Friday, November 15

Mini Reviews: November 15th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Monkey Barrels - While run and gun shooters tend to be a side-scrolling affair Monkey Barrels proves it’s a formula that works well from a top-down perspective with twin-stick controls as well. Whereas most games with this scheme on Switch have been arcade or roguelike in nature in this case you’re on a mission to save your friend, making a bit more of an adventure. You’ll move along shooting up enemies, dealing with bosses, and powering up your armaments to ensure you’re able to keep pace with your enemies. Just to add to the fun you can take on the game solo or with some friends as well.

Woven - Most modern games tend to feature protagonists who are ready for action and tough as nails. Moving in precisely the opposite direction we have Woven, and it’s plush main character Stuffy who ambles along with a consistently innocent and pleasant demeanor. Pairing up with a mechanical friend they set out to discover what has happened to their land and to turn things back around. The game is mostly about exploration, with some relatively simple puzzle solving and hidden textures all about to update Stuffy’s look with. While this won’t be a title that will appeal to hardcore gamers in the least with its cute characters, colorful scenery, and generally slow-paced adventure, Woven is a kid-friendly treat.

Mad Games Tycoon - Have you ever wondered what it would be like to start a game company and work your way from your garage to the top of the industry? Mad Games Tycoon will provide a simplified and sometimes silly view of that process, with you working to manage your personnel, workspace, and critical decisions like research to ensure your company not only keeps up with the competition but is able to blaze a path to dominance. While it plays well enough I’ll note that aside from its sense of humor and general approach in minor areas there are other options out there, including on mobile, that are roughly similar. Just something to consider if you’re looking for your game company management fix.

Vektor Wars - Looking at times like a neon-lit fever dream after playing too many hours of the classic arcade title Battlezone, Vektor Wars delivers intensity. You’re sort of dropped into things without much direction but in general there’s not much to know. Movement is pretty straight-forward, you’ll want to shoot just about anything that’s coming at you, and you’ll need to learn what small objects and icons strewn around represent, whether power-ups or humans to save. While there’s some fun to be had here it somehow has too much going on to enjoy as a pure arcade game but lacks enough depth to be much more. Either way, I can’t say that I was hooked by anything enough to keep me wanting to return to it for long.

Blindy - This is the kind of game, characterizing itself as challenging or souls-like in some way, that gets a bit under my skin. Very simply the core of the game is a platformer where your goal is to survive an assortment of lethal traps on your way to the goal. The trick though, one I’ll note has been done before (and IMHO better), is that you can’t see very far around your character so you’ll be doing a lot of random trying and failing to figure out where the gaps and traps are. While your blood will temporarily give you an idea of where things are the fact that it goes away really leads to the experience being even less fun in the end. If you like the idea, more power to you, but it leaning hard on a gimmick to cover for just so-so level designs you’ve likely seen many times before makes it tough to recommend.

Thursday, November 14

Top 20 Indie Family Games on Nintendo Switch

With loads of content out there on Switch it can be difficult to find great games that are also family friendly. Here's my list of the 20 best titles that are ideal for playing with kids or should at least be fine to have them watch you play.

New Super Lucky’s Tale - For me New Super Lucky’s Tale marks a bit of an exciting time on the Switch, and as a fan of classic platforming. While there are many games that have aimed for hitting the mark of the likes of the classic Mario franchises like Super Mario 64 nothing has really proven up to the task. While some may consider it blasphemous I’m here to say this title has absolutely hit the mark, and done so with its own sense of humor and style rather than being derivative. Smart and varied level design, a mix of 2D and 3D platforming which are both very successful, and some nods that absolutely put a smile on my make for more than a handful of hours of family-friendly enjoyment.

Heave Ho - While having played so many indie games on the Switch is interesting and exposes you to all sorts of takes on multiple genres one admitted downside is that it can also make you a bit jaded. When it comes to my family, who are often asked to partake in helping me evaluate multiplayer games, I’d say the rate of that happening is far more accelerated. Conceptually Heave Ho may be simple, working solo or with up to 3 friends to simply grab and swing your way from the start to the finish line without falling, hitting spikes, or meeting your splattery demise in some other way. However, there’s a certain charm to it that pretty well immediately made everyone laugh and have a good time. Even after repeatedly getting frustrated in certain spots, especially when trying to keep from dropping costume-unlocking coins that can up the challenge significantly at times, the fun cut through the difficulties for everyone. Solo does work, and is great for honing your skills, but the game is absolutely meant to be played with friends, the more the better. Overall, this may be the best and most accessible multiplayer co-op game on the system.

Miles & Kilo - While sharing quite a bit of DNA with the cute retro runner Kid Tripp, Miles & Kilo really refined and nailed things down to produce a satisfying experience worthy of inclusion on this list. Cute, challenging, and well-paced the alternating between the more traditional platforming when playing as Miles and the then it becoming a runner when Kilo is pulling him along keeps things fresh and fun throughout its relatively modest runtime.

Marble It Up! - I'm a massive fan of the arcade classic Marble Madness as well as a fan of Sega's Monkey Ball games so Marble It Up! was a lot of fun to check out this year. While it may not have loads of content the degree of challenge will probably keep less hardcore gamers from conquering it all too quickly. Throw in some diabolical hidden secrets that take some serious work to obtain and it's a very unusual type of game that controls well and is a lot of fun to play.<

Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles - On a general level if you were to make a game with a spirit similar to that of the Zelda series and then remove the combat you'd have Yonder. Where some may find the lack of conflict a bit bland the emphasis on exploration, some creativity, and questing in Yonder made it refreshing to relax and simply enjoy.

The Adventure Pals - With a look and quirky sense of humor that feels like it came from a Cartoon Network show, The Adventure Pals is a silly platforming adventure full of surprises and some smart gameplay. The fact that the challenge generally remains pretty modest and the abundance of weird characters and situations consistently brought a smile to my face made it an easy game to consider for this category.

Figment - This is probably the most action-oriented and challenging game in this small list but it also has a somewhat sad family-oriented story that and small moments that touched me as a parent. Trapped in the subconscious and trying to repair the damage done by a horrible accident this action puzzler will make you think more than fight and is full of original creative songs and hand drawn art at every turn.

Wandersong - Another adventure game that takes its own path when it comes to resolving conflicts in this title you'll play as a bard who ends up using his vocal talents to try to help save the day. Colorful, creative, and full of positivity for the most part Wandersong keeps the difficulty manageable and emphasizes the joy of exploring and using music to solve a variety of puzzles.

SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech - Despite my feeling that it lost some steam towards the conclusion, SteamWorld Quest is easy to count among the most polished and engaging games on the system. Similarly to Heist it has managed to take a style of play that may not be as familiar to people and that may seem intimidating at first and make it highly accessible. There’s just so much potential in the decks you can put together that with some determination not to repeat yourself you could easily replay the game and have it feel very different due to your change in tactics. Yet again Image and Form have managed to take their SteamWorld universe to another very different place and yet deliver the same sort of high quality experience people have come to expect from the series.

Forager - When footage of this game was originally shown as part of one of the Nindie Directs any fan of Stardew Valley would have been challenged not to be intrigued with what appeared to be a familiar look mixed with some silliness. To be clear, Forager has little in common with that beloved indie since it isn’t as deep or varied and lacks the entire social component. The thing is, if what you loved was collecting and cultivating resources and slowly building things up Forager can quickly make you forget about all of that. The initial hour or so while you get established are definitely a bit of a grind but once you begin leveling up, investing in new skills and technologies, and expanding your footprint of islands you own there are a ton of great surprises in store for you. New exciting buildings and equipment mean some vastly improved gear and then when you begin to encounter dungeons it’s surprising how this game just keeps going. One negative, though it will hopefully get a patch, is that in at least one of the dungeons (the Crystal Caves) performance took a substantial hit with everything slowing down (though it at least remained playable). Aside from that issue though it’s an addictive loop, unlocking new technologies, finding new surprises, and working on your plan as you expand your skill tree.

