Saturday, March 31, 2018

Review: Clusterpuck 99 [Nintendo Switch eShop]


Competitive party games are a tricky thing to get right. Somehow you need to create something simple enough that people can quickly understand and acclimate to it, but at the same time you don’t want it to be so simple that it’s dull. Of course, if you’re shooting for the stars, you can try to support up to 8 players and then, with the right crowd, you can have some real potential for mayhem. Clusterpuck 99 aims for those lofty goals, and for the most part gets it right, but without the numbers to elevate it the experience nearly as fun.


Clusterpuck 99’s general play and rules work out as a sort of hybrid of soccer and hockey. Each player controls their little circle (each adorned with their own logo you can choose from) and the objective is to put the game puck (which is smaller and marked with an X) in the other team’s goal. Does it sound simple? Well, it can be, but that depends greatly on the arena you’ve chosen. With flavors ranging from straight-up plain and boring through absolutely insane and chaotic one of the game’s strengths is the variety in places to play.

On the simple end of things there are plain floors and walls only, but remove some of the sides and add gates, acceleration spots, spike traps, and more to the mix and getting to the goal can be more like clearing through an obstacle course. This can make for a pretty rowdy and silly time as you and your team stumble through the process of trying to score, only to have the tide turn as half of you accidentally accelerate into some spikes. As with any game of this kind the fun mostly hinges on what you and your friends make of it. There’s not a whole lot of technique, you just need to get in there and make some mistakes. The summary at the end of each match helps with the bragging and/or shaming as well, crowning players for great play and giving awards like Useless or even Traitor to those who struggled.


It is possible to play the game with less than the optimal 8 people using bots that have 3 variable skill levels. You can even have uneven numbers on each team to try to spice it up a little more if you’re playing short-handed. In addition, there’s a Challenge mode where you can try to work alone to complete some specific objectives for cosmetic rewards but since you need to reach a certain threshold to qualify for the next one it may be a little too easy to find yourself frustrated and stuck. If you’re feeling creative there’s also a provision for making your own arenas, and in theory you could make something truly elaborate if you’re willing to invest the time, but keep in mind that you’ll only be able to play them locally and there’s no provision for sharing them online.

As a complete package Clusterpuck 99 relies heavily on your access to as many other people as possible to maximize the fun. If you regularly have some friends over and everyone enjoys some light competition that’s easy to pick up and understand it very well may be a big hit. If, on the other hand, you’re normally playing by yourself if will no doubt run out of steam quickly. Thus, results and enjoyment are likely to vary wildly with this one.


Score: 7.5

Pros:

  • Very easy to pick up and understand well enough to contribute
  • Support for up to 8 players (or bots to fill in) means you can get a lot of people having fun at once


Cons:

  • The less people you regularly have available to play the less fun you’ll likely be able to have
  • Without a crowded screen the play isn’t as hectic and fun
  • Some maps can get pretty screwy and the icons alone aren’t enough to differentiate players when things get moving quickly and everyone is in a big pack


Review: Warp Shift [Nintendo Switch eShop]


One of the strengths that is already helping the diversity of the Switch lineup, and that will continue to make it a more widely accessible console, is the system’s touchscreen. While the mobile and tablet market is awash with garbage, without a doubt, there are games from some genres that are well worth checking out, especially in the casual and puzzle game space. While these may not always appeal to hardcore fans they do represent inclusiveness for a wider audience and the use of the touchscreen in handheld mode is absolutely the key to success in that area. Warp Shift, a clever puzzler with great ideas and a terrific look, is one of those titles coming over from the mobile space and if you’re a puzzle fan it’s absolutely worth checking out.

In the game you control a girl, Pi, who is paired with a small robotic cube and is trying to escape a series of mazes to get home. For the most part everything is quite intuitive but it helps that there’s not much complexity to it either. You need to either move cube-shaped rooms around by row or column to line up openings between them. Your goal is ultimately to get to the exit portal, just as you progress through the 5 worlds and 75 levels the difficulty in getting there will continue to grow with multiple door colors and added mandatory stops along the way.

While the game is certainly playable in docked mode using the controller when compared to play on the touchscreen it’s plain slow. This is a game meant to be played in handheld mode and everything is silky smooth and easy about it, simply leaving you to solve the puzzles. While getting to the exit isn’t necessarily hard, the challenge is in getting there by making as few total moves as possible. You’ll be scored up to 3 stars depending on how efficient you can be and in order to unlock the next world there’s always a minimum number of stars you’ll need, though in general this is pretty reasonable and allows for not nailing every room completely.


Though perhaps a pretty mellow puzzling experience isn’t what everyone is seeking out if you’re looking for a soothing break between much more hectic fare Warp Shift is a great candidate. Even among other puzzle games on the platform there’s a carefree essence to it that is refreshing. With great looks, a pace you set for yourself, and puzzles that can be far more tricky than the game’s appearance would imply it’s great for pondering on the couch after a tough day.

Score: 8

Pros:
  • Looks fabulous
  • Performs wonderfully with the touchscreen and workable in docked mode
  • You’ll need to get as many stars as you can to progress but not an unreasonable amount either

Cons:
  • May be too sedate for people in search of excitement


Review: Floor Kids [Nintendo Switch eShop]



Having been in band growing up, music and rhythm games have always had a certain appeal to me. Between the enjoyment of listening to interesting and great music and then getting to play along with the beat there’s something very relaxing and satisfying about the experience, even when gameplay can get hectic. Without a tremendous amount of competition in the space Floor Kids does a pretty solid job of filling out the genre roster on the system, though longevity will probably vary from person to person.


The goal in the game is to represent yourself through your funky breakdancing style in a variety of venues, mixing it up to the back beat of a fine variety of tracks. The music, care of Kid Koala, never really lets you down, so it’s all on you to deliver a 5-star performance. To do this you’ll need to come to terms with your core moveset, with everything breaking down into Up Rock, Down Rock, Power, and Freeze moves. At the start these simply correspond to specific combinations of joystick direction and specific button presses, but as you learn and become more accustomed to everything you’ll find that additional small flourishes can enhance those basic moves and help drive up your score.

A major difference in the way the game plays is that rather being hyper-focused on your keeping the beat or matching rhythms constantly (though that does help overall) the focus is more on keeping things fresh and mixing things up. While each dancer you’ll unlock has their own preferred style and core moves in order to do your best you’ll generally want to be sure to touch on each move over the course of your routine. At both the mid-section and end of you showing your moves there’s then a section where you’ll need to work to match the rhythm on-screen for bonus points as well, so even with the free-flowing fun having a tight grasp on the beats of the music is still very much in your best interest.


