Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Review: Gal Metal [Nintendo Switch eShop]


While the likes of Guitar Hero and its ilk went down pretty hard in the end I still enjoy a solid music and rhythm game. When I first saw information on Gal Metal I wasn’t quite sure of what to make of it, curious about how serious the music elements would be and then what the glue would be to hold it all together. Now having jammed through some tunes to hold off an alien invasion, talked about all manner of weird topics with my girls in a chat room, and hung out with or worked a shift with them I’ll at least say this: Gal Metal is absolutely and un-apologetically its own thing… and ideally you’ll get into expressing yourself on the drum set.



Separating the music from the rest of the game we’ll start with the weirdo story and non-musical elements. Starting with the oddity of you playing as a boy who is in control of a girl’s body, which I suppose was done to set up some of the silly situations and dialogue you’ll encounter along the way, you’re going to just need to roll with things. To top that off aliens have come to Earth upset with the destructive music we sent out into the universe and the only thing standing in the way of annihilation is your after school rock club. In between different types of aliens being held at bay by your musical talents you’ll need to socialize, build friendships, and work on developing your stats in key areas that will give you perks and stats. To what degree any of this ultimately plays is hard to say but it most definitely gives the game a unique and unexpected flavor.



On the musical side of things I’d wager people will be divided since its approach is very different from what you’ve gotten accustomed to. In most music games like Rock Band or countless others the emphasis is on you executing pre-set charts and your success is measured by your accuracy. While you’ll learn core rudiments and beats that you’ll want to play with some consistency in order to get your score rolling what you’re provided the opportunity to do in Gal Metal is experiment with different rhythms and sequences… a sort of music game equivalent of improvisation. In terms of executing this you’ll have a choice between using motion controls, buttons, or the touchscreen and for me there’s no contest, the touchscreen is by far the easiest way to go. I’d consider the motion controls at least novel, and some people may dig them, but the consistency using touch controls is preferable and while the buttons work well enough I found them increasingly uncomfortable and it was tough being accurate with the Z triggers specifically.



While Gal Metal won’t be for everyone it’s absolutely a unique title that caught me by surprise on multiple levels and that grew on me as I got more comfortable with its approach to the music. Much like real improv getting started with playing around in the music with different beats and combinations can be a complete mess, but with time and some confidence you can surprise yourself. While the story elements are completely bizarre they at least made me laugh, though I’d be curious just how much cultivating friendships and building specific stats influence things. Regardless, Gal Metal is a fresh take on music games and stands out from the crowd if you don’t mind its quirks.



Score: 7

Pros:
  • In general, with its emphasis on expression over rote execution, it’s a very forgiving music game
  • It can be fun to explore different beats with the game’s various charts
  • Outside of the music pretty well everything is uniformly silly, which can be fun even if not all of the humor connects

Cons:
  • If you were hoping for a musical experience akin to the likes of Guitar Hero you’ll likely be disappointed by the lack of structure
  • The story elements are a bit of an acquired taste and it’s hard to gauge their necessity to things
  • While motion controls and the buttons are supported got docked play, results with the touchscreen in handheld mode are generally much more consistent


Review: Death Mark [Nintendo Switch eShop]


Interactive novels are something that I’ve not had much experience with to date but that certainly offer some interesting opportunities. A well-written narrative has the power to excite or scare, depending on the genre, so in theory by using both audio and visual elements to enhance the experience you can get something better. Death Mark has some game-like elements but what will make or break it for you is the somewhat odd story, the characters you interact with, and the spooky atmosphere and events you’ll encounter. 



Without giving too much away after setting the stage to minimally establish your character and learn about the tales of this thing called the Death Mark, which dooms people to lose all of their memories and then die within a few days, you’ll discover you’ve been cursed with it. You’re drawn to an old mansion where you’ll meet a few other people who’ve been marked and a pretty creepy talking doll who tells you that you must uncover the secret behind your marks quickly or you’ll be unable to escape a grim fate. From that launching point you’ll work through 5 distinct episodes, each dealing with a new environment and ghost who’ll be your focus.



