Monday, April 29

Review: Panty Party [Nintendo Switch eShop]


In the history of covering games for Nintendo systems there’s never been a time quite like now. Among the many changes the Switch has heralded in, at least in terms of what I’ve been reviewing there have been some really crazy imported games to check out. In the case of this review, for Panty Party, while the assumption would be that this is another weird and pervy game that honestly make me a bit uncomfortable that misses the mark. Despite the name and even the somewhat suggestive artwork this is simply a very unusual game that’s both completely bizarre and at times laugh out loud funny, though it’s gameplay is sadly not quite as engaging as it’s overall weirdness.


Keeping it brief in order to not spoil the deep complexities of the plot you’ll be playing as a young woman whose love for all panties without bias has made her a “Warrior of Love” in a battle for to protect all of humanity. It seems that the evil Panzi is set on forming a panty army and turning all humans into panties by force somehow. Enlisted to fight against Panzi by Baka Panty, who has a cute little pink bow in the front, you’ll work stage by stage to defeat and then enlist a variety of other styles of undergarments to join your side.


Moving past that absolutely bonkers story beats there’s the core action, which is a somewhat odd mix of a 3D shooter and brawler depending on which pair you choose to work with. Baka Panty and some others have a mix of abilities, with 2 shooting attacks as well as a slashing combo. Some other pairs like the Sailor Panty are more shooting focused and lacking a melee attack. You’ll need to dodge, carefully use cover, be sure to destroy any washing machines that will slowly spawn new enemies, and wear down your enemies one by one. Each story stage will tend to have an objective to meet aside from just completing it, whether doing it without falls, within a specific amount of time, or some other variation in order to unlock new pairs that you can then play as, and hopefully you’ll find one to suit your specific style.


While the combat is different, and there are some different nuances to being successful with each pair, the weirdo story itself is the star of the show. You’ll also be able to play split-screen multiplayer against up to 3 friends, or peppering some bots into the mix as well. There additionally an Arcade mode which will just randomly throw different groups of enemies at you to defeat. Despite the very suggestive name and box art this isn’t so much a pervy title as a quirky and funny one. Whether or not you can live with someone seeing this on your billing statement or popping up on their screen as you boot it up may be the ultimate tricky question though.


Score: 6

Pros:
  • If you were worried the game would be pervy, good news, it’s just very weird and has an unusual amount of discussion about butts at times
  • There’s absolutely nothing quite like it on the system
  • The combat has a surprising degree of variety between styles of panties, each with their own core attack style and specials

Cons:
  • If you were hoping the game would be pervy, bad news, it’s just very weird and has an unusual amount of discussion about butts at times
  • While the gameplay is decent it’s also not likely to be satisfying for a very long time

Review: Rollin' Eggz [Nintendo Switch eShop]


Reviewing games that are intended for children can be tricky, as obviously when you’re playing them as an adult they’re not meant for you. Educational games then present an additional layer of challenge as their intent and focus is on entertainment second. However, as a parent who has two grown children I believe I’m able to take an objective look at these sorts of games and provide fair criticism.


While the audience Rollin’ Eggz is intended for won’t know or understand it the principle gameplay of Rollin’ Eggz is either based on or simply very much like the classic Game & Watch game called Egg. You’ll play as someone with a basket (there are a few unlockable characters aside from the default fox) trying to catch eggs before they fall to the ground. For the sake of variety there are actually 3 modes, 2 of which involve eggs coming from each diagonal direction (with the Rainbow variant wanting you to only grab the one matching the currently-identified color) and one where you’ll be trying to catch them from 5 different positions across the top of the screen.


In order to make things a bit more interesting and unpredictable there are some refined rules and even power-ups available. Chickens will sometimes drop black eggs, which are rotten and you want to avoid catching, and sometimes there will be gold ones as well that are worth more points and will restore some health. Ladybugs and snails will provide additional power-up opportunities at the press of the button, but the one that tends to amp up the challenge is an egg with a lightning bolt on it that will speed everything up for a little while.


Though the default Easy difficulty pulls back the tempo of things pretty substantially and would be intended for very young or inexperienced players, there is also an option to move the difficulty up to Hard and that gets to be challenging much more quickly. Image and color recognition and reaction times are the main things the game will test, the benefit here is that conceptually the basics of what you want to do are easily understood. There’s nothing terribly complicated here, but the inclusion of a few play variations and skill levels will hopefully give it a little more longevity than the average title intended for the younger audience.