Probably the biggest criticism of the game is that, overall, with the exception of maximizing your scores to 5-star every song in every location and unlocking each member of the crew there’s no real competition per se. Your greatest enemy is always yourself, though if you have someone of comparable skill to play against locally that can help deal with this issue. You’re really just dancing for your own satisfaction in the end, there’s not really any story or rivals to give you an extra push to do better. Pair that with the fact that as you learn what works to get higher scores you’ll increasingly find yourself falling into familiar patterns that you know drive your score and it can even get a bit repetitive as you grind to get your scores in shape.

If you love great music and want to have something to simply groove to and enjoy Floor Kids comes pretty highly recommended. The soundtrack is superb, the flow for the most part feels very natural, and it can be very satisfying to play. If you’re more in search of objectives and challenges though, it won’t be a great match as that really doesn’t fall into its style of design. Overall, it’s a solid game that I’d love to see get a more directed sequel, one that could help provide some needed motivation.


Score: 8

Pros:
  • Terrific tracks care of Kid Koala
  • A unique art style that works well
  • A rhythm game that even people who struggle a bit can enjoy

Cons:
  • Unlocking each area and crew member is nice but there’s nothing really driving you to push yourself further
  • Once you find combos that help drive up your points the freedom of doing your own thing tends to fade if you want to maximize your score
  • Though there is a 2-player mode but it really depends on you and someone else being well-matched to be fun


Review: Wonder Boy - The Dragon's Trap [Nintendo Switch eShop]


Much like in the movie industry the remastering of titles in the games industry has most certainly become a thing. Traditionally when you think of remastered games the tendency is to think on games from the last 3 generations at most, with tentpole release games getting a fresh coat of paint, some optimization, and perhaps a new feature or two. To this point I don’t think I’ve seen anything quite like Wonder Boy though, where a developer has gone back as far as the Sega Master System. The talented people at Lizardcube have brought forward a title that was heralded at the time to not only honor its play that still stands up, but to layer on spectacular hand-drawn art to turn it into something quite special.


You’ll start your journey as the somewhat-overpowered Wonder Boy (or, in a modern and terrific twist Wonder Girl, your choice), infiltrating the castle of your enemy only to find that your journey has only begun. You see, at the climax of the fight you’re cursed and will lose your gear while also being transformed into Lizard-Man. This turns out to be only the first of quite a few forms you’ll take over the course of your journey, with each new form giving you new powers and special techniques that wise gamers will be able to use to explore and uncover every secret hidden within the game.

What you’ll quickly find is that aside from the pretty challenging play (that can be adjusted if you find it to be a little too tough or somehow too easy) that there are tricks to the gameplay and secrets pretty well everywhere. Progression is a bit non-traditional, something you’ll notice even as you begin the game when you’ll need to use some trial and error to determine the proper path to follow. This sort of non-linear level design reveals itself throughout, where you’ll find in most cases that falling into a pit somewhere isn’t only not necessarily a big deal but perhaps even essential if you want to seek out every hidden power-up you can find.


Where the game can be a struggle is in the fact that the decision was obviously made to remain absolutely true to the original gameplay and not everything has aged well. Knockback stuns, in particular, are a pet peeve of mine but at least in this case the annoyance factor is dialed down a little by the fact that you remain invulnerable a little longer than usual. In a few cases I actually found spots where the knockback could benefit me so as a whole it isn’t completely bad. Level design in spots can be irksome, especially in tough areas where you’re trying to make a precise move and you have pesky enemies cropping up. For the most part it isn’t too bad but for some elements in the game design there are certainly reasons people stopped going with them.

The decision point in this game should heavily factor in how well you believe you can put up with some dated gameplay concepts against your appreciation for a game that is absolutely incredible to look at. A nifty add-on feature allows you to toggle both the graphics and the music to their original versions and play through the game that way. Even though the original look is obviously much simpler I was surprised at the level of care put into its look even way back when. If you get frustrated remember you can always look up old save codes and start out a bit more juiced up, another nice classic touch thrown in for good measure. All said, Wonder Boy is a nostalgic romp accented by a memorable reskinned look worth checking out.



Score: 7.5

Pros:
  • Stunning hand-drawn art
  • Many gameplay elements still hold up and cement the original classic’s reputation
  • The ability to toggle between classic and modern game art and music is fascinating
  • I very much appreciate the ability to choose a boy or a girl for your adventure

Cons:
  • Not all classic gameplay elements have aged well
  • Knockback, in particular, is an old nemesis


Friday, March 30, 2018

Review: ShadowBug [Nintendo Switch eShop]


The emergence of tablets, devices with large and high-quality touchscreens, really opened up new avenues for games. While traditional controls are often superior there are gameplay experiences that simply aren’t very well-suited to them. The option to simply touch the screen at a specific point can replace awkward attempts to move a pointer around, neutralizing the many benefits of a full-fledged controller pretty easily. This is definitely the case with the new action puzzler ShadowBug, which feels right at home on the Switch’s touchscreen.


In the game you’ll play as the title character, a ninja who moves fluidly but whose true powers for mobility are unleashed when he moves to strike enemies. His attack is so powerful it will allow him to break down or move through certain walls, making it as useful for traversing a level as it is for safety. While those skills are generally enough to get you started as you progress you’ll need to become much more clever, solving puzzles with switches, locked doors, and having to carefully manage things like fluids around you.

Measuring your success on each level is a combination of factors, including simply completing it, collecting lighted orbs along the way, and doing it quickly. For each of these you’ll be awarded a throwing star at the end of the level, but for a bonus you can find and then try to grab a large orb that is sometimes hidden and sometimes just tricky to get. Boss battles hit periodically and will put your acquired skills to the test, often requiring some pretty quick and careful maneuvering. As a whole the play tends to be light and fun, you just need to roll with the punches, carefully observe the level to figure out what you need to do next, and then work to execute.


Traditional controls, to a degree, are supported so you can play in docked mode but I very much wouldn’t recommend them. Without the convenience of the touchscreen you’ll need to use the pointer controls for aiming and then hitting your enemies. As has been the case for pretty well all games with pointer controls implemented this quickly gets both awkward and frustrating as your “center” will shift slowly but surely into an odd direction and leave you either strangely contorted while trying to retain control or stopping the game often to recenter. It does work but the touchscreen is obviously far superior. That said, using the analog stick for your base movement is far more precise than movement that isn’t based around attacks with touch. In particular in a few key spots where crisp and quick movement were essential the more muddy touch controls were a bit of an impediment, though not so much as to make it impossible by any means.

