Friday, April 3

Mini Reviews: April 3rd Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Cat Girl Without Salad [Nindie Choice!] - When it comes to weird games I’m a bit of a connoisseur on the Switch, I’ve even set aside an entire category for them specifically. Whether it’s a quirky sense of humor, unexpected gameplay elements, or just developers daring to be different I appreciate the risk of putting something left of center out there. In the case of Cat Girl Without Salad the folks at WayForward have managed to scratch pretty well every itch I could have with regards to entertainment, though I’ll very much note that befitting the budget price on the game this is a light snack of enjoyment and in no way a meal. With that in mind the strange and often hysterically funny running dialogue doesn’t get the opportunity to get tiresome, if you were going to have to repeat each level dozens of times I’m sure it would get old. But with a relatively mild degree of difficulty (though the third mission is a legit challenge) on the whole it doesn’t overstay its welcome. The thing is, aside from the great humor and unusual characters the surprise is that as a shmup it stands pretty well on its own as well, even throwing in unique weapons inspired by classic video games that generally blew me away with their creativity. While you may not love them all I’d wager at least a few of them will suit your tastes and they really elevate the shooting experience beyond the ordinary as well. For being a game inspired by an April Fools joke this is a title that shows far more love and craft than you’d expect, and as long as you don’t mind it being over too soon it’s highly recommended.

HyperParasite - Having played (and loved) many roguelike twin-stick shooters on the Switch it always piques my attention when a developer brings something new to the table. In the case of HyperParasite you’re an alien lifeform that’s inherently vulnerable to attacks but you possess the ability to inhabit and control enemies that you can then use to help you survive. Of course once they take too much damage you’ll be back to being exposed, forcing you to work to grab another body and so on. On the whole this works pretty well, and can make for some pretty tense play as you try to avoid the attacks of enemies while trying to take over their bodies. The pity is that right out of the gate it feels like a bit too much of a grind, with you needing to grab enough money to unlock new enemy types you’ll be able to control and in the early going you tend to feel pretty inadequate, especially in boss battles that have a tendency to drag on a bit too long. It just feels like you hit the wall in the game before you’re even able to get your legs under you and the solution to that is to grind a bit, exacerbated by money not being terribly plentiful from run to run. If you’re looking for a different kind of challenge this will satisfy, but it may best be left to genre die-hards.

Saints Row IV: Re-Elected - First, I’ll just say that the likes of Rockstar’s GTA series on the Switch I’m thrilled that Saints Row has come to the system to pick up the slack for gaming in that general style. The previous outing on the system established that an open world shooting and chaos simulator can absolutely work on the Switch, even if the performance could take a hit at times, and with this incarnation the developers just seemed to decide to turn up the bonkers dial to 11. In order to at least attempt to make it remotely sensible this time around you’ll be spending your time destroying the city in a virtual space as a Neo-esque unstoppable running and gunning machine. However, the move to a more unhinged and unpredictable format where you’re never quite sure what the hell you may be taking on and how will either be a massive hit or a miss, depending on the experience you’re looking for. Depending on the lens you view it through it can be a thrill ride where you’re never sure what’s around the next turn, or it can be a sort of kitchen sink effort where there’s no such thing as a bad idea and it can feel quite uneven at times. I personally found it fun more often than not but can see where people would split in their opinions on it.

Children of Zodiarcs - With so much variety in the Switch eShop I firmly believe there’s a place for everything and likely an audience that will likely enjoy it all, it’s just tough when I hit a game that doesn’t do it for me. I find the combat mechanics in Zodiarcs to be both its strongest selling point and perhaps its greatest liability all at once. The mix of strategy coming from tactics, dice rolls, and even deck building for good measure are absolutely unique but boy did they slow things down too much for me, which then diminished my enthusiasm for everything else. Perhaps that unique flavor and the story which doesn’t feel like a cookie cutter copy of loads of other games in this vein will make it a great fit for the right crowd, just be sure you’ve got the attention span for it.