Score: 6.5

Pros:
  • With some unlocks, 2 skills levels, and 3 modes there’s at least a decent amount of content for kids to enjoy
  • Helps work on skills of object recognition, eye-hand coordination, and color matching
  • An appropriate price point

Cons:
  • Probably anyone with even minimal exposure to more complex games will find it too simple
  • I like the well-meaning control shortcuts in the Raining mode but I’m not sure how accessible they’ll be for their target audience when the pace picks up

Review: Overcooked 2 - Campfire Cool Off DLC [Nintendo Switch eShop]


If you’ve continued to periodically check in and keep playing Overcooked 2 you’ve no doubt seen the consistent flow of additional free DLC to his point. This time around (and with a Season Pass there will soon be two additional packs as well) the theme is centered around firing up some grills and cooking in the great outdoors. Whether it’s tasty s’mores, some beans, a little bit of breakfast, or some new variations on old classics there’s a whole lot of campfire cuisine to explore over the expansion’s 15 total new levels.


The thing is, some new chefs and recipes really wouldn’t be enough to set the pack apart, so the bit change this time around is the addition of backpacks. With the introduction of these you’ll have an additional layer of coordination concern to think about as your normally statically placed supply bins will be replaced with a backpack that’s moving around with someone else while they try to complete their tasks. As if things weren’t tough enough with some tricky layouts which will require plenty of communication and teamwork these backpacks can get you in trouble even quicker if you’re not thinking and working on strategies to best deal with them.


With this first paid DLC delivering not just some new recipes and aesthetics, but instead even adding a new dimension to the core gameplay, I’m eager to see what will happen with the next two. As if the core game experience wasn’t hectic and crazy enough smart new mechanics to shake things up are welcome, and since I didn’t see the backpack coming I’m hoping they have some additional clever ideas in store. If you and your family or friends have been looking for a great excuse to return to the hectic Overcooked 2 kitchen this is a great reason to do so for a modest price.


Score: 8.5

Pros:
  • Some tricky new stages with new recipe challenges and layouts to contend with
  • The backpack is a real game changer and requires new coordination considerations

Cons:
  • There are a few levels that get really tough, but that’s not to say they’re unfair
  • I’d say overall the focus here is on multiplayer, going it solo really robs you of some of the fun

Saturday, April 27

Review: Zeroptian Invasion [Nintendo Switch eShop]


When it comes to arcade shooters on the Switch I’m pretty well universally game to check just about anything out. Whether it’s the twin-stick variety, side-scrolling, retro-classic, or roguelike I love seeing what people have to offer all across the spectrum. I’ve seen some pretty impressive tweaks to classic formulas and some games that have then thrown in new ideas as well to great effect. Jumping into this space is Zeroptian Invasion, a game that has elements of multiple arcade classics, and that to a degree does them justice… but still ultimately falls a bit flat up against its competition.


Right out of the gate (after a nice classic bit of music) anyone should be able to recognize the inspiration of the initial wave in the game, Space Invaders. You’ll be trying to shoot aliens that are slowly making their way down the screen and taking cover beneath barriers that will slowly take damage and then go away. The game’s first boss fight actually involves one of those barriers that comes to life, which is a decent surprise, and then you’ll move on to new waves that will continue to change things up with a different color and new surprises and more challenging bosses.


There are three power-ups you can obtain in the game, always from shooting down a UFO that will make its way across the top of the screen amidst the action. One will let you shoot slightly faster, another will help you move slightly quicker, and the last will give you a one-hit shield. Unfortunately that’s all she wrote with power-ups and since you’re not even able to stack them you never get to be terribly powerful or agile and that feels like a bit of a shame. In particular you feel sluggish and incapable in the first phase of new waves that feel a bit like bonus sequences you’d play in some games where you try to take out all ships in a wave that follow an odd pattern… except that these ships shoot at you and given the most score bonus for getting them all you’re generally better off avoiding for fear of taking a hit.


While in terms of the music and visuals Zeroptian Invasion hits its retro mark the gameplay comes up a bit bland and lacking not just by modern standards but even in some cases up against the games this was looking to emulate. The minor number of pretty weak power-ups, your general lack of agility, and the subdued overall action just make it a game that you can play, not something that reaches out of the screen and grabs you, compelling you to put in another quarter and give it another try. In the end it just fails to deliver anything terribly new or exciting, or even in many cases the charm of the games they’ve borrowed from along the way.


