for it being different, but it won’t be for everyone.

Epic Clicker Journey - Clickers are kind of a genre that came and went in the PC space, temporarily proving to be a little different and brainless for simply relaxing for a bit, but then generally fading quickly to the back burner. Translating that to console is proven to be possible with Epic Clicker Journey, with furious mouse clicks being replaced by the frantic tapping of your shoulder buttons, but the lack of satisfaction issues have come along as well. There’s not much to this, you’ll tap your way to victory or fall in defeat, trying to use money to upgrade yourself and help you tackle tougher stuff. Really, that’s all it is, and it is incredibly repetitive… true to the “genre” but I think the wear on your fingers and controls (aside from your patience) is a valid concern. Throw in the cumbersome and clunky nature of the interface as you try to navigate menus and this just doesn’t end up being very satisfying.