Saturday, September 29

Review: Epic Loon [Nintendo Switch eShop]


Having reviewed over 500 indie games on the Switch at this point I fooled myself into thinking that nothing could really take my by surprise. Having played quite a bit of the title Epic Loon I can say that sense of pride has been utterly shattered. While I can’t say that it has too much going on mechanically, somehow with its very unusual presentation and theming it managed to do a fair job of hooking me in and I could see it being a riot to play late at night with some friends.


The first rule with the game is really to not try to make much sense of it, just go along for the ride and accept the weirdness with open arms to maximize enjoyment. The full story is explained in the opening video sequence of the game but essentially you’re playing the game as a group of 4 aliens that have inhabited a reclusive weirdo’s VCR that he’s hoping to kill. In an attempt to put you through the wringer he’s loaded up 4 distinct movies, roughly based on Nosferatu, Jurassic Park, Godzilla, and Alien. This all sets the stage for a unique game experience that’s mechanically extremely basic and yet somehow works pretty well as a whole package.


In each stage the 4 aliens (you can play with up to 4 people with the rest filled in, including simply loading up only the bots if you’d like and you’re weird) will need to attempt to get through all sorts of unusual themed obstacles to a sort of rift somewhere else on the screen. Getting there is almost always a challenge, first because your options for movement are very limited, and second because all manner of obstacles and methods for dying abound. Basically you can stay in your normal form, only able to hop a little bit from side to side, or you can squish yourself down which will make you stick to surfaces and then move your eye back and forth to help aim while you try to jump to different spots. In terms of gameplay that’s really all there is, though to imply it’s “simple” would be a mistake. Getting from the starting point to the rift can be aggravatingly tough since there are no checkpoints and mistakes will put you right back at the beginning.


What makes Epic Loon stand out, and work at all, is that the various screens you end up in that are tied to each movie are so utterly odd and creative. There’s a real method to the madness in this game and for me the element of the unexpected and the legitimate challenges in making effective use of such limited controls pays off. It’s absolutely not a game that will work for everyone, and if you’re only going to play solo it may not be a great match, but if you’ve got a bunch of geeky friends who love iconic movies and weirdness Epic Loon may just provide for some really unexpected entertainment while you’re all trying to prove who’s the best.


Score: 7

Pros:
  • Even as simple as the controls may be the ways you’re expected to use them to get to your objective can be quite challenging
  • Utterly unpredictable as each stage can bring unexpected complications and laughs to the table
  • If you’ve got a rowdy bunch of friends with a weakness for movie classics it works on an entirely different level
  • So much WTF!

Cons:
  • Not nearly as fun as a solo experience
  • While the diversity in stages can make for fun, some of them can be particularly challenging to clear
  • If you removed the theming the core gameplay would quickly get stale, though if you’re not a big movie nerd it could still wear on your after a while
  • Scaling would make it pretty well unplayable in handheld mode