Yono and the Celestial Elephants - Nicknamed "cute elephant Zelda" by many fans on Twitter Yono doesn't exactly start out the game with a tunic that is oddly familiar but it is one of the many themed outfits he'll have an opportunity to buy and wear over the course of his adventure. For seasoned gamers the early going will probably be a bit on the easy side, and combat never gets too complex, but for younger or less experienced gamers I would highly recommend its gentle progression from easier to more complicated puzzles as you reach the game's conclusion.

de Blob - Playing through the game as, you guessed it, a blob who is able to take on colored paint, your task is to return vibrant color to your now mostly drab and monochromatic. Invaders have taken over, robbing the city of its personality and culture, and your job is to revitalize it all once more. This is best done by following the pretty simple mission structure which you can activate by going to well-marked checkpoints. Some involve coloring certain areas specific colors, others will feel like a checkpointed race of sorts, and some require you to use a specific color in quantity to restore major landmarks back to their former glory. You’ll need to be careful to be on the lookout for pools of ink or the few types of enemies that are lurking about but in general as long as you remain in tune with where a water source is (to cleanse yourself of the murky ink) you’ll be able to recover when you make a mistake once in a while. Light, fun, and generally quite accessible for all ages this is a terrific title for the whole family.

Poi - Somewhat of a love letter to Super Mario 64 and the era of 3D platforming it inspired Poi is a bit of a throwback. You'll open each level with an objective in mind and will need to work out the specifics in many cases of what you'll need to do as you go. The pleasant surprise is the general variety in tasks and challenges that will crop up in the form of secret levels and alternative tasks a little more off the beaten path. While it lacks the polish of AAA titles it has an earnest charm that I found endearing.

Portal Knights - Much more than the mere Minecraft-alike that people may presume I found the refined action focus and zones, each with its own monsters and supplies, to be preferable. Throw in some multiple bosses you'll need to face, three distinct classes with their own feel, and the ability to play with friends locally and online and it can be a lot of fun to enjoy with others. An accessible and engaging game suitable for the whole family.

Pikuniku - Pikuniku is generally over too quickly, both solo and in co-op, and it may be too simplistic or silly for some folks but for me it was a joy pretty well the entire time. Focused on discovery, some creativity, and filled with strange surprises and quirks, it absolutely feels at home on the Switch and would probably work for people of any age or skill level if they simply have some patience. I’d love to see a sequel with even more funky fun, and am hoping to see more easygoing titles like it on Switch in the coming year.

Putty Pals - I don't recall ever playing a game that was quite as family-friendly while also as cooperatively-focused and challenging as Putty Pals. You'll need to work together either controlling each pal independently yourself (this gets challenging as you get deeper into the game) or with the help of a friend. Making clever use of a relatively restricted set of moves you'll be jumping, swinging, and bouncing together through each level and if you're up for a challenge unlocked zones and speed run modes crank up the difficulty for more experienced pairs as well.

Gelly Break - If I were to tell you that there was a game this year that managed to blend together elements of smart 3D platforming with twin-stick shooting I probably would have laughed. If you then told me that two people working as a team, each controlling one aspect of that pairing of genre feels, could have a great time doing it I would have been amazed. Gelly Break is an odd bird and mixes a colorful and light feel with some clever and challenging play, the fact that it can appeal to 2 gamers that have different preferences in play makes it a treat.

Sleep Tight - The idea behind Sleep Tight is a relatively simple one that looks fantastic on paper. Combine childhood nostalgia for things like pillow forts and sleepovers with equal parts tower defense and twin-stick shooter, then mix with some strategy and Pixar-esque monsters. In execution the package is a pretty good one, providing for some great opportunities and outright encouragement to play in a variety of different ways. That said, a lack in the variety of environments and overall play experience between runs outside of your specific approach can make its longevity more of a question mark.

Anthill - If you’re a fan of strategy gaming that skews a little more to the casual side, cutting your teeth on things like tower defense titles, Anthill may be a perfect experience for you. Given the responsibility of managing your small colony of ants you’ll need to create paths for your various unit types to follow to maximize efficiency collecting resources, defending your hive, and ensuring that old supply lines are pruned to avoid waste. You’ll need to decide how many of each unit to work with to tackle the challenges you face, a draught of workers will slow your growth but what use are they if they’re being lost to enemies of various kinds? Played exclusively in handheld mode the controls are intuitive and the action is pretty bite-sized and fun if you’ve been looking for a new variation on somewhat casual strategy gaming.

Cake Laboratory - Though by score this may be the lowest on this list, it's absolutely the best game on the system for younger children to enjoy. With a single-button mechanic used to drop cakes on top of one another its controls are easy to understand. The goal is simply to stack a set number on top of each other without allowing them to topple. Periodic opportunities to design your own cake add a nice creative flourish and small details like the slight sway the stack shows as it gets taller add a touch of suspense for extra fun. Great for budding gamers-to-be to dig into.

This list will continue to grow and be pruned as time goes on, as well as numerous other lists that try to keep track of all of the best titles the Nintendo Switch has to offer in the Indie space!

Mini Reviews: November 14th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Sparklite [Nindie Choice!] - Since I’m a huge fan of roguelikes and their ability to revitalize and alter how you play more classic genres I’ve always wondered how it would pair with the Legend of Zelda series. One successful crack at it was Swords of Ditto, which featured of classic elements and smart ideas but to me was a little more long form and determined to be a bit weird in how it implemented some elements like combat. Sparklite takes a far more traditional track, working with weapons and mechanics much more directly reminiscent of the Zelda series and keeping the world a bit more compact, generally making for quicker runs if nothing else. Once you get your bearings and understand how elements like badges work (letting you dictate which tweaks and enhancements you want to use to help you out, they’re varied and extremely vital to your success) you’ll be off to face a pretty stiff challenge, especially in the early going.

Exploration and getting into a groove for understanding what you should prioritize on your runs is crucial to cutting down on time wasted. Mini dungeons where you’re assured a new badge or a fair reward of Sparklite should take priority, you should develop a sixth sense for which boulders may have a cave hidden under them, and acquiring new blueprints to craft new gadgets should always take priority. From there it will be a matter of your tastes and your level of skill. Just be ready, until you’re sufficiently geared up to take on the bosses (especially early on), you’re likely to get a bit frustrated. Some quibbles over the somewhat clunky menu, no provision for a more easily available mini map, and other nuisances can creep in at times but there’s no doubt that this is a high-quality adventure that’s challenging, inventive, and rewarding.

Dead By Daylight - Conceptually I’m a big fan of asymmetric multiplayer, and am always eager to see how another team has tried to tackle this tricky formula. Taking on the role of either the killer or one of the “potential survivors” in a horror movie-like setting is a smart twist and obviously one everyone can already relate to. In the case of Dead By Daylight the execution is a bit on the simpler side that the previously released Friday the 13th which operated similarly but locked into using Jason Voorhees in his many incarnations as the killer. Here instead you’ll have an assortment of killer templates to choose from as well as some licensed options if you’re willing to pay for them like Ghostface or Michael Myers as examples. As the killer you’ll be looking to leverage your core and special skills (which vary) to help find and dispatch wayward teens. As one of the pursued your focus will be on evasion, trying to keep each other alive, and fixing generators that will eventually provide for an exit to your torment. To throw in a little extra challenge there can be timed button press skill tests to keep it from being just a matter of waiting but once you’re used to them they don’t add too much to the mix. Since this game is 100% reliant on the online Switch community to keep alive you’ll need to carefully consider whether it is likely to sustain itself unless you have a group of reliable friends to play with though.