Gameplay may be a generous word to describe how you’ll interact with the title, but there is more to do than read through loads of text. Adventure portions of each chapter consist of you searching rooms, using your flashlight to find cues that will encourage you to search specific areas or objects to find items that will help you progress or insights that could make the difference between life and death (well, a Game Over screen that you can quickly recover from and keep playing). While your actions in the game don’t feel like they carry much consequence in the end, the story is somewhat on rails and you’re just given ways to interact within the confines of the track you’re on, these sequences do help reinforce the mood and overall creepy nature of the story. Having text describe the spooky rooms or things like faces that will appear suddenly wouldn’t be as effective as you experiencing them directly, hopefully alone in a dark room with headphones on to get the maximum experience.



Appropriately released on Halloween, Death Mark is a title that has the power to suck you in and give you a range of feelings from dread to some scares depending on how you react to weird images and sudden jumps in music. Playing out as a mix of interactive novel and traditional adventure it has a flair to it, but you’ll also need to invest some time in it before it bears fruit. If you’re able to dedicate your full attention to it, playing it as was intended, it does heighten tensions nicely. While it won’t be satisfying if you’re in search of action and thrills, if you’re down for ghost stories that you experience at a slower pace it may be satisfying.



Score: 7

Pros:
  • Some terrific and bizarre art
  • Played properly, in a dark room with headphones, it does a great job of creating tension and a creepy vibe

Cons:
  • If you’re not down for something with a slow pace that takes its time and has you reading quite a lot you’ll find it aggravating
  • Gameplay is more about you exploring and getting you into the mood of things, your choices and decisions ultimately do little to change final outcomes
  • The initial asking price is surprisingly high


Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Review: Suicide Guy - Sleepin' Deeply [Nintendo Switch eShop]


Before even rolling with the merits (or in this case, the lack thereof) of this title I wanted to say that at its base premise level I’m not a fan. Having a daughter who has struggled with mental health and problems with suicidal thoughts at times, having that as a core mechanic is already something I’m not thrilled with. But, for it to have a “light and fun” tone to go with it and feature it in the title with a somewhat cavalier attitude I consider a bit ignorant of the seriousness of it as a problem. With that out of the way, I can now discuss why even completely disregarding those reservations I’m not much of a fan of this title.


Occupying a space somewhere between being a physics game, an action game, and an adventure Sleepin’ Deeply for the most part seems to take a central theme and then run with it to make each level. This makes sense since it seems everything is happening in his dreams and the only way to “wake up” and progress is I suppose to kill himself. The trick is that doing so tends to be a somewhat elaborate affair and you’ll need to trial and error your way through the environment to figure out what you’re supposed to do in order to trigger your demise. While I’ll credit the degree of creativity in some cases, with one level having you try to make your way through a literal Rube Goldberg machine in order to shoot yourself, is admirable most everything past the premise itself is a hot mess.


Too often games that go the “physics route” allow that label to be an excuse for poor controls and things like collision detection. That’s definitely on display here, with everything feeling a bit wonky as you move around and interact with the environment. This includes having platforming sections where you can’t see your feet (I suppose it’s funny his gut gets in the way of this) and while somewhat forgiving they just feel awkward and sloppy. In general you’re left to stumble your way through what it is you’re even supposed to be doing, perhaps giving it a puzzle-like adventure vibe but mostly in an annoying way since this can just feel like it’s wasting your time.


I suppose Sleepin’ Deeply has a weirdo novel appeal to it, and with its budget price could provide a few hours of entertainment, but setting your expectations low on all levels would need to be in order. It feels quite a bit like a last-gen (or maybe even more than 1 generation ago) title not just visually but in terms of mechanics and everything else as well. Outside of the environments you find yourself in being weird there’s not very much that qualifies as satisfying, it’s just something to stumble your way through for the most part.