When everything is clicking the fun and flow of ShadowBug is quite a rush. While it could have probably had some success as a more pure action game the inclusion of some crafty puzzle solving creates a terrific balance that elevates the experience quite a bit. The attempt to allow for play in docked mode is valiant but the reliance on the ever-wonky pointer controls falls a bit flat, though in terms of speed and accuracy that method of control would have still been inferior anyway. If you’re looking for something that’s fresh, fun, and continues to throw in twists and surprises with its level design ShadowBug is well worth checking out!


Score: 8

Pros:
  • The flow of movement in the game feels wonderfully natural
  • Boss battles are varied and will challenge you in different ways
  • Puzzles to solve along the way help keep things varied and the action from getting stale

Cons:
  • While it is playable in docked mode as a whole the pointer controls make it sub-optimal
  • The further the levels progress the more the creativity begins to wane


Review: Alteric [Nintendo Switch eShop]


While there are certainly a lot of games out there swimming in complexity, nuance, and layers of gameplay systems there are also those that work by taking simple mechanics and running with them. Often eschewing the need for complex graphics as well these count on taking a simple gameplay hook and running with it, hoping you’ll enjoy the ride. One such game is Alteric, a pretty bare bones platforming title that doesn’t go to great lengths to impress with its visuals but given the simplicity of its gameplay it doesn’t need to.

Boiling it down Alteric is all about moving from Point A to Point B and keeping your humble square from being reduced to bits. You’re equipped with a handy double-jump and the ability to sort of shift the state of the screen. This ability will have a variety of effects, whether introducing platforms you can jump on, surfaces that may shield you from harm, or simply to remove part of a wall so you can proceed. While that may sound pretty limiting, much like in the case of other games like Super Meat Boy it can be surprising what variety and depth of challenges you can get out of these basic moves and abilities when you introduce the right sorts of traps and obstacles.


That said, the comparison to Super Meat Boy and its ilk shouldn’t quite be taken as an endorsement in Alteric being in the same class of quality and polish, not by a long shot. Yes, the principles are roughly the same but there’s a lack of nuance in the overall movement missing, aside from technique like wall-sliding and the like. In addition, while many of the levels are reasonably challenging and interesting there are ones that are perhaps a bit more aggravating. Part of the blame for that lies in the button scheme though. With only 2 buttons to use it would have made sense either to map each move to 2 face buttons and both triggers on either side or to allow you to map them yourself. Nope, instead you’re using only the 2 buttons prescribed, neither set of shoulder buttons is used, and that makes some moves unnecessarily harder to coordinate than they should be. You need to do some pretty quick and precisely-timed switches of the screen while you’re making a tough jump, and its aggravating when clumsy controls make this drag out longer than should be necessary. It can be conquered, but it is still an added misstep.

Adding to the aggravation is that as you move along there are levels in serious need of checkpoints. There are some tricky sections to conquer but then shortly after when you get taken out by a trap that you couldn’t have known to avoid, making you start over again back at the beginning? I’m not a fan, and it feels like a cheap way to extend the game experience at the expense of the player experience.


All said Alteric isn’t a horrible game by any means, it’s just a pretty middling one. With so many higher-quality indie platformers that are challenging and in roughly the same price range already on Switch that also makes it a tougher sell. If you relish a challenge and have exhausted the other options there’s some good gaming to be had here, just understand you’ve likely played better.

Score: 5.5

Pros:
  • Simple but clean graphics that are easy to understand
  • Relatively simple controls that, for the most part, feel pretty good

Cons:
  • In terms of control the button placement is an avoidable problem poorly addressed
  • Some levels can have cheap elements after challenging sections, making their existence or the lack of proper checkpoints an aggravation
  • While it’s by no means horrible there are numerous far more polished experiences within the genre already on the console


Thursday, March 29, 2018

Review: Penny Punching Princess [Nintendo Switch eShop]


Though it has only been a little over a year since the Switch launched there’s definitely some genre saturation already on the eShop. In order to stand out these days in many genres you need to change things up. It appears that with the release of Penny Punching Princess the folks at NIS America have taken that to heart quite literally.


Though at its core PPP is a top-down brawler what it does differently is introduce a healthy dose of capitalism to the mix. While you may be at least somewhat formidable as a warrior your true power in the game comes from your pocketbook, with the ability to bribe both monsters and even environmental traps to be on your side. While it is certainly an unusual mechanic it quickly introduces an interesting layer of strategy onto everything you do. Is your goal to save up and go big? Do you focus more on turning monsters to your bidding or are the traps a better bet? Monsters each have their own effects (while most do damage some heal you as well) but can be tricky to deploy just right while some traps, if you can get the bad guys into place, can absolutely do devastating damage. However, the real answer is you’ll likely want to employ a pretty broad strategy for the most success, bribing a little bit of everything along the way.

The reason for diversifying is that aside from being able to have enemy monsters and traps do your bidding bribing suits your needs between levels as well back at your castle. You see, there’s equipment you’re able to craft if you have the right combination of monsters, trap materials, and gold so if you move along getting a little bit of everything you may not have to grind as hard to get what you want. New armor won’t just help give you protection, it will also determine your secondary ability, which can be either offensive or defensive. This is one opportunity you’ll have to tune the play to suit your style, the other is to acquire skill points by collecting or crafting Zenigami statues. These will let you either raise some stats or unlock buffs or added actions. There’s not too much guiding you to help understand which of these things may be most helpful but to some degree it’s all part of the fun of things.

Where things bog down a little bit is in the areas of control and the big picture. When you bring up your calculator to bribe enemies the action continues right along, with the calculator even obscuring part of your screen. Trying to type in some numbers while you fight can be done but it can also be a bit aggravating. To help out there’s an auto-bribe function but when the action is intense and there are several monsters on-screen being sure to bribe the right thing can be very hit and miss. I tended to prefer going with handheld mode so I could use the touchscreen since it was more accurate but it can work in docked mode if you have some patience. I’m not going to lie, in order to really get what you need you should also expect grinding some levels as the margin for error in hectic boss fights in particular can be rough if you’re not really ready for prime time. That means figuring out what you need, making a list, and then going back into levels to bribe the things you need to improve. While I’m hoping it is fixed with a patch a major warning for now is also that the game does not currently auto-save, something that’s hard to believe these days. Unless you want to lose an hour or two of progress be absolutely sure to go to the menu and save before you quit!