Planescape: Torment / Icewind Dale - Much like the pairing of Baldur’s Gate and Baldur’s Gate II, released at the same time as this pack, the most likely audience for these titles will be veteran gamers who remember playing these on PC back in the day. In the case of Planescape: Torment the format is quite different, with everything happening in a much different place and the action being more character-centric rather than party. Icewind Dale, on the other hand, is far more similar to the likes of Baldur’s Gate in its execution and play. While the attempt to adapt these titles for play on the consoles is admirable there’s no missing the clunkiness of the control systems and some of the graphics. Scaling can be odd, text in particular isn’t very crisp (I wouldn’t recommend it played in handheld mode unless your lighting and eyesight are pretty great), and there are obviously more smooth modern experiences. That said, if you’re itching to revisit these classics or are curious to see why they’re so revered the content is still there to make them worthwhile.

Haunted Halloween 86 - This title and Creepy Brawlers are interesting, games made now for the NES directly that are playable on the Switch. Working within the constraints of what is possible we now have games that are throwbacks both technologically and in terms of style but that have a few modern sensibilities thrown in. That modern twist, in the case of Haunted Halloween 86, is a more elaborate move set that you have available, with you additionally being able to dictate which moves you want to make available to yourself to help you in your side-scrolling adventure. From there this is a pretty straight up old school platformer, offering up a variety of creepy environments and an assortment of challenges. If you’re a huge fan of that era in many regards this feels like it fits right in and should be a treat.

Football Game - Being honest I’m starting to tire of games like Football Game that try to gloss over being designed in a very limited and linear fashion with some anticipated promise of a payoff down the line. Very quickly it’s clear that things aren’t quite right with your character’s mental state and that things have happened. That thread is supposed to entice you to continue to pull and unravel the full story. Unfortunately, the point and click adventure elements to get you there are so dull and by the numbers you’ll need to carefully consider whether any payoff will really be worth your wasted time with subpar play.

Tuesday, November 12

Mini Reviews: November 12th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Ritual: Crown of Horns - When it comes to shooters of all varieties the Switch has an abundance of riches. So when something comes along that plays a bit differently that tends to make me take some extra notice. Rather than going down a quick and intense arcade path Ritual is more slow and deliberate, though that isn’t to say you won’t quickly get overwhelmed by your enemies. While the level layouts and specifics of each stage vary ultimately the action tends to boil down to you needing to defend the witch you’ve aligned with as she tries to cast her spell. Sometimes you’ll have a building with windows and doors that need to be beaten down before the horde can get to her but sometimes the layout is more open. In each case you’ll need to make the rounds quickly and efficiently, taking down enemies with carefully placed and timed shots to maximize damage. The action tends to be somehow both methodical and intense, and there’s a fair amount of challenge to be had. Unfortunately sometimes the challenge is more aggravating than others as some structures and elements have a tendency to obstruct your way and there are times when the pacing seems wildly inconsistent from level to level. Still, if you’re up for a different take on a shooter that slows things down a little it’s a nice option to have on the console.

Door Kickers: Action Squad - Normally when I think about tactical shooters I’m thinking they’re either isometric like in the X-Com vein or top-down like some more classic titles. Heck, earlier this year with RICO we even had a first-person version. Taking things from yet another perspective we have Door Kickers: Action Squad which will have you taking on bad guys side-scrolling style. While you can tackle the game solo it seems like a title mostly geared for pairing up with some friends locally or taking your chances (keeping in mind the fickle nature of Switch indie online communities) with online matchmaking. There are a few classes to choose from, each with their own pros and cons, and the perps’ behaviors aren’t always a sure thing so there are always opportunities for a surprise. While it won’t be for everyone its mix of more arcade-like action with tactical considerations taken into account help it to stand out as a bit different in the Switch lineup.

The Park - While we’re now a little past the formal Halloween season there’s always time for a good scare. Well, maybe not so much a scare in the case of The Park as a slowly-bubbling sense of dread and unease. You play the part of a younger woman who starts out by going into an amusement park in pursuit of her young boy, but it doesn’t take long before things start to unravel a bit and it turns out the place has been abandoned, making you start to wonder if your character may be a few cans short of a six pack perhaps. As you discover bits and pieces of notes and articles a picture of what put the park into its current state begins to form and as you explore you continue to have episodes that make you question what’s real. While it’s more of a walking simulator-esque experience that only lasts a few hours there’s just enough content to suck you in if you’re game for this sort of experience.

House of Golf - Miniature golf is a fun casual staple for families everywhere, so it’s no surprise someone is trying to mine that core experience on Switch… in this case in the form of House of Golf. In this case the name is a bit literal, as you’ll play courses that have been set up in different rooms of the house, with the presentation taking the approach of you playing through with smaller than average people it seems. While the game gets nothing particularly wrong the experience is also pretty simple and even dull in some cases, your planning and executing your shots is uncomplicated for the most part but that also ends up begging the question of “Why?” While not a bad idea for families with less experienced players the less likely you are to play with other people and the more game-savvy you are the more unlikely it is that House of Golf will keep your attention for very long.

Mononoke Slashdown - Games that are on the lighter end of the spectrum in terms of scope and price can be tough to evaluate. If you’re dealing with a budget title just how much variety and depth should you expect? Mononoke Slashdown is a title where that question comes pretty heavily to the front. In terms of its look and base mechanics it’s got some things on its side and plays pretty well in terms of fluidity. That said, though some new elements and enemies are introduced and there are some nuances to combat you can start to pick up on there’s also just not a lot of meat on the bones. For a low price if you want to get your slash on it may not be a bad choice but just because it’s cheap doesn’t redeem it not being terribly engaging for long.

Friday, November 8

Mini Reviews: November 8th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

New Super Lucky’s Tale [Nindie Choice!] - For me New Super Lucky’s Tale marks a bit of an exciting time on the Switch, and as a fan of classic platforming. While there are many games that have aimed for hitting the mark of the likes of the classic Mario franchises like Super Mario 64 nothing has really proven up to the task. While some may consider it blasphemous I’m here to say this title has absolutely hit the mark, and done so with its own sense of humor and style rather than being derivative. Smart and varied level design, a mix of 2D and 3D platforming which are both very successful, and some nods that absolutely put a smile on my make for more than a handful of hours of family-friendly enjoyment.

There’s a completionist bent to things, with plenty to collect, but it is in no way oppressive and most of the time it’s just about being thorough. What you need to be able to get to the final boss and win is only a portion of what’s out there so the degree of difficulty is lenient in the fact that you can outright avoid what you struggle with. Even better, once you beat the game there’s an entire additional area full of some varied and outright brutal levels that will absolutely test your skills and patience. The team at Playful absolutely deserve credit and praise for setting an aggressive goal and then knocking it out of the park, this is Indie of the Year material through and through.

Juicy Realm [Nindie Choice!] - When it comes to roguelike shooters I’m both a tremendous fan and often a picky critic. We’ve been absolutely spoiled on this system with some incredibly varied top-tier titles that range from having a quick hit arcade feel to ones that are a slower burn and almost adventure-like. That makes it tough for new titles to break in, needing to throw down something pretty impressive to crack through and compete. Juicy Realm is absolutely a game that does just that, using its somewhat unusual art style and characters to suck you in, but then making you work hard to survive while working with some bizarre weapons and a fair amount of risk and reward as you try to go the distance. Varied initial characters are complemented by even more that can be unlocked, and while the random nature of the weapons you may encounter tends to make them a little more alike each person’s special skills can make a massive difference depending on how you prefer to play. Small complaints like the exits sometimes being far harder to spot than they should be are there but the core gameplay makes it easy to ignore completely so you can just keep playing. Throw in progressive powering up, new weapon unlocks, and ways to increase your burden for more rewards and this could easily become your go-to shooter on the system for quite some time.