Score: 5

Pros:
  • Some strange environments and situations
  • I love the Rube Goldberg level, though you can’t appreciate its complexity very well as you try to run through it
  • A budget price

Cons:
  • Sloppy controls mixed with clumsy platforming
  • Everything is very trial and error in figuring out what you need to do to proceed, and in some cases it simply doesn’t make much sense
  • While I appreciate this is in dreams, prominently featuring Suicide in the title and premise I’m not a fan of considering the seriousness of the problem


Review: SkyScrappers [Nintendo Switch eShop]


Creating games around a central hook can be a tricky business, though with multiplayers games it can work out for the best if you’re lucky and connect with people. If you make everything too difficult you lose the pick-up-and-play aspect of things that makes it an accessible experience for anyone/everyone. Make it too simple and you risk the gameplay feeling more like an extended mini game than something you’d want to stick with for a while. SkyScrappers is a bit stuck in this trap, and attempts to compensate with a sense of Street Fighter II-like style in its presentation, but simply doesn’t have much meat on its bones.


You’ll start with your choice of 4 combatants, 2 make and 2 female, that have a somewhat stylish and yet generic look to them. Once you’ve made your choice the gameplay itself is pretty straightforward, your goal is to either outlast your opponents while making your way up a building or get to the top first. Strategy can vary from avoiding your opponents and trying to focus on jumping onto falling pieces of debris to ascend more quickly than they do or getting aggressive and doing some rudimentary fighting. Reaching the bottom of the screen or being struck will slowly whittle their health bar to nothing, and looking for opportunities while they’re on the ropes can leave an opening for finishing them off. The special meter, which can be used either on a big jump or attack, can also play a role in things and turn the tide if you use it wisely.


The thing is, other than changing up the scenery and playing with between 2 and 4 players there’s not much more to talk about. Exclusive to the Switch version of the game you do have the ability to play in vertical mode, which I suppose is novel, but even in single-player I found the scale of things a bit too small and I can’t imagine more than one person trying to play this way. Neat, but I’m not sure it’s practical. Overall, while there’s nothing outright awful about SkyScrappers there’s just not very much compelling about it either. If you have some friends available and are looking for something anyone could pick up perhaps it will be a reasonable choice but otherwise there are simply too many solid action games on Switch for this to make a major impression.



Score: 5

Pros:
  • Clean presentation
  • Has a Street Fighter II-style sense of flair
  • Relatively easy for anyone to understand and start playing

Cons:
  • The gameplay is ultimately too simple and limited for its own good
  • While vertical mode is novel I wouldn’t consider it practical
  • Feels more like a mini game that would be included in a larger package than a stand-alone experience


Saturday, October 27, 2018

Review: Speed Brawl [Nintendo Switch eShop]


When you want to make a splash in a crowded games marketplace one way to do so is to shake things up a bit. While there are some solid beat-em-ups on the Switch which feature both staples of classic play and some innovations for the most part they stay true to the genre’s roots. By contrast, Speed Brawl comes into the arena swinging, and with quite a number of enhancements in tow.


Set in an odd somewhat steampunk British world formerly overrun by insect-like invaders called the Selenites, Speed Brawl lets you take control of a group of scrappy fighters trying to work their way through the ranks of this popular and brutal sport. Starting with a core of only 2 warriors you’ll pretty quickly take on new members, building to a total of 6 fighters with a mix of styles, special attacks, and skills that can be unlocked with experience. While your specific objectives will vary from more straight-up fighting to needing to complete skills courses of sorts the emphasis is pretty well always about doing things faster. This can be a challenge since mere survival against some of the more bulky creatures and foes you’ll encounter requires a mix of timing, precision, and patience.