I have to give credit to the development team for coming up with something I couldn’t have ever expected and to make it work pretty well overall. The style of play leaves it very open to strategy and experimentation so if things aren’t working out you may just not be using your money as wisely as you could. That said, it’s very quirky and probably not something everyone will enjoy. If you’ve been craving something a bit different and are willing to dig in your heels and get to know the nuances of the game systems Penny Punching Princess is a heaping helping of something different.


Score: 7

Pros:
  • Undoubtedly something different than you’re used to
  • Plenty of room for strategy and tuning to suit your style
  • A stiff challenge at times, it doesn’t take it easy on you

Cons:
  • What sets it apart is also what can make it aggravating
  • Boss battles could use some zooming out, placing everything can be a challenge since they tend to be large
  • Combat itself is a generic and repetitive, it is really only the bribe mechanic that sets it apart


Review: Toki Tori [Nintendo Switch eShop]


It’s always a bit unusual to return the the original game in a series after having played its sequel. There are cases where the enhancements and changes made make it a far different game but many times going back can also simply be hard because the sequel sanded down its predecessor’s rough edges. That said, it’s also great when the original continues to stand on its own and justifies why a sequel was made in the first place, which is very much the case when it comes to Toki Tori.


You will take control of the title little bird and, if you weren’t already familiar, work through a series of puzzles. While you’ll initially start out with only 1 skill at your disposal as you work your way through more and more of them new ones will be introduced periodically for you to add to your repertoire and master. In general the initial stage for each new skill added will give you an opportunity to understand its use, but then it is generally off to the races and you’ll be expected to be a quick learner.

As you move through each major world you’ll unlock new Hard and Bonus stages that step up the level of challenge substantially. While in many levels you’ll have a use limit on each skill, forcing you to carefully plan out your route and make efficient use of everything, in these tougher stages you generally don’t have those constraints. While this would seem to make things easier, it actually does quite the opposite. With limits the puzzles allow you to work your way backwards to a degree, since they don’t give you any “extras” to work with. Without limits it generally means what you’re looking to do will instead require a different level of planning and understanding of every bit of nuance the skills can offer, as mistakes will generally mean you need to start the level over since you can’t recover from them.


If there’s a downside to Toki Tori it’s probably just the potential for frustration for more casual puzzle fans. It doesn’t shy away from being challenging but that also makes it satisfying when you’re able to figure out something you were stumped on. One saving grace is that there’s a Wild Card you can use in the game to skip the current level, just keep in mind there’s only 1 to use so if you then get stumped on another you’ll need to go back and figure the previous level out in order to skip the new one. It’s a nice mechanic that lets you move on to something else and give yourself a break, but you’ll likely not be able to then ignore it completely.

Overall, especially when comparing the original to its sequel, Toki Tori stands very well on its own and is certainly a similar experience but very much a distinct one as well. If you’re new to the series it holds up as a challenging puzzle experience, and if you’ve played the sequel but missed the original it has plenty of its own ideas that aren’t shared to help it stand on its own. Throw in a very budget-friendly price and if you enjoy games with cute characters that will make you think it’s a worthwhile purchase.


Score: 8

Pros:
  • Cute and cheery on the outside
  • Challenging and sometimes almost diabolical on the inside
  • The wild card system is a great feature for giving yourself a break, but only temporarily
  • A budget-friendly price
Cons:
  • The more casual a puzzle gamer you are the more likely the level of challenge may frustrate you
  • While distinct from its sequel the proximity of this release may make it feel too similar


Sunday, March 25, 2018

Review: SteamWorld Heist [Nintendo Switch eShop]


There’s an amazing feeling that comes over you when you begin to embark on a journey with a game that immediately connects with you and feels right. When, as you progress, there seems to be no sign of the experience flagging and, indeed, even continuing to improve you begin to get giddy with the excitement of it all. Even with as much attention as SteamWorld Dig and its sequel have gotten I simply wasn’t prepared for how incredible its cousin, SteamWorld Heist, would be. Taking the property in a very different direction the game crafters at Image & Form Games have brought another modern classic to the Switch.


The first thing worth noting is that the challenge of releasing a tactical strategy game on the Switch after the release of Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is substantial. While Heist pre-dates that title, for me it’s new since I’d never had a chance to check it out up until now. Having cut my teeth for a long time in the PC space with the X-Com series I was first shocked by how well Kingdom Battle played and made itself accessible on console. With a different perspective, it’s own style of play, and a greater degree of focus on shooting action Heist stands on its own though, and absolutely holds up to comparisons to both of those series. It’s challenging, fun, and most importantly rewards you with much more personal control over outcomes since you’re tasked with actively aiming your shots. The results are spectacular!

The meat of the gameplay is taking control of your squad, which varies in size by mission from 1 to 4, and moving them carefully and deliberately through a spaceship in search of loot at trying to stay alive. Some missions allow you to take a more deliberate and even leisurely pace but many will force you to stay in motion to keep turrets and reinforcements from overwhelming you as the threat level continues to escalate. Each squad member will have an affinity for specific weapon types and tactics, and as they level up they’ll unlock additional skills and attributes that further define their optimum play style. You’ll want to pretty quickly decide on the squad you feel most effective with and make consistent use of them to advance them as far as you can because some of the later skills are absolutely vital to your success, though the game tends to do a very good job of balancing benefits with limitations like attack bonuses that only apply if you haven’t moved in the current turn.


Aside from your squad members’ own skills the other key to success in the game is your gear, whether in the case of your weaponry or your secondary items. While many of these can be bought the best gear is usually acquired in missions, and some of the more valuable items are dropped randomly. Rare weapons are often very similar to their counterparts but have an added attribute or two that can make them particularly formidable if you’ve got the right crew member to combine them with. Supplemental items can do anything from add buffs to your character, to heal them, to give them additional attacks and they can be the key to success in some missions where the layout or enemy types may have very specific concerns. Oh, and did I mention the great temptation of hats in the game? While they’re merely cosmetic enemies can have a wide variety of unique hats and if you want them you’ll need to shoot them off before you dispatch of their wearer. While it’s silly I found more than a few times I’d put my mission at risk in order to carefully shoot off and retrieve a hat because I thought it would look good on one of my crew members. It’s a small and silly touch but it’s also a detail I adore in such a well-balanced game.

With multiple skill levels available SteamWorld Heist is a game that anyone, from a tactical strategy newbie to a grizzled veteran, should be able to enjoy. Well-designed, looking fabulous on Switch, and thoroughly engaging it offers a rewarding combination of careful planning and then execution in aiming that I can’t get enough of. Pulling off a tricky ricochet shot from across the room is such a rush, just remember that when you inadvertently end up blowing up a crewmate a little later because you didn’t plan it out well. While battles can be aggravating at times the great news is that every time you try placements and layouts will tend to vary either a little or a lot so you may have just had a bad break. If you haven’t yet checked out SteamWorld Heist you owe it to yourself to give it a shot, it is unquestionably one of the best games on the Switch.