Incredible Mandy - While a glance at the screenshots for Incredible Mndy can give you some Zelda vibes and thoughts of adventure, in practice it’s really a game sporting a sword-wielding hero who then mostly uses it to solve environmental puzzles of various kinds. The good news is that the mechanics used are quite different from the norm and can be clever, the bad news is that outside of that unless you’re dialed into the game’s story there isn’t ultimately very much to offer that elicits excitement. If you’re looking for a new take on environmental puzzles and can put up with some quirks, Mandy may not be quite Incredible but at least thoroughly adequate for the right audience.

Construction Simulator 2 - Simulations like this one are generally a “love them or leave” them affair, offering up a window into what some would say is the excitement of operating big equipment but also sometimes getting mired in the minutiae of reality. Sure, operating a backhoe, building things up, and tearing things down can have its moments… but you can expect quite a load of minutia involving moving things around and buying supplies and equipment periodically. If you’re hoping for something to enhance your calm as you methodically complete your tasks on jobs, often being told what to do at every step, that’s great.

Agony - Survival horror to date has mostly been a true horror show on the Switch, and not in a good way. Unfortunately, Agony continues the trend, delivering what mostly amounts to a tedious walking simulator through hell as you try to not to get creeped out by an almost numbing amount of generally unappealing nudity. Would it hurt the people in hell to put something light on? Even if the gameplay wasn’t so thoroughly “Meh” the game’s performance problems almost certainly be a killer. Stutters, pauses, and a general degree of wonkiness will plague you throughout, and considering the payoff is generally so weak it’s very hard to recommend this to anyone, even if you’re hard up for a decent scare… especially since the game really doesn’t deliver on much more than being weird and creepy in general.

Thursday, November 7

Top 20 Indie Budget Games on Nintendo Switch

This collection represents a diverse set of titles that all have a normal price of $10 or less and are worth your time. I’t actually surprising how many solid titles I’ve featured that fit this criteria so with this list I’ve tried to focus on making sure as many genres and feels as possible are represented, and it’s going to be a tough one to curate as time goes on.

FRAMED Collection - While its comic book-style presentation is clean and outstanding it’s the unusual gameplay in both Framed and its sequel that helped it stand out on Switch. Through a mix of experimentation and ingenuity you'll need to figure out how to rearrange the panels to help your agent avoid capture and perils. While neither game is terribly long the experience is a memorable and creative one.

Semblance - This is a title I got to check out at PAX East that definitely left me wanting more and the final product was no disappointment. Its core mechanic is that you have the ability to distort the landscape and a consistent stream of new tricks and techniques get introduced to you over the course of the game adding further layers of challenge. Smart, creative, and challenging, Semblance offers a unique style of play over its runtime unlike anything else on the system.

Iron Crypticle - Who said you couldn’t have a great time with a budget retro arcade shooter? Iron Crypticle has a smart but classic arcade style of play that will challenge you solo, or you can join up with 3 friends as well. Working your way through a map in the main mode you’ll be able to work your way into special rooms that offer greater risks as well as rewards. The action is all about keeping your multiplier up, which means you’ll be rushing to pick up items that are dropped by enemies to maximize your score. Throw in online leaderboards and it offers up some great shooting action for its very reasonable price.

Streets of Red: Devil's Dare Deluxe - With a distinctive art style, multiple characters that play quite differently, and a slew of pop culture nods Streets of Red is a very self-aware beat-em-up. While it isn't a terribly long game there's enough challenge and variety offered up by its numerous characters (some of which need to be unlocked) and crazy bosses that it can be fun to return to periodically, especially if you have some friends to enjoy it with.

Minit - Perhaps one of the most oddball concepts that absolutely worked well came to the Switch this year in the form of Minit. With only a very limited amount of time every day to go out, explore, and try to figure out what you need to do to progress it plays out quite differently than anything else you've ever played. In some spots you'll simply need to map out and keep track of which areas are where and in others you'll need to apply that knowledge to rush around and try to complete a critical task before time runs out. With a quirky sense of humor and just a very different play style it's a refreshing experience.

Piczle Lines DX 500 More Puzzles - While it may be available on mobile I consider the Switch to be the best way to experience this great puzzle game that is both less and more challenging that it appears. You'll need to use your powers of deduction to work out how each of the lines can be completed in the specified number of spaces without conflicting with any others to complete these pixel art pictures. Smaller puzzles can go pretty quickly but as you get into the larger-scale puzzles this can get to be quite an undertaking. With an absolute avalanche of puzzle goodness packed into this title you’ll be working through it for quite some time.

Grand Brix Shooter - While I’m a big fan of arcade-style shooters of all types I’ll admit that generating excitement for them is getting tougher on Switch as there have gotten to be so many of them. Thankfully their styles tend to be a bit varied, and many have something smart and distinct to offer to help them stand apart. That’s very much the case for Grand Brix Shooter, a title that I initially just thought was good but then as I played it more began to truly appreciate. I love the very different classes of ships that you’ll unlock and that are made available unpredictably in missions, I’m consistently challenged by some of the tricky bosses, and I think the need to regularly switch to a new ship (losing your built up experience and added power) in order to get back to full health and improve your chances of surviving is brilliant. The weirdo story you get that generally feels completely disconnected? A mystery, but there’s no denying the shooting is great!

The Adventures of Elena Temple - Retro games can be really challenging to get "just right", somehow toeing the line between being true to vintage gameplay and being trapped by it. With platforming action that took me back to my Atari 5200 and Commodore 64 days Elena Temple managed to be a nostalgic rush but also, aside from its pixel graphics looks, managed to feel at home as a modern game as well. With a bite-sized length to match its budget price this is a game any retro fan should thoroughly enjoy.

MagiCat - It's a tough business releasing a platforming title on a system that Mario helped build, Nintendo gamers generally have a pretty high expectation for quality within that space. Finding success in this space where numerous pricier games have failed MagiCat offers surprisingly satisfying and smart gameplay. While its hardly pushing the hardware this is a great example where quality wins, even at the low end of the pricing spectrum.

Downwell - If you’re looking for something that’s quick to pick up and put down (you know, a great mobile experience) Downwell is a great and challenging option. You’ll continue to push further and further in as you get more used to the nature of the challenges at each level but don’t be surprised if you still manage to bite it in the first zone, there are spots where things simply will snowball on you and you’ll end up dead in a hurry. Getting comfortable on which perks and weapons work best for you is key, and you’ll need to find the balance between taking it slow and knowing when to just try to fall to avoid a nasty situation. As an old-school arcade fan its classic sensibilities make me very happy.

Super Crate Box - It’s always very cool to encounter games that have simple designs and very few rules but then manage to be so well-implemented that they suck up your time. Super Crate Box is such a game, one that I was introduced to at PAX and that I was eager to spend more time with on release. At its core this is an arcade platform shooter where your goal is to survive and beat your highest score, the trick is that shooting enemies doesn’t move that needle, only picking up new crates advances your score. The hitch? You never know what weapon that will give you. It could be relatively weak sauce weapons you’ll struggle to hold enemies at bay with, it could be something powerful that you may want to keep long enough to help get the situation under control, or it could be a weapon like the Disc Gun that represents as much of a threat to you as your enemies. Throw in an endless flow of bad guys and a relentless pace and this is one of the best pick-up-and-put-down budget titles on the Switch, offering you a quick hit of action that consistently delivers a challenge that feels great for a single playthrough or perhaps a string of an hour or more if you’re determined to get further than you have before.

The Bug Butcher - This is another title I hadn't heard too much about and almost missed that I'm very glad I go to check out this year. Essentially playing out like a faster and more intense version of the classic Pang (Buster Bros), The Bug Butcher is a load of arcade shooting fun and while it can get pretty tough I couldn't stop playing it until I beat the game. Great stuff and well worth checking out if you love classic arcade shooters.