The main draw here, though, is the style of play which is often frantic, combo-heavy, and has mechanics like tagging that feel more like a fighting game in places. It can take some time to get into the flow of things, mastering the moves and getting a hang of the timing for critical things like dodging telegraphed attacks from enemies that will hit you hard if you don’t get it right, but when you’re in the zone it can be quite exhilarating. You will inevitably need to go back to the same spots to grind a bit for money, loot, and experience towards new skills to overcome increasingly-tough new foes but that somewhat comes with the territory. As a bonus you can take all of this on with a friend, and that can get you through some of the tougher battles if you don’t get distracted by the chaos another combatant on the screen will generate.


Fast-paced, brutal, and full of upgrade and equipment options that allow you to tune your characters to complement your strengths or address your weaknesses, Speed Brawl has a feel all its own. While sometimes the action can get a bit too crowded and confusing for its own good, making it tough to spot flashes on big enemies that mean you need to dodge, the feeling when you overcome all of that to win helps minimize the pain. If the run-of-the-mill nature of the beat-em-up genre has you down this variation on that theme is a terrific shot in the arm, providing ample opportunities for beating a whole lot of bugs ass.



Score: 8.5

Pros:
  • A great mix of beat-em-up action and some mechanics from fighting games
  • There are a variety of stage objectives that keep things fresh in general
  • Getting on a roll with big combos and tearing things up is very satisfying

Cons:
  • At times the action can get a bit too overwhelming visually, making it hard to see visual cues from tougher enemies and their devastating attacks
  • Expect to do some grinding for improved gear and experience to help you overcome ever-tougher enemies


Review: Pinstripe [Nintendo Switch eShop]


Maybe it’s just me being a parent of 2 daughters but Pinstripe quickly got my attention. In the game you’ll play the part of Ted, a lapsed minister, whose daughter Bo has been abducted by a seriously creepy character named Pinstripe. In order to save her he’ll have to journey through some strange areas full of puzzles and often even stranger characters. Did I tell you that he will have the help of his dog, George, who talks? Buckle up, it’s a strange journey!


There’s no doubt that a huge part of the game’s draw is its aesthetics, which have a gloominess to them and an edge of creepiness thrown in for good measure. You’ll need to keep your eye out at every step for small hints in the environment for what you’ll need to do, armed mostly with just your slingshot, to trigger or set things into motion and get through a variety of puzzles. These challenges can be quite diverse and are creative, a credit to smart design.


The one thing to keep in mind is that though it does a very good job of entertaining and challenging its runtime is a bit on the short side. Your degree of backtracking and wasted time in that span is thankfully pretty minimal though so it is at least not generally wasted. An added “plus” option unlocks a few new elements you can discover on a secondary run, though this is more of a “nice to have” than something completely different.


If you’re a fan of Burton-esque stylings and weird characters Pinstripe gladly offers those up over its runtime. It’s story is appropriately a bit on the dark side as well, and the characters you interact with along the way help provide the glue that helps make it all feel worthwhile. Paired with a smart mix of platforming and puzzle-solving it is a terrific bite that you could probably finish in a long afternoon or a few sittings.


Score: 7.5

Pros:
  • A terrific visual sense of style
  • Some clever puzzles
  • A supporting cast of creepy and unusual characters, generally all voice acted very well

Cons:
  • No doubt a bit on the short side
  • Pretty limited reason to revisit it once you’ve completed the game
  • Fans looking for a bit of action won’t find too much here


Review: Word Puzzles by POWGI [Nintendo Switch eShop]


With an abundance of options on the Switch eShop there’s going to be something out there for everyone, and that includes people who have more casual tastes, or at least enjoy unwinding with something a bit more laid back. To that end we have titles like Word Puzzles by POWGI, which serves up six different styles of puzzles for you to work your brain cells rather than your fast fingers. While it can be played in docked mode well enough with the controller, this is very much ideally a touchscreen affair, as it’s crisp and quick to test your mental dexterity.