Score: 9.5

Pros:
  • A satisfying mix of strategy and execution in aiming
  • Procedural level generation means that subsequent attempts of missions will play out differently
  • A wide variety of crew members with varying skills allow you to find your ideal mix
  • Varied skill settings allow for the experience to be toned down or cranked up as your abilities may demand

Cons:
  • If you can’t get the hang of estimating your aim you could be in for frustrations
  • People who don’t like the pacing of turn-based strategy could find it to be slow


Saturday, March 24, 2018

Review: The Long Reach [Nintendo Switch eShop]


As anyone who has been keeping track of my indie adventures on the site knows, I’m a big fan of the old-school adventure genre. Having cut my teeth on the classics back in the day, and even on their text-based ancestors before that, I’ve seen the genre go in any number of directions. Even so, none have had a story quite as unusual and theme quite as odd as the one in The Long Reach. The desire for the creepy and some pretty salty dialogue are prerequisites for your enjoyment of the title, just be warned that just like your character’s sanity as an experience it’s a bit all over the place.


Since the story, surprises, and weirdness are so important to the experience I’ll only talk about it at a general level so as not to ruin it for people who decide to take the plunge. There’s a sickness out there, some really whacked out people, and you’ll certainly question repeatedly whether or not your character is one of them. Wondering WTF is going on is a pretty central part of the experience, without a doubt. Whether or not the ultimate payoff to the ride is worth the trouble would be a matter of opinion but while there are elements to the story that piqued my morbid sense of curiosity I can’t say I wasn’t hoping for something more at the end of the day.

Even if the story weren’t a bit hit or miss in terms of making sense and being ultimately satisfying strong gameplay and puzzle elements could have fully righted the ship. Unfortunately, in this area too, there are some rough edges. Adventure titles are notorious for either being too easy or too obtuse in their inventory-based puzzles and it’s games like this one that underline the problem in both directions. In general I’d say either solutions are plain and telegraphed or just a bit odd and obscure. Having the right items isn’t always the end of the solution there are times when you need to alter items to prep them and in many cases this boils down to heavy trial and error. Where most in the genre try to give you pointers here and there to help guide you generally you’re all on your own to figure out what to do next and there are times when this can be very aggravating, especially when the solution sometimes feels really random.


Contributing further to the problem is that a mixture of the level of lighting in many areas, combined with the size of things you’ll need to retrieve like sets of keys, make it incredibly easy to miss things as you move about. With this in mind I absolutely cannot recommend playing the game in handheld mode at all, as seeing things on my monitor was difficulty enough in a few cases, in handheld mode I can only imagine that you’d need to slowly move everywhere just hitting the button hoping to grab something you can’t see the highlight for. In addition there are times where dialogue options or related actions require plain trial and error to get through. Thankfully when you die it doesn’t take long to get back to where you were but this is another case where the proper path can feel a bit random.

Overall, the hook of The Long Reach, the mystery, the horror elements, and the suspense, needs to be the primary thing you’re looking for in order for it to be a good fit. If you’re invested in that aspect of the experience I think there’s enough meat there to chew on for a few hours if you’re willing to be a bit patient and understanding. If what I’ve described of the story doesn’t sound very appealing unfortunately I’d say that the rest of the elements won’t be able to make it compelling.


Score: 5.5

Pros:
  • An unusual story full of twists and turns
  • If you’re down for something creepy, perhaps it has enough to sustain you

Cons:
  • Puzzles are all over the place and some solutions are downright obscure
  • Items can be extremely easy to miss, leading to unnecessary frustrations
  • If you’re not a fan of relatively needless profanity, stay away
  • Due to item scale and issues even in docked mode it is hard to recommend to anyone who intends to play the game in handheld mode


Thursday, March 22, 2018

Review: Tesla Vs. Lovecraft [Nintendo Switch eShop]


I’ve made absolutely no secret of the fact that I love arcade-style twin-stick shooters. Give me intensity, variation, crazy enemies, and even crazier weapons and I’m all over it. When it comes to this specific genre on the Switch the folks at 10 Tons have pretty well owned the majority of the spectrum. In order to keep it interesting they’ve melded the shooting with other genre feels or objective-based play but with their newest title, Tesla Vs. Lovecraft they’ve gone back to purely insane shooting. The great thing is, they’ve made that core gameplay better on pretty well all counts by applying everything they’ve learned to date.


While there’s no doubt this sort of game doesn’t have a need for a story or theme whoever came up with the idea of pitting the technology of Tesla up against the nightmarish horrors of Lovecraft deserves a freaking award. In the early going of the campaign you’ll slowly begin to accumulate the pieces of your eventual arsenal, generally being introduced to each weapon, special attack, and perk along the way. Oh, and then there’s the teleport ability, the thing that takes the game from merely great to inspired. It will bail you out of trouble, let you jump gaps, and with the proper perk it can even be an effective weapon. If you want to be effective you’ll need to become familiar with it all, and know how to mix and match your perks and weapons to the greatest effect, if you want to survive through all 3 difficulty levels of the campaign. I’ve beaten the game on the Eldritch plane and come out the other side alive, but you’re going to have to work for it.


In terms of the look and quality of play the game looks plain incredible on the Switch and performs like a champ. When you really get things rolling with a multi-barrel ball lightning gun and get fire bullets you’re gonna see some serious action on-screen and it doesn’t slow down one bit. Screenshots and even watching video doesn’t really do the game justice though, playing it just feels great with smooth and responsive controls and often a blistering pace. Your choice in perks as you level up will be random (though with time you can try to influence this to your favor a bit), but you’ll have to make what you have work. It’s important to consider the layout of the level, the abundance of walls, what types of enemies you’re facing, etc so while you may have preferences there are times where you’ll need to go a different route. Oh, and did I mention that you’ll constantly want to be picking up the pieces of your mech suit of death so you can rain destruction on your enemies? The game has got it going on!