True Fear: Forsaken Souls Part 1 - Who knew that having played a number of horror-esque games on the Switch that the one that would be the most consistent and compelling to play would really be a casual title. Another elevated hidden object game, True Fear managed to be a bit creepy and weird throughout but never lost focus on providing great gameplay first and foremost. I'm hoping to see Part 2 come to Switch as well to see where things go as this puzzler didn't disappoint.

Reigns: Kings and Queens - Borrowing its left/right swiping interface from the likes of apps like Tinder, Reigns is all about making choices and then living (though more accurately in this case, dying) with the consequences. While it's been said "It's good to be the King" you'll also find that trying to keep everyone happy amidst the everyday chaos of royal life is enormously difficult. As you get further and further in you'll gain new cards to help manage the madness (and sometimes add to it as well), providing this game with a fair amount of longevity and variety as well.

OTTTD - Tower defense titles are extremely common in the mobile space (for good reason, they’re well-suited to touchscreen controls), and have found success, but can sometimes be lacking on the more dedicated Switch. OTTTD, or Over-the-Top Tower Defense, is an aptly named title that tries to use a little personality, multiple controllable units, and more varied strategic choices than usual in order to get some attention. Where many more generic titles in the genre fall flat and feel predictable, OTTTD likes to throw periodic surprises at you and ends up being pretty entertaining in the process.

Akane - If you appreciate great pick-up-and-put-down play sessions that are intense and keep you coming back for more Akane may be a great match. For the most part the objectives feel like they’re in a sweet spot where they’ll push you to complete them but they also aren’t unobtainable by any means. While I wouldn’t call this a roguelike there are some similar principles at play that I appreciate, with the ability to change up your gear in order to alter how the game plays in small but meaningful ways. For the right audience this is absolutely a budget title you won’t want to miss.

Horizon Shift '81 - While this retro arcade shooter absolutely looks, and in many ways feels, like a title from the good old days of the arcades it’s a very modern amalgam of multiple games blended to make a crazy and challenging experience. Grab upgrades, jump over enemies, dash to either side to plow through enemies that have landed on the ground, and much more as you go through phase after phase of new challenges. Borrowing styles and enemy types from multiple games this is a retro roller coaster and the tweaks you can make to its speed and challenge are a welcome modern touch that very much make it worth checking out.

Clouds & Sheep 2 - While I never got to partake of the original Clouds & Sheep, thankfully the complexities of the storyline didn't hinder my enjoyment of the sequel. Just kidding, this is just a straight-up cute resource management-type game where you'll need to care for your sheep, provide them with water, food, and perhaps an opportunity to find love as well. While it looks simple you'll quickly find yourself sucked in to a greater challenge than you'd expect, combining clouds to cast lightning down to kill poisonous plants and trying to tend to the wishes to your flock to keep them happy and yourself flush with stars that you'll use as currency.

Spy Chameleon - This is an action puzzle game that may not appeal to everyone, whether too frustrating or too simple, but that continues to add new elements to its challenge throughout its fair runtime. You'll be trying to carefully stealth your way through rooms full of various traps, relying on your many skills and a fair dose of patience to succeed. Throw in the temptation of added challenge elements for competitionists and you've got a budget formula for some fun.

Mom Hid My Game - Spanning a mere 50 levels, and likely completed in only a couple of hours, the goal in the game is to reclaim your game system after your mother has hidden it. While it is initially pretty simple, and none of the puzzles are terribly taxing overall, the joy is in the process and even the failures along the way. There is a trial and error element to it, without a doubt, as you try to determine what you need to do to get your system back without accidentally revealing or summoning your perpetually disapproving mother. The thing is, her sudden appearance is often a big piece of what makes it so fun. Mom Hid My Game isn’t meant to be taken seriously and in many ways it is less a game than it is a series of bizarre skits. If you’re looking for a very “out of left field” piece of entertainment for a few hours I’ll happily recommend it.

This list will continue to grow and be pruned as time goes on, as well as numerous other lists that try to keep track of all of the best titles the Nintendo Switch has to offer in the Indie space!

Tuesday, November 5

Mini Reviews: November 5th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 [AAA Choice!] - Going way back to the days of playing games with friends on my Commodore 64 I’ve always enjoyed Olympic-style multi-event games. Back then it was the Summer/Winter/World Games series by Epyx at home complemented by arcade hits like Track & Field or HyperSports. The variety of play, the element of mastery to getting the timing and technique down for every event, and the outright competitive spirit when playing against friends or trying to beat high scores was always a blast. Now, when it comes to modern versions of these titles, even the Mario & Sonic series to date, things have been hit and miss. Sure, for the die hards these mini game collections are a staple for local multiplayer bragging rights, but for me there’s just been something lacking at times that sapped my enthusiasm.

That all changes with this year’s incarnation inspired by the upcoming Tokyo 2020 games. Sega has come at this title with guns blazing and checks a ton of boxes successfully. Great and diverse Olympic events, a pretty lengthy and terrific single-player Story mode (which includes additional mini games), retro-styled 2D events that emulate the classics, sometimes off-the-wall Dream Events that demonstrate even more creativity… this is a maximum effort title that offers so much sheer variety that just about anyone should be able to have some fun. While there’s no doubt not all events will appeal to everyone, which any collection of mini games suffers from, the typical support for multiple control schemes and different approaches to how events work in general signify Sega’s commitment to doing everything they could to do right by its fans. In a category where over the years I’ve become pretty jaded this title has absolutely restored my enthusiasm for the genre, and I’m looking forward to the same team attacking the Winter Games in 2 years.

Sydney Hunter and the Curse of the Mayan [Nindie Choice!] - Going old school can be a risky proposition at times, but when it is done right the results can be rewarding as well as nostalgic (at least for people like me). Sydney Hunter is an action platformer with a retro 8-bit look and at times a degree of challenge also reminiscent of days gone by. Your job is to explore, avoid traps and creatures who’ll do you harm, and pretty well to always be on the lookout for cracked blocks that you can swipe to reveal hidden collectibles. If you’re not good at spotting such blocks the game unfortunately gets significantly more frustrating as it will make you backtrack far more, and that’s not so fun. However, if you’ve got the itch to grab your whip and tackle thirteen stages of ancient temples in search of fortune and glory it’s a retro romp well worth checking out.

Disney Classic Games: Aladdin and The Lion King - An opening admission (and perhaps given my age this will be shocking), of all the SNES-era games I played in my college years I don’t believe these two were among them. That said, with so many contemporaries and fans out there who I know hold them in high regard I was very curious to check this collection out. Without the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia my impression of them is first and foremost that maybe even moreso than the typical re-released game these are products of their time. While you can quickly get the hang of the rules of play for both you’re really just dropped into playing, and in particular in the case of The Lion King I was a bit baffled at what I was even supposed to be doing at first. Not a big deal, just worth noting. The degree of what felt like cheap design, with the game whittling down your health at times using unfair means, was a bit more annoying but obviously with some repetition you’ll get through it. It’s just a classic tactic for artificially making the game longer I’ve never been a fan of. In the end, these are older games you’ll either embrace as is or find dated in their design and execution. If you hold nostalgia for them this is absolutely a terrific collection, packed with not just the base games but additional version from other platforms and other value added content I really appreciate from an archival standpoint. It’s a solid pair of titles, its ultimate value will very much differ from person to person though.

Creepy Brawlers - When you decide to set your sights on making a retro game in the vein of a classic like Punch-Out, even when we’re talking about a budget title, it’s a tricky proposition. Fans of the NES classic who enjoyed the mixture of action and ultimately puzzle-solving while engaging a variety of enemies in the ring will pretty well instantly understand what they’re looking at. In place of the strange array of international fighters though, in this case you’ll be dealing with an assortment of movie monsters of various kinds. The result does work, and can be fun, but there’s also no missing that it’s not a very polished experience. There’s just something with the responsiveness that feels just a hair slow and in places the game feels picky. That said, for the most part this is a style of play nobody else has dared to touch, so the mix of the horror movie theming and variations on a classic title may be just what you’re looking for when the price of admission is so humble.