Word Maze will challenge you to snake through a collection of letters to form words that all share a common theme. These tend to go pretty quickly but since you don’t know the words it can sometimes take a few moments to put together which way you’re going next. Mixups plays out a bit more like a variation on Boggle, where a collection of letters are put in front of you and you’re searching for the words hidden within them, again all tied to the same theme. Available hints will clue you in to the first letter in each target word but you’ll need to work out the rest from there.


One Word may be the most challenging option, providing you with famous quotes that you’ll then need to fill in the words for. To do so each word has its own word find puzzle and with so many of the same letters in them finding the word can be a bit maddening at times. Flowers is interesting, placing 2 letters in the middle of a flower and having you form 6-letter words using pre-made pairs of letters on either side.


Circles looks a bit like a Venn diagram, and will challenge you to determine a central hidden letter than is common to all of the words from the surrounding and overlapping circles. Finally, Crossovers reminds me a bit of the classic acrostic puzzle. You’ll first work to determine the missing letter common to 2 intersecting words, then taking the accumulated letters to form one final word that you’re provided a clue for.


There’s no doubt this is a niche package, but with that in mind searching for further clear deficiencies is difficult. The interface is clean, the variety offered by the 6 very different styles of puzzles is appreciated, and the hints provide just the nudge you may need without giving it all away. If you typically enjoy sitting down with a pen and paper to attack some word puzzles in a newspaper or a magazine you now have a viable electronic alternative.


Score: 7.5

Pros:
  • Clean and clear presentation
  • Works impeccably with the touchscreen but is fine in docked mode with a controller
  • Includes a ton of word puzzles in 6 very different styles

Cons:
  • There’s no doubt that people will enjoy some puzzles more than others
  • Very obviously a niche title with a narrow focus
  • The music is on a short loop and can become monotonous


Review: Alwa's Awakening [Nintendo Switch eShop]


When you see retro-styled 8-bit games on the Switch eShop there’s always a question around them of whether the approach was to adopt just the art style and then pair that with more modern sensibilities or to go for a more authentic feel through and through. Depending on tastes there may be a preference to either side but it’s the latter choices that are at least a bit more interesting when they nail the authentic “feel” of the era. For better or worse Alwa’s Awakening is obviously aimed at creating a new experience that feels pulled from that era, though there’s one particular accomodation it makes that I very much appreciate as an option.


In the game you’ll play as Zoe, a young girl who has been summoned to another world to save the land of Alwa. Zoe, even as she gains more abilities through the course of the adventure, is a relatively humble hero, which makes her a bit more endearing but also keeps things challenging. Her floaty jump and melee attack with a pretty limited reach take some getting used to. Rather than gaining powerful new abilities for combat they tend to be more utilitarian, allowing you to get to new areas or to get items. Along your way you’ll see blue orbs laying about and these can be tricky to grab but they’re worth your while since they’ll help you with the tough battles down the stretch the more you’re able to collect.


You do acquire a map early on that will give you a general idea of where you may want to go but finding your way can be a tricky business. There’s no explicit direction given for the most part, and this will lead to some aimless meandering at times as you try to figure out where you should go, a staple of classic games that I could have done without. That said, on the flip side I’m a big fan of the inclusion of an assist mode as an option that doesn’t make you go all the way back to your last checkpoint. While some will, no doubt, want to hard core it up and get through the game the old school way I’m a big believer that there are plenty of games out there I want to play so wasting time to repeat the same areas just to get back to where I was is an annoyance. Very glad this accommodation was put in place so people could choose to go either way.


If you’re looking for an experience that in almost all regards feels like it’s a lost NES title, some warts and all (I’m looking at you, fake walls) Alwa’s Awakening does an almost disturbingly good job of it. Though the pacing may be a bit on the slower side there’s a solid adventure to be had with your humble hero Zoe, and the option to reduce downtime retracing your steps is a modern convenience I can really get behind. It may not be for everyone, but it should check pretty well every box for its intended retro-loving audience.