That isn’t to say everything is quite perfect. I’ve run into a random bug here and there where I’m unable to pick up weapons for an extended stretch for some reason that comes and goes. It can be a tad annoying but wasn’t a regular occurrence. Hopefully this can be found and remedied. Another area that could use a little more work would be the Survival Mode. This is where I spent a substantial amount of time playing Crimsonland and was what I was really looking forward to. As it is implemented now I think it could be one option but I’d like to see more maps, including maps with different flow and perhaps a slower difficulty ramp up as well. I lived on Crimsonland’s brutal Blitz Survival mode and thrived but even as tough as that could get there always felt like a way to break through. The way this one curves up and gets tough within a mere 5 minutes it goes from challenging to death in a hurry. Where the game feels the best is when you’re really going to town and edging out death, throwing out damage and getting juiced up. With the current implementation Survival Mode feels like it is killing you off just as you may be starting to make things interesting. Like I said, this version has its place but with so many great maps and by playing with some sliders I think there could be a few more than would really let you stretch out and do some substantial damage.


All said, Tesla Vs. Lovecraft is probably the best 10 Tons game I’ve played to date from concept to execution. It puts everything they have on the table, looks incredible, plays smoothly, and is simply a hell of a lot of fun. I’m hoping to see just a little more come to the table to make the experience even better but if you’ve got a soft spot for some intense twin-stick shooting action you (and a friend if you’d like) really need to put this at the top of your list.

Score: 9

Pros:
  • Looks incredible and performs pretty well flawlessly
  • The perk and weapon combinations make for an endless variety of ways you can slaughter the nightmare hordes
  • Teleportation mixed with the mech suit power-up crank the insanity and fun up to 11

Cons:
  • Some bugs with weapon pick-ups every here and there
  • The current implementation of Survival mode could use some further fleshing out and tuning to allow it to be more fun


Review: Castle of Heart [Nintendo Switch eShop]


The traditional side-scrolling action/adventure genre has been kicking around since roughly the arcade days. Classics like Ghouls and Ghosts morphed into the more sophisticated likes of Castlevania and many others over the ages, but the roots are pretty consistent: Expect to be hacking and slashing your way through foes and then trying desperately to avoid the many traps and obstacles set in your way. As a brand new title the Switch-exclusive Castle of Heart enters the fray, looking to put its own spin on things and no doubt establish some roots.


The story ties heavily into the gameplay mechanics, where you’re a knight who is trying to find and defeat an evil sorcerer who has cursed the kingdom and you as well. Turned to stone, you’re barely managing to keep alive and throughout the game you’ll have to collect orbs to stave off death. Taking damage or simply taking too long will cause your life gauge to diminish. As you approach death you’ll lose an arm, leaving you unable to use any secondary weapons, and if then if you’re unable to get to the next checkpoint quickly you’ll crumble to pieces.

Your journey will take you through 4 pretty distinct chapters, each with their own aesthetics, traps, and action sequences. Gameplay tends to alternate between combat, platforming sequences, and then more signature stretches of action that change things up quite a bit. It’s probably these moments that are the most interesting, intense, and notable but they can also be a bit unforgiving. At the conclusion of each chapter you’ll then face a major battle, requiring you to put the skills (and hopefully some secondary weapons like bombs) you’ve accumulated to the test.


What unfortunately overshadows all of the positives in the game are the muddy controls and some serious inconsistencies in behavior. There’s either a bit of control lag or at least some clumsiness in the movement animations in the game. Everything feels kind of accurate but not really tight, and given all of the sequences where you need to be precise this can be grating. While checkpoints are meant to help break things up, and they do to a degree, there are stretches that play out almost cruelly, making you slog through combat and then try to go through a sequence of jumps or traps. While the constant loss of your life force is an interesting mechanic it also actively discourages you from wanting to explore as the rewards for getting sidetracked are generally not worth the risk. Similarly the pretty clunky combat wastes time and I found I was often more successful only fighting when I needed to and avoiding it whenever possible. Possibly the thing that irritated me the most, though, was the major inconsistencies with dropped secondary weapons. A ranged weapon can be crucial and yet they were inconsistently dropped by enemies from run to run. Throw in the fact that on most deaths you wouldn’t then have the secondary weapon you’d had when you got to the checkpoint and this really makes some runs feel doomed before they start.

Put it all together and though there are a lot of ideas and interesting sequences in Castle of Heart, the execution is lacking in polish in key areas and that often makes the game more aggravating than fun unfortunately. It’s not outright broken, but it falls into the trap of getting in its own way with ideas that are actively fighting with the mechanics. Throw in control that’s not very tight and while the game does have a lot of heart, trying to do its best, it’s difficult to recommend heartily.


Score: 6

Pros:
  • Some well-conceived action sequences
  • Interesting ideas, some of which work well
  • Distinctive art and elements in each Chapter

Cons:
  • Controls are muddy and lack the precision a game like this needs
  • Combat is very limited and clunky, better avoided if possible
  • Secondary weapon drops are inconsistent for the same enemies on different runs and yet they’re quite crucial to success
  • There’s little incentive to do anything other than try to run the levels quickly because of the health mechanic and stingy rewards for getting sidetracked to find orbs


Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Review: Slayaway Camp [Nintendo Switch eShop]


When you’ve historically played an absolutely massive number of games it, unfortunately, tends to make you a little jaded. You begin to see familiar patterns, start identifying where elements of games were borrowed or refined from… it can be interesting but also a bit depressing as it’s a challenge to be surprised. That said, when something manages to take the familiar and do something crazy with it you end up being very impressed. Slayaway Camp is such a title, managing to take what could have been a pretty solid puzzle game and elevating it to a higher level through the use of humor, a boatload of horror pop culture references, and copious amounts of voxel-based gore.


To start out in the game you’ll initially be playing the part of Skullface, a homicidal maniac determined to slaughter the innocent, or pretty well anyone else who gets in his way. Though the theming is heavily on the horror side below it all the game is actually a pretty traditional puzzler, where you’ll slide in a direction until something stops you. Whether that’s a victim, a wall, a barrier, or whatever else this rule is what creates the challenge as you’ll find to complete levels you’ll need to trigger a very specific chain of events. What elevates the puzzle play here are the various elements thrown in that make it more challenging. Once you slay your victims you need to be able to get to the exit, doing something wrong will trap you even though you’ve fulfilled your bloody mission. Getting near victims will scare them away, potentially running into a fire, perhaps getting into a better position, or maybe just forcing you to start over. In addition there are bookcases to be toppled, phones to be rung, and many more elements that get thrown in to complicate matters of force you to carefully plan out your delicious murders.