Score: 5.5

Pros:
  • Nails the general look and music of a classic arcade shooter
  • Definitely provides a bit of a challenge and includes elements of multiple classics
  • Includes the option to play in TATE mode vertically

Cons:
  • In general, even when fully powered up, your ship feels sluggish and pretty incapable
  • Fails to innovate and feel modern but also doesn’t recapture the classic charm of the games it emulates

Review: Cytus ⍺ [Nintendo Switch eShop]


When it comes to music and rhythm games the Switch as proven to be quite versatile and has you covered. While the majority of titles haven’t had Western soundtracks with tunes Americans will recognize that isn’t to say the music has been bad, it’s just a bit of a mindblower when you hear styles like jazz or rock in a foreign language. One reason the Switch has attracted so many of these titles is due to its touchscreen, making it easy to bring over games suited to mobile. What Cytus ⍺ manages to do, that’s a bit different, is bring viable physical controls to the table as well, making it more accessible depending on how you like to play, but perhaps at a cost.


Coming from the same folks who made VOEZ and Deemo it’s clear that the game was put together by people well versed in the genre. Between the presentation and general base controls the game has a nice degree of polish. Keeping things pretty simple overall you’ll be focused on tapping, dragging your finger in a simple pattern, or holding it down depending on the type of prompts you’re given. With the inclusion of a line that moves up and down the screen to the beat these translate very easily into physical controls as well, with tap and hold using the face buttons, and drag using the triggers. As someone who has struggled to capture video of games in this genre due to either a lack of controller support or controls that are clearly inferior to using the touchscreen I really appreciate the viability of using the controller to play the game.


Perhaps a casualty of making the physical controls viable is the fact that while the tracks will certainly get tougher as you raise the difficulty with regards to how much you’ll be pressed to do and keep up with the simplicity remains in place with just the 3 types of control. Whether or not you’d consider this a plus or minus will vary but the lack of overall complexity compared to its peers is just different in general. Playing online against others is supported, though since I tend to play games like this more on the go overall and do it for my own enjoyment I didn’t find it to be a hook. If you like the idea of battling other people’s scores not just on leaderboards but also live it may be a real positive for you though. Over the course of playing through the game’s massive 200+ list of songs you’ll slowly unlock elements and details that point to a narrative of some kind, but this feels like an unusual afterthought and I’m not positive for what little it adds it was needed.


Depending on what you’re looking for Cytus ⍺ may be either a home run or a bit of a swing and a miss. If you value simplicity and the ability to viably play in docked mode over complexity this may be one of the best options in the genre on the system. If, however, you like your action to be a bit more varied and crazy and only intend to play it with touch controls it may get knocked down a few pegs. Aside from that sticking point that can go either way the game boasts a diverse and massive track list full of variety so if you’re down for some tapping, dragging, and holding you should have something to happily occupy yourself with for a while.


Score: 7.5

Pros:
  • Docked play using the controller is highly viable
  • A massive and diverse soundtrack of more than 200 songs
  • The simplicity of the controls makes it very accessible as a whole

Cons:
  • For some, the lack of control complexity could be considered a downside
  • While the music is generally very good Western audiences aren’t likely to recognize any of it at all
  • While the overall presentation is very clean it’s also not as visually impressive as its competition
  • The narrative element could have been omitted without any negative consequence

Review: Deponia [Nintendo Switch eShop]


There’s no question that though the classic PC adventure genre took a beating at one point and had pretty well disappeared for years it has come back with a vengeance, the sheer number and variety of titles in the genre on Switch serves to thoroughly prove that. With a mix of ones that are more old school or modern in their control sensibilities as well as tones ranging from more thoughtful and dramatic to even gross-out humor there are many options for genre fans. Adding to the mix is now Deponia, the first game in a trilogy of four titles that steers firmly in the direction of humor with middle of the road control mechanics.


In the game you’ll play as Rufus, a character that falls pretty firmly into the “lovable loser” template who mixes brash overconfidence with a general lack of self-reflection, but who can probably grow on you as you get to know him better. Determined to finally leave his trash-covered world of Deponia for the fabled (and lessy smelly, no doubt) Elysium, he gets distracted by his mission by the lovely young woman named Goal. He does manage to “save” her before crashing back down to his world, with his initial goal being to simply revive her, and then teaming up with her for the balance of their adventure… and hilarity ensues along the way.