Score: 8

Pros:
  • An almost eerily authentic 8-bit experience
  • Challenging gameplay
  • The inclusion of assist mode as an option is very much appreciated

Cons:
  • A fair amount of aimless meandering is involved
  • Zoe’s floaty jump can be aggravating


Friday, October 26, 2018

Review: Friday the 13th - Killer Puzzle [Nintendo Switch eShop]


It’s that time of year again when people are looking for something a little more scary than usual. Certainly a classic horror franchise from the 80s can deliver some thrills? In the case of Friday the 13th - Killer Puzzle the answer is yes, though since you control Jason you’ll be the one doing the terrorizing and here the thrills and chills are delivered by deviously-designed puzzles.


Taking the formula developed by Slayaway Camp and running with it in a more specific direction Killer Puzzle mostly does everything critical the same way, but it does make some alterations on the surface. You’ll still be looking to scoot your way along, lining up your kills, while trying to avoid falling into the lake (natch), never stopping in the line of fire with the police, and sometimes being very careful to eliminate the camp counselors in a specific order or you may not be able to reach the exit. While it may seem simple these puzzles can get outright challenging once you layer everything into the picture, but thankfully the disembodied head of your mother is present to throw you some tips if need be.


In place of the mechanic where you’d get the opportunity to unlock new horror villains from other classic 80s movies and franchises here since you’re restricted to Mr. Voorhees in his many forms from over the years (plus a few new ones). You’ll still randomly acquire new weapons as you go as well, being able to pick which one suits your fancy at the moment, and some of the options make for some slightly better and more gruesome animations when you finish of the last survivor. A disappointment is that they don’t match animations to the type of weapon well and that leads to things like impaling someone with a boat oar, though I suppose that could be thought of as silly. Would love to see more refinement though, and maybe even have weapon-specific signature kills if you’re able to be more accurate when the kill gauge pops up.


What it all boils down to is whether or not you’re a fan of classic slasher horror and some solid puzzles. If you haven’t indulged in Slayaway Camp you have an additional decision to make since the games are so much alike. I personally prefer the way it was able to paint with a much wider brush and touch on so many franchises. Jason may be a horror legend, and his hockey mask and whisper are both iconic for good reason, but for me he was always a bit lacking in flair. I love the puzzle and the kills are sufficiently ridiculous that it keeps my interest, but next I’d love to see them tackle a killer with personality like Freddy, or best of all just move to a different decade of horror and send up the tropes and series that they’re remembered for.


Score: 8

Pros:
  • The puzzle design remains accessible and yet challenging
  • A delicious mix of hyper violence and silliness
  • If you’re a huge Jason fan they’ve absolutely got you covered

Cons:
  • Unlike Slayaway Camp here you’re locked in with Jason as your steady killer
  • Your weapon of choice is more just there as a visual prop, and the kills you pull off don’t always make much sense
  • While there’s a PG mode that tones it down if you’re not a fan of violence or have younger kids around this is probably not going to work for you


Review: 911 Operator [Nintendo Switch eShop]


When you have a healthy-sized eShop cranking along developers sometimes need to do something that breaks a little outside the normal box, and with indie devs that can often bring us some interesting niche experiences. One path that’s sometimes taken is turning ordinary jobs that can seem somewhat mundane and turn them into a playable experience. That’s what the people behind 911 Operator have done, working to convey the hectic and sometimes aggravating job they do every day in the form of what’s essentially a resource management game.


Whether or not they took a page from This is the Police or decided to go this path on their own there are definitely some parallels here, though in this case without the corruption, drunken cops you need to tell to go home, and feelings of being a very bad person. Instead, you’re tasked with checking out the details of reported incidents and taking direct calls to 911, assessing the situation the best you can and then trying to quickly and efficiently dispatch the appropriate resources to handle the crisis, though when things get crazy you’ll certainly need to prioritize.