While the puzzles themselves are actually excellent and surprisingly varied, it’s really the theming that helps bring it all home. As someone who grew up in the 80s and spent far too many weekends watching horror movies that I got from the video store this game really speaks to me on a personal level. Each collection of levels is part of a movie, and as you finish one it will unlock more. In general for each new movie you unlock you’ll add a new killer to your menagerie of death, but as you accumulate in-game coins you’ll have an option to randomly unlock new ones as well. Each killer tends to have their own signature kill, but there are both general ones and those that you can unlock as well. These play out as sorts of cutscenes when you get a kill, with some that are interactive and some that aren’t. If you see a gauge pop up you’ll need to time your strike properly or you’ll fail to get your kill… just tell yourself they must have been a virgin I suppose. You may not want to spend all of your in-game currency though as if you’re in a tough spot and stuck with a puzzle you can buy a hint or even the solution itself if you just can’t figure it out.

In terms of criticism I actually don’t see much to find fault with aside from not appreciating the theme or being familiar enough with the 80s movies they’re having fun with. If you find the gore a bit too excessive (since it is all so blocky I personally find it all hysterical) there is an option to tone it down a bit, so all is not lost if you prefer things a little less bloody. Unfortunately, if you don’t know what a VCR is or have never had the joy of watching many cheesy horror classics there’s no remedy for that. You may still find the antics amusing abstractly but it probably won’t speak to you as much.


In the end I had an absolute blast with Slayaway Camp and would heartily recommend it to anyone who is either a fan of great puzzle games or 80s horror movies… if you like both you’re truly in for a treat. The violence in voxel form is utterly comical, the callbacks to horror icons and some of their great kills are wonderful, and the puzzles themselves are thoroughly challenging. Since it also includes every bit of content released for the game to date, all in one, on every level it is a killer deal.

Score: 9

Pros:
  • Pure 80s horror film fun and fan service
  • Over 300 challenging puzzles with a wide variety of elements to keep things fresh
  • If you’re entertained by chunky pixel death you’re in for a treat!

Cons:
  • If you’re put off by gore, you can tone it down, but it still may be too much for you
  • A lack of pop culture knowledge and appreciation for 80s horror will diminish the fun


Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Review: Swim Out [Nintendo Switch eShop]


When dealing with a well-known genre and mechanics that aren’t revolutionary the key to success can be effective theming. Presentation can help to take the ordinary and elevate it, helping gloss over the familiar a bit. In the case of Swim Out the idea is to transport you to a sunny locale to take a hearty swim, trying to generally get from one side of a body of water to the other without bumping into any of your fellow aquatic adventurers and dodging an occasional obstacle. The result is a solid, though perhaps a bit generic, puzzler.


Since it’s a puzzle game, and your goal is to merely get from here to there, the challenge is created by what’s in your way through 7 chapters and over 100 levels. By using the varying patterns of a wide variety swimmers, an eventual collection of aquatic creatures, a random kayaker and more, your objective is to figure out how to weave through everything without colliding with anyone. For variety there are sometimes additional objectives to lure you out to a different area and increase difficulty or an odd beach ball, goggles, or floatie (among other objects) you can then use to your advantage (or sometimes to your forced disadvantage) to create an opportunity for yourself.


The slow and steady progression in difficulty is managed well and typically new swimmer or obstacle types are introduced in a less threatening manner at first so you understand them before the challenges involving them are dialed up. Some levels involve multiple areas, and eventually you may need to move back a few pools to collect an item you’ll need to advance. In general patience and a willingness to accept what isn’t working and trying a different path or approach is effective to resolving issues.


In most respects there’s nothing really holding things back aside from perhaps it being a bit too safe and traditional. While many variations are thrown at you in the end it all boils down to seeing the patterns in front of you and breaking down how to either conform to or disrupt them to the point that you can get through. That’s not to say some levels aren’t demanding but the whole experience plays it a bit safe. If you love a good puzzle game and the theme appeals to you while the air is frigid outside it delivers a good value just keep your expectations in check and you should have a good time with it.

Score: 7.5

Pros:
  • A fair amount of variety and steadily-increasing challenge spanning over 100 levels
  • New elements every few stages helps to keep things a little more interesting
  • Well-themed and presented attractively

Cons:
  • Perhaps a bit too traditional and safe for its own good
  • The majority of challenges you face will likely feel familiar on a general level


Sunday, March 18, 2018

Review: Last Day of June [Nintendo Switch eShop]


Every once in a while there are games that hit you in a way you don’t expect, even if you can perhaps see their end coming. Whether it is the unexpected or the plainly obvious when you invest time and effort into understanding and embracing your character’s world the resolution to an adventure can leave a lasting mark. The last game that hit me hard was Telltale’s The Walking Dead, Season 1. It’s been years since then and while I’ve played compelling games nothing has quite had that power. That changed playing Last Day of June.


Starting with the look and feel of the game the art style, looking like a hybrid of clay figures and an animated painting, it is amazing. The colors are fully saturated, the environments are lush, and the characters (though they lack eyes) convey a surprising amount of emotion. To add to that the music is evocative and helps reinforce the emotions of everything you see. A fair criticism is that the load times are often a bit exorbitant, and that does sometimes interfere with things, but I’d say that given the aesthetics it isn’t too hard to excuse.

In order to reveal next to nothing at all of the overall narrative, for fear of ruining pretty well anything, I’ll leave you with the fact that it does an excellent job of telling stories beyond just the main characters. Through the course of the game you’ll inhabit multiple people and understand their role to play in this world as well as the nature of their challenges. I encourage you to seek out the orbs that belong to each of them, revealing elements of their story, because they reveal the depth of the storytelling at play and how everyone has their own sorrows and regrets.


In general terms this plays out like an action adventure game, with you trying to work out the solutions to puzzles that present themselves to each character. Through a dynamic that reveals itself in the game you’ll find that there’s a sort of puzzle to be worked out, and you’ll both see the same events through different sets of eyes as well as have the opportunity to change how events unfold. While this can get a bit repetitive at times it all serves the ultimate story, helping to explain how things end up the way they do.

I’m sorry if this review is somewhat evasive but I don’t wish to do anything to ruin the outstanding story in the game concerning love, loss, and even sacrifice for the sake of others. There’s no getting around the somewhat repetitive nature of the core gameplay as you relive the same events multiple times and try to affect different outcomes. There were also a few times where I wasn’t 100% sure what I was expected to do but the thing is, if you are a sucker for a great story, Last Day of June will absolutely suck you in and help prove that games have an amazing power to connect you to a meaningful story.