Mechanically while the game isn’t as streamlined as some other titles have been, usually trying to cut down on the classic genre problem of obtuse and confusing puzzles, it does try to help keep things moving. Being able to easily identify everything you can take action on in the screen at any time is a big help, especially in some of the larger and more detailed areas like Deponia’s hub. That said, expect to hit some of the old school roadblocks of adventure game logic when it comes to solutions to problems, what makes sense rarely rules the day, you’re going to have to be creative, lucky, or armed with a guide in places to succeed.


While the game leads with humor as its hook whether or not you warm up to Rufus may be a fair question. While by the end of this adventure he’s redeemed himself quite a bit he can be tough to love initially, not just being wise-cracking but at times being a bit of a jerk even. While typically games that are firing on all cylinders in the classic LucasArts mold make you want to try out as many dialogue options as possible the lack of consistent funny payoffs actually had me skipping options at times, the attempts at humor feeling a bit hit or miss in general. I’m actually quite curious to see how Rufus will continue to (hopefully) grow and whether later games in the series smooth out some of the rough patches. Finally, while I normally don’t comment directly on pricing I’d consider the game’s launch MSRP a bit shockingly high considering the breadth of options at much more reasonable prices on the platform and taking into account respective qualities… it’s just unusually expensive and a bit baffling.


Overall, Deponia has quite a bit going for it with some great and detailed animation, a sense of humor, and bits of quirkiness throughout. Whether or not you’ll find yourself rooting for Rufus in his quest may be a fair question, at least early on, as he tends to be thoroughly self-centered. But if you’re a fan of silly situations, strange characters and puzzles, and the classic elements of point-and-click adventuring it’s another decent option to explore on the platform.

Score: 7

Pros:
  • Great and detailed animation as a whole
  • Includes some quality of life helpers that make it more approachable than more classic titles in the genre
  • While not all of the jokes may land with everyone it has many funny characters and situations

Cons:
  • Initially Rufus can be hard to love
  • Some other genre titles have done a more effective job of minimizing the aggravating obtuseness of puzzles than this one does
  • The initial MSRP feels oddly high among its peers on the system

Review: Aggelos [Nintendo Switch eShop]


For fans of classic side-scrolling adventures from previous generations the Switch has already got some solid representation. In particular the fully retro but with a gorgeous facelift Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap and the modernized but still classic Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom stand out. Fans of those titles, whether the old or new, should now be thrilled with the arrival of Aggelos as well, a title that feels like it’s a lost contemporary of theirs and that offers up solid and compelling play firmly rooted in that same style.


In order to save the kingdom you’ll need to explore the world, slowly gaining access to new areas as you acquire new abilities, giving it elements of an almost Metroidvania style in some regards. Combat starts out more simply, with you just having your slashing sword attack, but as you conquer different areas and bosses you’ll gain spells that are crucial for taking down tougher enemies and helping to reveal secrets and tough to reach places. For the most part your reward for diligence will be gold which will come in handy for buying better gear that can really help but additional hearts can also be awarded so if you see anything off to the side you should always check it out.


What took me by surprise initially was how cleverly some of the game’s puzzles were put together. Having to carefully approach some of them with a plan which you’ll then need to execute with some precision was unexpected and really helps the game stand out in my mind, though perhaps others could also find this aspect frustrating. Even with the retro graphics and general mechanics this element of challenge may be the one that reminds me most of old school games that could sometimes have roadblocks you’d need the help of a guide or advice from friends to work out, I suppose that being for better or worse.


In terms of complaints there’s always going to be a take it or leave it element with games that are looking to emulate the feel of games from earlier eras. Enemy respawns when you leave the room, the controls not being quite as nuanced as you’d see in modern games, and some unapologetically tough boss battles are either going to bug you or be welcomed with open arms. I do wish that given the somewhat Metroidvania-like exploration in the game that there was a mini map that would help you plot things out, the world overview map is honestly pretty well worthless and that’s a missed opportunity.


Rocking great 16-bit-ish looks, some great chiptune tracks, and plenty of retro gaming feels Aggelos is definitely a title classic gaming fans should adore. Rather than being a remake or a reskin of known classics it feels like a game you’ve always regretted missing out on from that era that you’ve now gotten the change to finally enjoy. As long as you’re prepared for some of its more old school tendencies and challenges it’s an adventure well worth taking.