Totally Reliable Delivery Service - While I have a deep love for weird and funky games they can be tough to pull off well. Perhaps no variety of weirdo games is tougher to do properly than the janky physics game, a style that Goat Simulator pretty well wrote the roadmap on getting away with. While not quite in the same vein in terms of the variety and mayhem, Totally Reliable Delivery Service is within that same overall space, with your job in theory being to get packages from Point A to Point B within the right amount of time or having not taken on too much damage. While perhaps you’ll start out that way, and could choose to continue to do so, the real fun is just enjoying it as a sandbox to explore and mess around in, which is where playing with more than one person helps a great deal. The problem is that it’s very much a fast food gaming experience that gets a bit bland in a hurry. Without too many random and utterly ridiculous elements to keep the laughs rolling you’re too quickly just left with a vanilla game with weak controls.

Thursday, April 2

Mini Reviews: April 2nd Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

The Complex [Nindie Choice!] - Having played “interactive movie” style games since way back when CD-ROMs first allowed them to exist with the likes of classics like The 7th Guest and Phantasmagoria (among others) it has been interesting to see the genre progress. While it feels like it nearly died a few years ago, with modern systems and hardware it has become quite astonishing how seamlessly they’re now able to string everything together. Having effectively removed any pauses or distortions as your choices alter the flow of the story it feels like the promise of the genre has finally been realized. That’s even more the case with a title like The Complex, effectively putting you into the middle of a sci-fi thriller, forced to make tough decisions with some significant consequences that will likely prompt you to play through again to improve the ultimate outcome you reach. Keeping in mind this is essentially a “Choose Your Own Adventure” experience the level of interactivity is limited but the quality of the production, acting, and writing in general make this about as compelling an example of the genre as you could hope for.

Curious Expedition [Nindie Choice!] - If you were to try to give The Curious Expedition an elevator pitch it would best be described as the love child of classic Civilization and The Oregon Trail in my mind. Your goal is to choose a figure from history, understanding their various perks and weaknesses, and set out on an adventure in search of fortune and glory, but understanding that inevitably bad things are likely to happen as well. In terms of presentation it definitely shows its age, and that may put some people off, but if you put that aside and come to understand things like the game’s unusual approach to combat (you’ll need to hit the tutorial or you may be very confused jumping right in) its charms can sneak up on you. Considering there’s nothing quite like it on the Switch, this budget-friendly exploration title offers plenty of surprises and occasional silliness, testing your strategic decision-making and, no doubt, your luck.

Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories - Never having witnessed the apparent previous disasters having been reported I can’t comment in any way how this edition compares. What I can tell you is that I walked into the game with no expectations and found it consistently surprising and even enjoyable at times, even if it could just as often be frustrating as I tried to understand what I was supposed to be doing. The gameplay is an unusual mix of visual novel storytelling and mild adventure action, and unfortunately the game engine often doesn’t feel like it’s up to the task, getting jittery or showing performance issues despite the overall look feeling like it was from a generation or more ago. That said, the moments where you meet other people in the middle of this disaster and talk to them briefly can be compelling and even sweet at times, bringing a humanity to the experience I didn’t expect. Of course, being a person who likes to try to see what a game will allow me to get away with, the ability to choose to wear a bikini while trying to escape a major catastrophe in the middle of the city simply made me laugh. It will hardly be a game for everyone but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit it charmed me despite its issues.

SnakeyBus - If you’re going to want to make a splash in the eShop sometimes you just need to go for it with an off-center idea and maybe a catchy name. That’s what the people behind SnakeyBus have aimed for, and for the most part in terms of catching your attention initially it’s a success, playing out like a 3D version of Snake where your goal is to keep getting longer while managing to avoid getting stopped by falling into traps or stopping when you run into something (including yourself). There’s an element of amusement to things as in order to grow you’ll need to take on passengers and then deliver them to the next stop, to some degree borrowing a concept from the likes of Crazy Taxi. The issue is more than despite there being a variety of environments, some of them even being pretty creative, aside from just trying to have a better run and unlock new vehicles the experience doesn’t have a ton of staying power once the novelty wears off. It can be fun to pick up and goof off with for a while but unlike some gonzo titles in the same vein the experience just ends up being a bit disposable.

Duck Souls+ - When it comes to budget platformers there’s quite a lot to choose from already on Switch but now we have another, one that at least distinguishes itself by being a bit harder than most. Now, when I say it’s tougher that’s not all good news, for me at least some of the challenge comes with the touchy controls where you need precision, but with persistence everything can be overcome. For the most part there’s not much new here, the pixel art looks fine but pretty generic, you’re trying to avoid certain death, and from stage to stage the difficulty can be a bit all over the place with some going quickly and others being a bit more of a grind. Not bad but quite generic.