Score: 8.5

Pros:
  • An amazing look
  • Music that helps reinforce the power of the narrative
  • Multiple worthwhile stories to tell
  • Grab your tissues and buckle up for quite a ride

Cons:
  • The load times can get a bit long
  • A fair degree of repetition as events play out multiple times through the eyes of different people
  • At certain points it isn’t necessarily clear what you need to do to progress


Review: OPUS - Rocket of Whispers [Nintendo Switch eShop]


As games have evolved as an artform, and as indie studios with more varied backgrounds and smaller budgets have emerged, the prime elements in games have been allowed to swing more out of balance. Where traditionally the story would more commonly serve the gameplay but not necessarily overtake it almost completely it now isn’t uncommon to see those same elements take a back seat to stronger narrative beats. OPUS - Rocket of Whispers is such a game, delving into a heartfelt story about survivors in a post-Apocalyptic world of sorts who have been given the heavy task of honoring those who’ve been lost.


Rather than try to explain too much about the story, first because that would serve to potentially ruin the ride and second because it involves sending ghosts of people in rockets into space, suffice it to say that the world has gone down very hard and things are bleak. As if being one of only two apparent survivors (though the world beyond the perhaps 30 - 40 square miles the games takes place in) of a terrible viral plague wasn’t bad enough the character you play as, John, is haunted by the ghosts of the people of his town. In order to help them move on past this world he must work with the world’s only remaining witch, Fei, to construct a rocket that will deliver them beyond and end both their suffering and his.

The gameplay, for the most part, consists of taking John through the surrounding areas, and eventually the outskirts of a city, to salvage the parts they’ll need to be successful. In order to progress you’ll need to find supplies that will help you craft gear like show shoes to walk through deep snow and a few other practical items. In your wandering you’ll also encounter a variety of personal keepsakes as well, typically in a roughed up condition. The stories associated with these help flesh out the entire picture of the events that took place towards the end, the chaos of it all, and the personal pain many people suffered through. You’ll start the day, explore, scavenge, try not to hurt yourself, discover parts and pieces, later, rinse, and repeat. Early on this all feels pretty linear but as the game opens up you have more options of where you can go, though ultimately you’ll end up roughly needing to go everywhere to find what you’ll need.


As I’d mentioned, in terms of raw gameplay things are a bit uneven bordering on wonky. Especially as you start out what you’re supposed to specifically be doing isn’t always clear and the cues for where to go and what to do next aren’t always as helpful as perhaps would be preferable. Nonetheless, the further in that I got the more I felt compelled to break through and see the story through to the end, to understand what happens and the full story behind the weight both John and Fei feel. While I saw more elaborate possibilities with where things could be going narratively the ending was still satisfying even if it is unclear what comes next.

Overall, if you’re down for a pretty touching story of people under stress but doing their best in an admittedly horrible situation it makes for a compelling handful of hours. Any expectations of the gameplay itself being satisfying should be checked at the door, for the most part it is just exploration with the job of helping advance the narrative. Despite that fact I still found the game’s story compelling enough to see me through to the end and appreciated everything it was trying to convey.


Score: 7.5

Pros:
  • A compelling core story peppered with additional snippets of stories from others facing oblivion
  • Terrific artwork and music help convey the emotion of the narrative

Cons:
  • The experience is very story-forward with the gameplay itself serving mostly to support it, not stand out in its own right significantly
  • If mushiness, emotions, and people under stress aren’t your bag you’ll very much want to stay away
  • Especially early on it’s not always clear what you’re supposed to do. When in doubt, just go to sleep...


Review: Sparkle 3 Genesis [Nintendo Switch eShop]


Not all games are meant to be about thrilling action or a meaningful story, sometimes it is satisfying just to sit down with a game that relaxes you and can simple be enjoyed at a slower pace. Throwing lush visuals and a sedated soundtrack at you on the surface Sparkle 3 Genesis is such a game. Unfortunately, even when relaxing the standards of gameplay there’s just simply not very much to it and that makes it hard to recommend.


My expectation, coming into it, was that it would be a bit like the early stage of the classic game Spore, where you’d start out as the lowest organism on the food chain and then slowly work your way up. There’s a certain eat or be eaten principle to these, with you needing to focus on avoiding anything bigger than you and feasting on anything smaller. While this concept is present to a minor degree it also implies far more action than you’ll find here. Sadly, it would also imply a far more coherent structure.

Rather than rely on simple pre-existing ideas and your instincts Sparkle 3 guides you by through a series of worlds with missions that you’ll be assigned when you run into stars that you’ll encounter. These allow you to get direction from what I assume is your creator giving you some purpose. Whether telling you to go dispose of some enemy creatures, navigate an area without running into the wrong areas on the walls, or escorting some other organisms to safety there is at least a little bit of variety to your tasks though most range from somewhat aggravating to merely dull. The glacial pacing of everything really begins to wear on you even while in the missions, but when you are sent somewhere else because you made a mistake and have to slowly swim back to the start it can really get irritating.


On top of the somewhat anemic gameplay there are just so many things in the game that same half-baked. The mini-map is often of marginal use and while there are structured parts to the environments you’re in anything beyond that is just empty and lacking in walls… it’s just a void. As you level up you’ll be able to choose whether to allocate points into either the red, blue, or green trees but while there are numbers and sliders there showing what you’ve chosen through many levels I have yet to detect what meaningful difference any of it made to gameplay. It does influence your appearance, though as far as I can tell that is mostly a matter of what color and general look you’ll have and not much more. Even as you get bigger you still seem to only eat the same colored pellets that are scattered about, and for every few you eat there’ll be a flash that doesn’t seem to mean anything but once in a while you’ll be able to level up. You constantly have indicators guiding you to the closest pellets of each color even though once you’re rolling you have no issue finding them and it would seem something quest-centric would have been far more useful since often finding your quest objectives is a tedious chore. While you’ll recoil and there’ll be a flash of red when you’re hit by an enemy creature as far as I can tell beyond that you seem immune to consequence from damage.


There’s just so much that is either unexplained or not terribly helpful it makes really enjoying the game difficult. I can appreciate its soothing qualities, combining its pretty looks with its very mellow music but beyond that I’d still like there to be a game worth playing. Unfortunately it seems to be in the midst of trying to pull of its own evolution of sorts and is being pulled in too many directions by a mishmash of incomplete ideas. I think there’s promise in this type of game being interesting, and have played games like it that are compelling, but Genesis has too many issues to recommend with any enthusiasm.

Score: 4

Pros:
  • Great aesthetics
  • Mellow and soothing music

Cons:
  • A seemingly-functionless upgrade system
  • Too many lapses in action and time wasted on simply getting in place
  • No apparent consequence for taking damage
  • Constant indicators showing where food is even though quickly they’re unnecessary whereas guidance for your current objective would have been far more useful