Delta Squad - As a self-proclaimed super-fan of twin-stick shooters any title that looks like it could scratch that itch is immediately of interest. In the case of Delta Squad that enthusiasm unfortunately left pretty quickly. Your goal is to save the world, blah blah, and in order to do that you’ll need to work your way through meandering and non-descript levels shooting zombies, foot soldiers, heavy guns, and more. You’ll have the choice of which unit type you’ll be working with, though while they do differ none of them will help the game get any more exciting and rewarding. For a twin-stick shooter the enemies are not plentiful and the action is lacking. Your biggest challenges will often be to stationary guns that hit hard, and are often arranged near each other to complicate matters. The thing is, the experience is all stick and no carrot. If there were a clear gameplay pot of gold at the end of the somewhat clunky rainbow that is playing this game it could be worth sticking it out… but there just isn’t. Given the competition in this space at all price points this Delta Squad is only suitable for cannon fodder.

Friday, November 1

Mini Reviews: November 1st Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Earthfall: Alien Horde [Nindie Choice!] - When it comes to co-op PvE gameplay I don’t think any other title has managed to top the Left 4 Dead series, even though the last entry was released a solid decade ago. It’s plainly obvious that the makers of Earthfall are well aware who rules the genre roost as right out of the gate there are a staggering number of similarities in the structure and mechanics of this title. Once you get past the shock of what in many regards feels almost like a shameless rip-off of that title you’ll begin to notice some great additions though, particularly when it comes to strategic opportunities. Barricades and turrets are just two of the great additions Earthfall adds to the mix and they’re absolutely great ideas that are well-implemented and help it stand apart from its source of inspiration.

Online play is pretty decent, though it’s tough since everyone is obviously still getting their feet wet. I got kicked once or twice so stability may be a bit of a concern but whether there could be other complications at play would be a question. The great news is that solo or partial group play works well since the bots are pretty competent and can have their skill level adjusted as well to tweak their effectiveness. I wasn’t able to test local wireless play (no split-screen, sorry) but I’m a fan of it being an option. I think my only consistent concern was that it could be hard in some places to spot aliens, the vegetation and elements in some areas tended to obscure aliens so they could feel like they were popping up on you at times. Still, considering Valve is unlikely to port Left 4 Dead to Switch (or do anything other than make money on Steam anymore it seems) and there’s nothing else like it on Switch, Earthfall: Alien Horde is a great choice if you’ve been itching for some squad-based co-op FPS action.

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD - From the start I was always a fan of the Super Monkey Ball series. Between the cuteness of it all, the mix of puzzles and reflex action, and the ingenuity of some of the included multiplayer games they were a blast. That said, while normally series improve with age in the case of Monkey Ball subsequent versions somehow seemed to lose their luster. That’s where Banana Blitz HD is both a good and a bad thing. I’m thrilled to see Monkey Ball on the Switch, but of the versions Sega could have ported this is a weak entry. Single-player is solid, for sure, but the attempts at bosses are a bit all over the place and in some cases don’t even seem well-conceived. The multiplayer games may be the most disappointing for me though since many of them are rudimentary in nature and lack in staying power. Worse, one of the earlier versions of Monkey Target was far superior to the one included in this incarnation and I’m still jonesing for Monkey Bowling which was also in an earlier version and an absolute blast. I hope this version does well since the gameplay core is still there and fun, but mostly I’m wishing Sega will decide to go back and remaster some earlier versions to fully recapture the franchise’s magic.

Polyroll - If you’re a gamer who has been around a while, immediately at the point you get this game rolling you won’t be able to miss the fact that it’s based heavily on Sonic the Hedgehog. Running (obviously) through courses with an emphasis on jumping, collecting gems, bouncing on enemies, and getting hurled around. Is it as exciting and well-designed as your average classic Sonic game? No. Is it a reasonable facsimile that’s not terribly hard on your pocketbook? Yes. If you’re not a fan of the blue speedster you can probably pass but if you’re game for a variation on a classic theme Polyroll is a decent bet.

Spaceland - When it comes to tactical squad-based shooters simply nothing compares to the X-Com series. Spaceland isn’t trying to compete with it though, it’s instead offering up an experience that’s reminiscent of that style in terms of the combat, but with a budget price and more easy-going feel. Does it allow for creating a squad you’ll carefully cultivate with the perks that represent your strategic style? Not really. Does it have the research, the base, and all of the layers that make the strategy element so satisfying? Nah. However, considering the price point and the lack of stand-out strategy options on the Switch if you’re itching for something in that vein on a budget it may satisfy you for at least a little while.

Deep Space Rush - Grinding is one of those things that can grate on your nerves, though in the case of some games it can work. Unfortunately the number of titles where earned progression through repeatedly running up against a brick wall, with the plan being that you’ll slowly improve your core skills and get further the next time, is rewarding is incredibly short. You can easily count Deep Space Rush in the not-so-good pile, with one of its biggest problems being that even when you are able to afford upgrades they’re so lackluster that your time feels wasted. Bland and uninspired platform shooting awaits, with the highlight being weapon power-ups you can pick up along the way (which are generally what you’re upgrading) but those lack in diversity or interest. Jump, shoot, dodge, shoot, pick up power-up, shoot something slightly different for a short time, jump, and shoot some more. It’s all grind and really no reward, and it’s tough to recommend.

Thursday, October 31

Top 20 Indie Weird Games on Nintendo Switch

Not necessarily representing an understood genre, I’ve chosen to distinguish weird games since they tend to generally be my favorite, no matter the style. If you’re throwing the unexpected at me, combining gameplay elements that nobody ever thought of before, or simply making me step back and say “WTF?!?” I’m all about these sorts of experiences. This is what I hope is a balanced list of the top games that are unusual on the system.

Battle Chef Brigade - Brigade is a game that immediately sounded appealing when I heard the premise and then delivered something truly unique and engaging rather than succumbing to its own hype. One part action game for collecting your ingredients, and another Match 3 puzzler for concocting your cuisine to please the judges it makes for a strategic and often frantic affair. Throw in an RPG story with some surprising twists and Battle Chef Brigade is one of the best overall titles on the system.

Pool Panic - This was hands down my favorite title I'd never really heard about that I got to check out at PAX East last year. Thoroughly weird, consistently creative, and with terrific small but charming details and touches everywhere Pool Panic is a game that actively defies easy description. It's a mix of action, adventure, puzzles, and geometry I can easily say I've never experienced before and to top it all off that sets the stage for some unique and fun competitive local multiplayer to boot. I simply love this game and it was one I absolutely had to finish.

Tumbleseed - I consider Tumbleseed to be one of the best games on the system that very few people gave a chance. In part because it is something completely different and then due to its initial difficulty level it made itself a bit of a tough sell. With its Four Peaks patch it significantly improved on its accessibility and set things up in a way that would both be more friendly to more casual players and not punish people quite so much with unexpected issues like auras that would attack you the same as they would your enemies. Quirky, unique, and full of charm it is well worth taking the time to know and appreciate.

Ms. Splosion Man - I'd heard of this title before but nothing could prepare me for just how weirdly, brilliantly silly it all is. While in principle the controls are simple, limited to moving back and forth and blowing yourself up, its the interaction with other elements in the levels to solve action puzzles and proceed that make it a load of fun. While her almost non-stop chattering of weird (and often dated) pop culture references and commentary may not be for everyone to me they just added flavor to the game's core manic energy.