The calls you field in particular can take a little time to work through as not all calls or crucial, meaning you’ll need to take in what you’re being told, ask clarifying questions while trying to waste as little time as possible, and then send someone out to take care of it. Once you get past the first city or two some slight changes will begin to crop up to add a layer of challenge. Not all of your units are the same, with some having vehicles like a motorcycle which enable them to get on the scene more quickly, while something like a paddywagon may be needed if you’re having to collect a bunch of perps.


When it comes to flaws perhaps the most surprising thing is that you’re unable to use the touchscreen to play. In fact, given the lack of that support and the generally small scaling of text a game that seemed like it could be a good match for mobile doesn’t quite work out that way. Another complaint, though far more minor, is that when you’re getting started not a whole lot gets explained, though beyond being efficient and effective when sending out your units the importance of things like equipping them with gear you can buy is less clear. I would imagine giving them appropriate supplies should help but it’s hard to measure how much, especially when saving to get new or better crewmembers or even vehicles may prove to be more helpful.


Overall this is a title that will live or die based on how fascinated you are with the premise. Though mechanically it’s not very complex that isn’t to say it’s easy by any means. You’ll have to be smart about how you use your units, learn to always handle calls before anything else (if nothing else time slows down while you’re on the phone), and then experiment with personnel and equipment to figure out what seems to work for you. It may not be very action-oriented, but there is a certain thrill to a job well done and when you throw in some oddball calls you need to deal with it’s certainly a unique experience.

Score: 7

Pros:
  • A pretty unique gameplay experience
  • Requires some patience and an ability to think quickly
  • Some insight into even a sliver of what the job of a 911 dispatcher is like can be interesting

Cons:
  • No touchscreen support and given the scaling text can be hard to read in handheld mode
  • If you’re looking for anything more than a resource management game you’ll be disappointed
  • You’re given limited direction for success, and will need to trial and error your way through at first 


Thursday, October 25, 2018

Review: Puzzle Wall [Nintendo Switch eShop]


It’s always interesting to see games arrive on Switch that are simply something different. Different doesn’t always end up great, but there’s something to be said for games that appeal to audiences outside the typical hardcore set. Puzzle Wall is such a title, with gameplay roughly matching odd game shows I’ve seen where a massive wall with a small person-shaped silhouette carved into it forces people to quickly get into the right position or get knocked down. While perhaps it may seem a bit more like a mini game you’d see in a larger collection the developers have at least tried to get some mileage out of it.


Played either solo or against an opponent you’ll use the JoyCon to position your arms to match the shape in a series of walls that are moving towards your on-screen animal avatar. They’ll position their legs as well but without joycon around your ankles the arms are where you focus. In order to spice things up there are some variations that will task you with remembering a series of positions that will come at you pretty quickly as well as having to do everything standing backwards, forcing your brain to do a bit more work as you try not to get hit by the wall.


If you have a group of 4 people the last mode can at least be a bit of fun for a while. Here everyone will get a JoyCon and try to work together, each controlling one limb, to collectively succeed instead. It’s not rocket science but it provides just enough of a challenge and necessitates teamwork so it is at least novel, and a decent value add for fun. As a warning, here calibration can a bit more of a challenge since all 4 people have to be sure they’re set up correctly but it generally works well if you get set properly.


If you have smaller kids in the house who aren’t quite ready for something more substantial the motion controls and easy-to-understand gameplay may make this an excellent starter title. Paired up with some siblings, parents, and perhaps some grandparents this could provide some very accessible family fun. Short of those circumstances I doubt most people would find enough here to warrant a purchase, but I do applaud the fact that this game is extremely accessible and appears to accomplish all it set out to reasonably well.


