Thursday, June 20

Review: Perchang [Nintendo Switch eShop]


In the puzzle space given the number of options on the Switch it takes some effort to come up with something novel and engaging. How about a game where you mix of simple machinery, a steady drip of balls you’re trying to help get to their destination, and a variety of contraptions you’ll need to master to do so? Perchang manages to cobble these together and be original, engaging, and challenging both to your sense of planning and careful execution.


Starting out by roughly introducing you to an element at a time you’ll master control of tilting platforms, fans, and a few other mechanisms. Whether perfecting your timing to flick a ball at just the right angle or feathering your fan to keep your balls aloft but not shot off the screen its the fundamentals tied to each thing you control that establish your foundation. Once you have that the game will then place different combinations of those elements before you with the goal of ensuring balls will move from Point A to Point B with your help.


The first challenge is understanding how you’ll use the tools you’ve been given. Early on it tends to be pretty straightforward but as you progress you’ll find that there can be a variety of ways to get through the challenge, though sometimes only after having banged your head against a wall with a harder way first. Once you’ve got your plan you’ll then need to work on making it work. The limited controls, allowing you to assign each element a color (red or blue) that corresponds to one of your two means of interaction are often the first obstacle as you’ll often need to toggle more than one mechanism with the same trigger. The second is just then finding the sweet spot for timing and concentrate on execution as you get each ball through the gauntlet the best you can.


While Perchang isn’t terribly long I’d say it manages to deliver a unique experience that puzzle fans should really appreciate. There are times when it feels like the difficulty is a bit all over the place with spikes and then valleys as you work through everything but different people may struggle with some challenges more than others. Though Perchang may be relatively simple at its core the execution, variety, and overall creativity it demonstrates help it to stand out even in the crowded puzzle genre on the system.

Score: 8.5

Pros:
  • The controls are simple but demand your attention for proper execution
  • Each new level offers up a new challenge to plan out your path to success and then execute it

Cons:
  • The difficulty from level to level can be a bit all over the place
  • If you’re unable to master some fundamentals like feathering the throttle on a fan you may be in for quite a bit of frustration as these skills are essential to success

Review: My Friend Pedro [Nintendo Switch eShop]


One of the interesting things about the power of Nintendo Directs, and their limitations, is that they’re able to get you excited about games that are coming down the pike but with a very limited taste of only perhaps a few moments of footage you actually know very little about them. Granted, things that look spectacular often have a tendency to back that up with solid gameplay but not always, and when you throw in issues like length, diversity, and controls things get more complicated. My Friend Pedro has been an interesting journey for me within this context, sucking me in initially with what looks like bonkers gameplay, concerning me when only given a brief chance to demo it at PAX, but then ultimately delivering the goods as I got more time with it.


In terms of action the best comparison I can make to describe Pedro’s gameplay is as a side-scrolling Max Payne. When everything clicks and you’re in the zone the ballet of violence and gunplay is brilliant, with you jumping, spinning, shooting people in multiple directions, and rolling along on top of a barrel. Enemies aren’t particularly bright but if you don’t execute your end of the bargain their numbers will result in your getting pretty chewed up if you’re not on top of your game. While you’ll have unlimited pistol ammo you’ll want to conserve your more powerful weaponry for the right moments when possible because when things get more intense you’ll want everything on your side possible.


The welcome surprise is that though the action clearly takes center stage the diversity of what you’ll be doing as the game progresses keeps things fresh as well. Some puzzle-like elements show up at times, you’ll hit the roads on a motorcycle, and some new weapons and gear to work with don’t allow for repetition to set in easily. Granted, if you’re not playing for the gun violence first and foremost perhaps it won’t be enough to hook you but the effort to keep you consistently engaged is impossible to miss and appreciate.


Where the concern does creep in a bit is that while learning to walk gum and chew gum at the same time isn’t too tough, throwing another 2 or 3 skills into the mix on top of that to master doing all at once is quite a bit trickier. I won’t blame it on the controls necessarily, there are only so many buttons to work with on a controller and given everything you can pull off the layout does mostly make sense (though I’m never a great fan of using the analog stick as a button overall). Just be aware that while watching footage of the game in action is exciting that there’s an investment you’ll need to make up front to even begin to get there. Jumping, slowing time, dual aiming, spinning, they’re all things that are important to do but getting yourself trained to work them all in parallel takes some doing. The good thing is that you’ll be able to move through the game pretty well without mastering it all, just you won’t be doing it in nearly as much style until you get into that groove and tackle competing for high scores.


All in all My Friend Pedro handily delivers what it promises, and I’d even say exceeds expectations in terms of diversity over the handful of hours it takes to work through it. It would have still been a blast to play even with less variety, the care put into upping the stakes and providing even more insane situations over its runtime is therefore very much appreciated. Be aware that the struggle to succeed while looking cool can be very real, you’ll need to take things one step at a time and develop your repertoire for slow-motion violence before it all moves to another level of fun but the investment is well worth your while.

Score: 8.5

Pros:
  • Absolutely some of the craziest gunplay sequences you’ll ever play through
  • Mastery of the moves isn’t necessary to get through the game, keeping it fun and incentivizing you to return again for higher scores once you’ve got it all under control
  • The diversity of how things play out is higher than expected and appreciated

Cons:
  • If you’re not chomping at the bit for over-the-top crazy gun violence stay away
  • Initially you’re going to feel very lame as you try to get a handle on everything you need to control and some people may find that it never fully clicks for them

Monday, June 17

Review: Neon Junctions [Nintendo Switch eShop]


Always having been a huge fan of the TRON franchise if you throw anything with a neon-lit grid at me and I’m eager to check it out. Of course, looks aren’t everything and when dealing in games you’re going to need some rock-solid play to keep me engaged. Unfortunately, while Neon Junctions does a good job of catching your attention with its looks its gameplay and some performance issues don’t do a great job of keeping it.


The basic principles of the game are simple enough overall, you’ll be picking up objects (mostly blocks) that you’ll need to move from one spot to another in order to complete circuits or satisfy triggers of sorts. While the further in you get this adds in some extra elements that complicate your efforts a bit I’d consider it all to be pretty linear and even dull though, never prompting me to have a satisfying “Aha” moment where I had to use some real ingenuity. It really ends up being a lot of picking up all of the blocks you see, laying them down in the right spots to flow energy to the next spot, maybe working out some new mechanic once in a while, and that’s about it.


The unfortunate note to go with this is that the performance of the game on the Switch, even in docked mode, is choppy at best. While normally frame rates don’t get me down the problems here were consistent enough that I couldn’t help but notice it and though the gameplay is pretty simple and these issues don’t interfere with your execution it’s still annoying. Throw it all together and though Neon Junctions may be pretty it really comes up short beyond that.


Score: 4

Pros:
  • A great neon-lit look
  • Probably just about anyone could solve the game’s puzzles

Cons:
  • Limited variety, challenge, and creativity
  • Consistent performance issues