Flipping Death - Whenever you talk about classic adventure titles there's roughly a standing assumption that they'll bog down at some point with obtuse item puzzles or funkiness, it's pretty well a genre staple. To combat that Flipping Death doesn't have you managing items in your inventory but instead inhabiting the bodies of the living to perform character-specific tasks to solve problems. The fact that most of these characters are extremely weird and quirky and it all adds up to a great time full of silliness and laughs but consistently challenging throughout as well.

Yoku's Island Express - All I had to do was heard the words "pinball adventure" and my ears instantly perked up. What, again, could have been a pretty easy and by-the-numbers title thrown out to grab the attention of classic pinball fans like myself turned out to be so much more though. Yoku's Island Express is creative, quirky, challenging, and consistently surprising throughout its runtime, and put a smile on my face pretty much the entire time I played it. Throw in the fact that though it may not be terribly easy it's also extremely family-friendly and it's a title that absolutely feels at home on the Switch.

Untitled Goose Game - Bless indie developers and their ability to come up with weird concepts for gameplay that you probably never considered but upon seeing them are easily attracted to. Untitled Goose Game is such a title, and I was drawn to it the moment I laid eyes on its gameplay in one of the Directs. Maybe I can’t speak for everyone but there’s something really fun about unleashing your inner asshole every once in a while and if that thought appeals to you this game should be high on your list. Given a checklist of objectives, you’ll need to use your pretty limited goosey skills and some smarts to figure out how to complete them to progress. One unfortunate thing is that the game isn’t terribly long, though I suppose it may be better not have it overstay its welcome and lose its creative spark. Still, it’s a unique and entertaining playthrough if you’re in the right mindset.

Thimbleweed Park - The classic LucasArts adventure games were staple PC titles always guaranteeing great laughs from their quirky characters, silly dialogue, and often-bizarre puzzles. Now some of the best minds behind those classic titles have come back to the table with Thimbleweed Park, hopefully exposing a new generation to their signature style and sense of humor. While the pace is a bit slower than people are likely used to the Switch's touchscreen makes it an ideal platform for playing these games quickly and effectively. Thimbleweed Park is a terrific reminder of how well humor can work in games.

Bridge Constructor Portal - While there have been a few different bridge construction games on the Switch I'd say this one, by far, stands out from the rest. Not only does it feature unusual humor inspired by the presence of Portal's GLaDOS, but just in general even things like the little people trying to use your structures dying or getting flung about made me laugh. Back that up with some smart and challenging scenarios that will make you think hard about how to get through and it's a tricky but fun overall experience.

Super Daryl Deluxe - For me there's something really funny about such an unassuming (and honestly dumb-looking) burnout of a kid looking to save the day. Sort of working as a side-scrolling action RPG you'll need to carefully choose which of Daryl's many ridiculous powers to use for success. Facing off against a menagerie of enemies that are almost as unusual as Daryl himself this is an oddball title with a ton of content that doesn't skimp on the challenge.

Freedom Finger - When I originally caught this title at PAX I was drawn in by its sheer attitude, blending together some great voice acting, an abundance of perhaps crude but entertaining humor, and an absolutely kicking soundtrack. It’s when you play the game though that the nuances of a great arcade shooter emerge and impress further. The mechanics of grabbing and then either throwing enemies or using their weapons rather than power-ups is smart and effective. The fact that every track of the music influences the speed, style, and flow of each stage is then just icing on the cake. In many regards Freedom Finger defies easy traditional characterization, never fully committing to any set arcade style and instead providing a pretty balanced buffet of action and smart level designs. That ultimately help it stand out just as much as its surface-level fun and makes it easy to recommend if you’re up for some giggles and a challenge.

GoNNER - I'm not gonna lie, GoNNER gets off to a very rough start and it a true roguelike in that it is frustrating and hard as balls. That said, as you get the hang of it and unlock more heads, weapons, and gear you'll find combinations that work for you through experimentation and then things start to look up. There are some terrific combinations that are a lot of fun but I tend to gravitate towards the scythe and shark fin for maximum carnage. What brings it all together is the reactive audio that continues to get more frantic as you increase your multiplier and then once you reach a certain point it all goes crazy! If you're down for a challenge it is one of my favorite titles on the Switch!

Baba Is You - Why settle for going the normal route and following the game’s rules to win when you can simply look for ways to change the rules instead? This simple but smart premise is central to Baba Is You and will have you playing with each stage’s rules that are represented as words on the screen that you can move around and reconfigure. Managing to keep finding new ways to challenge you throughout its runtime this is a challenging and unique puzzler absolutely worth checking out.

Bomb Chicken - Taking the silly premise of a bomb-laying chicken and then milking it for all its worth Bomb Chicken is an unusual mix of platforming and puzzling. You’ll need to be careful and precise in how you lay your bombs, whether to destroy obstacles or to stack them on top of each other to reach other levels. Completely different, silly, and fun this is a great mix of gameplay styles that works very well on Switch.

My Friend Pedro - All in all My Friend Pedro handily delivers what it promises, bonkers gunplay, challenging scenarios, and when you’re on top of things a ballet of violence. It would have still been a blast to play even with less variety, but the care put into upping the stakes and providing plenty of insane situations over its runtime is very much appreciated. Be aware that the struggle to succeed while looking cool can be very real, you’ll need to take things one step at a time and develop your repertoire for slow-motion violence before it all moves to another level of fun, but the investment is well worth your while.

Garage - This title which, at a glance, looks like a twin-stick zombie shooter meets Hotline Miami won't be for everyone but I really ended up enjoying the odd journey it took me on. You'll need to carefully manage your ammo, shoot wisely, and know when to break out your melee weapon while you go deeper and deeper into weirdness and often end up questioning what is even real.

Death Coming - If you’ve got a bit of a sick streak this game absolutely delivers great moments that will make you break out your most evil laugh. Sure, dropping a potted plant on someone’s head is fun as a one-off kill but the game’s consistent pattern of giving you breadcrumbs for how to trigger a big event, but not having it be clear what will happen until you kick it off, makes for some bloody surprises that are a ton of fun. This is a great game to slowly explore and is full of discovery moments that often lead to hilarious death and destruction. If that statement doesn’t offend you, and instead makes you giggle with anticipation this is likely a title for you.

Nefarious - Thoroughly turning your typical expectation for games of this type on its head, in Nefarious you'll find yourself playing the role of a villain rather than a hero. This switch allows for a somewhat behind the scenes look at heroes, the princesses they typically are trying to save, and how silly many classic video game tropes really can be. Backed up by pretty solid action platforming, terrific and varied boss fights, and a lot of great humor it's a very different kind of experience.

Zarvot - While mechanically this is a sort of shooter adventure in terms of gameplay it's the presentation and story of Zarvot that makes it entertaining. You'll play as a cube named Charcoal who, together with his friend Mustard, set out to get a great gift to cheer up their friend Red. Somewhat randomly on the way you'll face enemies you'll need to shoot it out with, some crazy weird boss battles, and all sorts of odd story beats. It's odd, charming, and for the most part gorgeous as well.

Goat Simulator: The GOATY - Among the many weirdo physics games I’ve played there’s never been anything quite like Goat Simulator. At a highly counter-intuitive level it somehow manages to be goofy, charming, and fun. That is, if you can accept that the entire plan behind it is to make a game using what look to be a ton of generic assets thrown together, blended into an unusual soup, and then served to you “as is”. If the thought of playing a janky game full of clipping and questionable controls completely turns you off you absolutely won’t want to consider this game, it will drive you up the wall. However, if you want to experience one of the most pure (and unusual) sandbox games there is, you should check out some video and get a feel for it. This GOATY edition that has come to Switch has more variety and weird goat-y-ness than should perhaps be allowed, but if you’re open to seeing the fun in it I’d say it’s absolutely worth checking out.