Score: 6

Pros:
  • The motion controls are very accessible to people of pretty well any age or skill level
  • For families with kids at the right age this could likely be a great gateway game
  • The 4-player mode is silly fun and requires cooperation and communication

Cons:
  • There’s no doubt this is a super-niche experience
  • Overall it feels like an extended exploration of what would otherwise be a mini game


Review: Car Quest [Nintendo Switch eShop]


There’s no doubt that variety is the spice of life and in a diverse and rich gaming ecosystem there are going to be titles that simply aren’t fo you but someone may enjoy. That said, there are also titles that you struggle to conceive who they can really be for, whether so super-niche, poorly designed, or struggling to be fun. Somewhere in that space of “note quite sure who it’s for” there’s Car Quest, which may be reasonably attractive but that’s also controls too poorly and is too bland to make a serious case for being in just about any person’s gaming library.


Condensing it down to its core this is a game where you’ll meander through spaces collecting batteries and shapes to unlock new areas for meandering through more. If that doesn’t sound terribly exciting it really isn’t. It has much more in common with an adventure than a racing or action game, you just happen to be controlling a car. I use the word “controlling” loosely though since despite the rate of movement being pretty limited your car turns like a bit like a school bus. Throw in very oddly low gravity which makes you float as you fall and it just feels very odd.


Despite the controls being strange and not very responsive as long as you pace yourself and try to account for them they don’t sink the game. The real issue is simply that it’s dull. You’ll drive somewhere to get a shape, a new area will reveal itself, you’ll try to remember where you saw that before and drive there, lather, rinse, and repeat. There’s an attempt at an odd story of this land you’re trying to restore and how you got involved but it, too, is just not terribly interesting. Given the pacing perhaps it would work out for a more casual audience since it isn’t very demanding but as a package Car Quest is a bit of a clunker.


Score: 5

Pros:
  • For people who expect little entertainment or fulfilling gameplay it’s something to play through
  • It looks reasonably good in a stylized way

Cons:
  • For choosing to use a car as the main character you’d have expected the driving controls to be tighter, it feels like you’re driving a brick when you turn
  • The pacing is so slow it’s difficult to remain engaged in any of it
  • Though not buggy, it feels almost more like an alpha than a finished game since it lacks refinement and polish


Review: Eternum EX [Nintendo Switch eShop]


While it isn’t unusual to see ports of arcade titles to the Switch with some regularity it is a bit more peculiar to see new titles that look and play a bit like they came from a more classic era. That’s certainly the case for the humble but challenging Eternum EX, which plays like an odd hybrid of a platformer and a light-ish combat game like Ghosts ‘n Goblins as well. While it won’t likely appeal to a very wide audience if you’re looking for something a bit simpler that has classic sensibilities it may be worth a look.


You play the game as a wizard of some sort, wielding a cane that has a pretty limited melee attack but that can be powered up periodically to throw a fireball. The objective on each screen is to collect all chests in the level. While this isn’t too challenging the temptation and added risk lies with the fact that in order to maximize your score and get power-ups you’ll want to open the chests first by bumping the platform under them from below or using one of the power-ups to your advantage. Not all chests may be doable, and in order to survive and open the portal to the next level you may choose to just pick some up, but I like how even this simple dynamic helps the game have an element of strategy to layer on the increasingly tough stages.


While it has a retro appeal both visually and in terms of its feel aside from giving you something that’s easy to pick up and put down and that throws increasingly-difficult stages at you there’s not a great deal to it. In terms of complaints other than the limits of what it will offer I will say that the hitbox for your weapon and monsters sometimes feels a little big but with time you get used to the range and can generally compensate. Likely for older or retro gaming fans who appreciate what feels like a pretty authentic arcade experience.


Score: 7

Pros: 
  • Has the soul of a classic arcade game if that’s the sort of experience you’re looking for
  • While generally simple the mechanic to open chests does open the door to having to make decisions on your score versus the risks

Cons:
  • Its degree of challenge and the relatively simplistic nature of its gameplay aren’t likely for everyone
  • Playable but scales a little on the small side in handheld mode