This list will continue to grow and be pruned as time goes on, as well as numerous other lists that try to keep track of all of the best titles the Nintendo Switch has to offer in the Indie space!

Tuesday, October 29

Mini Reviews: October 29th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Skullgirls 2nd Encore [Nindie Choice!] - While I’ve consistently heard nothing but great things about Skullgirls from my friends who are massive fighting fans up until PAX this year I’d never gotten to check it out myself. Watching the game being played it’s hard not to be impressed by the diverse and beautifully-animated characters, some of which have some of the craziest moves and specials I think I’ve seen. It’s also very apparent that this is a pretty technical fighter, which was where my one real concern with the game cropped up. What’s a bit shocking though is that in general for someone like me who has played a fair number of fighters for the most part the moves that trigger the on-screen chaos feel natural and mostly intuitive. Simply experimenting on the fly moves and even combos seemed to come to me pretty easily. From there it’s all about the flow of gameplay and the best word to describe it is intense. Solo players should appreciate the story mode that provides some background for the very odd menagerie of fighters, but everyone should appreciate the choice to go 1-on-1 or up to 3-on-3, providing for plenty of opportunities for changing tactics and generally catering the matches to your liking. Available online play is definitely appreciated, though it’s important to note that even great indie titles on Switch don’t tend to have online communities that survive for long. While there have been very good indie fighters on the Switch I actually think this one is the best.

Tangle Tower [Nindie Choice!] - When there are so many point-and-click style adventures available on the Switch it pays to try to stand out. Smart puzzles, some quirky characters, and a sense of humor have pretty well become standard features so the bar has become pretty high if you want to stand out from the generally very enjoyable pack. Where Tangle Tower manages to get an edge is with well-delivered voice acting, some particularly weird characters you’ll interact with, and even some surprises in terms of puzzle variety and creativity. Throw this all together with a compelling mystery and the average puzzle fan should find plenty to enjoy over the course of a handful of hours with this one.

Vortex Attack EX - As a huge fan of arcade classics from many genres I’ve played more than my share of space shooters. As such, Vortex Attack EX very much feels targeted at someone like me specifically who can not only take on the challenge but appreciate the pretty wide variety of influences on its play mechanics. Your goal is simple, shoot enemies, avoid being hit, collect power-ups and gems that fall, and try to survive. As you progress and get more effective the game rewards you with each new mothership you defeat with a new ship variant to choose from as you start each game. These are really the game’s overall saving grace as each of them plays quite differently and provide both an incentive to play another run to try them out and new styles of play to master as you work to discover which works best for you. While it may not quite reach the heights of some of the other retro shooters on the system its budget price and variety in play styles still make it worthwhile for classic arcade shooter fans.

Dark Devotion - Take a somewhat gothic setting with various lethal monsters, traps, and perils, then add in a variety of weapons and power-ups you can slowly grind to acquire and you have Dark Devotion. In a vacuum while this wouldn’t necessarily be considered a great title overall it would likely garner some attention. The challenge, though, is the availability of titles that are very similar but have an overall edge in terms of depth and quality. On the one hand the grinding and weapons have a fair amount in common with Dead Cells, on the other the setting, style, and difficulty are reminiscent of Blasphemous. While I think Dark Devotion works and is worthwhile for the proper audience the comparisons are impossible not to make, and unfortunately in those match-ups I’d consider this title to be lacking by comparison. Still, if you want to get your gothic grind on it’s challenging and has its moments.

Ultra Off-Road 2019: Alaska - Having never gone off-roading, let alone been to Alaska, I’m unable to comment on the authenticity of the experience offered by this title. In my mind, however, I’ll assume the experience is less like trying to maneuver a brick on wheels through an odd mess of a landscape then this. The challenge with a title like this is trying to figure out who it is ultimately for, and what the target experience is supposed to be. I suppose it was shooting for a simulation akin to a game like Spintires, but if so the lack of any real depth or a sense of quality make it come up far short of that mark. From the unusual need to pick up and eat food to there seeming to only be one standard clunk sound no matter what you make contact with this off-road experience stalls out before it even gets started.

Monday, October 28

Mini Reviews: October 28th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Roof Rage [Nindie Choice!] - OK, Smash fans, hear me out. When it comes to fast-paced and somewhat crazy fighting Smash tends to be in a class all its own. That said, I’m here to tell you that someone has managed to capture a fair amount of that energy and surprising depth and put it into a budget pixel fighter. Roof Rage may just have a stable of pretty familiar and generic fighters overall by appearance but its fighting action is a pleasant surprise, especially when combining the pretty diverse combatants with the numerous stage layouts you’ll contend with. In general fighters feel responsive, their individual attacks have enough variety to encourage experimentation, and for the most part the game exceeds what I would have expected from a title at this pretty humble price point. If you’ve been looking for something with the spirit of Smash to enjoy with some friends and can live without the wild and wacky power-ups Roof Rage may be a great choice for your next throwdown.

Anthill - If you’re a fan of strategy gaming that skews a little more to the casual side, cutting your teeth on things like tower defense titles, Anthill may be a perfect experience for you. Given the responsibility of managing your small colony of ants you’ll need to create paths for your various unit types to follow to maximize efficiency collecting resources, defending your hive, and ensuring that old supply lines are pruned to avoid waste. You’ll need to decide how many of each unit to work with to tackle the challenges you face, a draught of workers will slow your growth but what use are they if they’re being lost to enemies of various kinds? Played exclusively in handheld mode the controls are intuitive and the action is pretty bite-sized and fun if you’ve been looking for a new variation on somewhat casual strategy gaming.

Baldur’s Gate / Baldur’s Gate II - If you’re a “vintage gamer” like myself who has been in the PC space you’ve definitely heard of, and likely played, one or both of these pen and paper inspired RPG classics. While visually there’s no doubt they’re limited and the controls are obviously a conversion from their native PC roots if you feel like modern RPGs too often lack diversity and depth in their character building you should really appreciate the degree to which you’re able to cater to your preferences in these two epic adventures. While some of the oddball characters and their dialogue, for me, are among the more memorable elements of the series there’s a good reason these titles are held in high regard so if you’re willing to overlook the experience being a bit creaky in places it’s worth getting to know for the first time or perhaps revisit to enjoy the nostalgia.

Remothered: Tormented Fathers - With it being that time of year where people are looking for an experience that’ll get them on edge and throw in some scares with a game like Remothered checks multiple boxes. The stage is set with a creepy mansion and an old man who is thoroughly creepy, where it goes from there is for you to discover. Like many other survival horror games your character isn’t able to be much of an aggressor, you’re generally going to be focused on evading detection and trying to hide while putting together what’s going on and trying to make your escape. Mechanically setting small traps and trying to defend yourself is possible but it’s also a bit clunky, so while there’s some great tension if you’re receptive to the experience others may find it repetitive and frustrating. With more than one option on the system in this same vein I don’t think any aspect of Remothered makes it the clear winner, for the most part I think it ultimately would come down to tastes in how graphic or intense you want your experience, and under that criteria this is pretty middle of the road overall.

Beast Quest - When you aspire to match up to the likes of the Legend of Zelda series and its ilk, taking on a grand adventure in a 3D world, you’ve got quite an endeavor ahead of you. There’s no doubt some of this desire lies at the core of Beast Quest, as your main character is a young man charged with setting out to save the kingdom provided with a sword, shield, some armor, and sage words from an old wizard. Along the way you’ll enlist some help you can call on periodically to get out of a pinch but for the most part you’ll explore the world solo, generally following a very linear path with only minor puzzles to work through. Perhaps if the game’s combat were engaging and exciting some other areas coming up lacking would be more forgivable but unfortunately as much time as you’ll spend fighting various beasts and bandit fighting is stunted and awkward all around. There are simply better options, even on a budget, for this sort of play on the system so it’s hard to recommend Beast Quest for just about anyone.