Score: 8

Pros:
  • Thoroughly looks and feels like a game from the 16-bit era
  • Plenty of places to explore, spells to acquire, and enemies to defeat
  • Blends in Metroidvania elements with areas you’ll be able to get to once you acquire new abilities

Cons:
  • Can be unapologetically challenging and even frustrating at times
  • With the exploration aspect a usable map would have been a big help
  • Some of the classic elements it remains faithful to may not be missed

Review: Dig Dog [Nintendo Switch eShop]


Growing up in arcades in the 80s I’m always eager to check out games that derive an obvious inspiration from classics of that era. Obviously based on its name Dig Dog is one such title, a riff on the classic Dig Dug whose emphasis was smartly digging through the ground to collect vegetables and dispatch enemies. While Dog has some things in common with that classic it very much charts its own path though, blending in some roguelike elements and simply having its own distinct style.


You’ll play as the title dog and your objective is always to find your bone within the level. The game offers two options, an Easy and a Hard mode, and since they’re somewhat polar opposites of one another they do make me wonder whether there should have been a Standard mode as well. Anyway, Easy mode really focuses on the digging and I suppose has a mild puzzle element to it but without any enemies at all it’s pretty dull. Hard mode goes in the completely opposite direction, giving you only 2 hearts to work with against an ample number of enemies who get progressively tougher to deal with through each stage.


The controls are pretty simple, though there’s a little more to them. While pushing in a direction will allow you to dig sideways or down double-tapping the jump will allow you to dig downwards more quickly and will give you a somewhat unwieldy sideways rush attack that will wipe out enemies and quite a bit of soil at once. While it would be hard to confirm, the distance this went never felt 100% consistent and while it is effective for helping you save yourself by dashing to a side when falling the need to jump first to trigger it could also be annoying at times in tight areas.


Once you get deep enough into a stage enough times you’ll unlock the ability to warp directly to them, skipping the easier stuff, but there are a few reasons that tends to go badly. First, your limited health isn’t replenished between levels, so you’re constantly vulnerable as it is. Second, that means you’ll have had less opportunity to collect coins or accumulate power-ups that you can purchase with said coins. Now, a pretty big problem I had with the power-ups is that they’re not given more than a brief explanation and it’s outright unclear what some of them do even once you have them. Throw in your dog’s limited life and honestly the power-ups sadly don’t often get much of an opportunity to contribute to things.


While there are things I like about Dig Dog it also makes itself a bit tough to love with its all or nothing skill choices. Easy mode is just sort of there and uninteresting while Hard just feels super stacked against you, not allowing you to get comfortable and feel like you’ve got things under control. Just an extra heart, your health replenishing between levels, or some refinement in the controls to make them feel a bit less brute force, perhaps in a new mode so that hard can remain as is, would help. There’s fun to be had here, it just feels designed with the intent to make it hard for you find easily through some key design decisions.

Score: 6.5

Pros:
  • Offers up some classic arcade feels mixed with modern sensibilities
  • A fair degree of unpredictability with its roguelike elements

Cons:
  • The two offered difficulty levels are polar opposites, begging the question of why there’s can’t be a third more moderate setting somewhere in between
  • Needing to jump first to trigger the dash and the fact it feels a bit inconsistent and out of control
  • No good explanation of some of the power-ups that I wasn’t able to even figure out the use of while playing with them

Friday, April 26

Review: Picross S3 [Nintendo Switch eShop]


For a number of years and spanning a few different systems the Picross series has been a Nintendo puzzling staple, offering challenging and polished play. Since debuting on the Switch with S1 it has also been slowly but surely adding new modes to step things up in terms of variety. First we got Mega Picross with its variation on numbering that adds to the core mode’s challenge. Next they added Clip Picross, which is a favorite of mine, where you’ll complete multiple puzzles that will then stitch together to make a larger image. Now, with the release of S3, they’ve added Color Picross to the mix, challenging you to complete puzzles that throw differently-colored pixels to things to step up the challenge.


As always the presentation is polished, and the controls are generally responsive and sound. You’ll quickly get the hang of coloring in pixels, marking them with an X, and even switching between colors (and the new color mode also provides multiple control schemes so you can find the one that suits you). While the physical controls are well-implemented, as with previous versions of Picross on Switch there is still no touchscreen support, which is a bit of a shame, but thankfully the physical controls are intuitive and quick so it’s hardly a crippling loss.


As always there’s an abundance of content to work through, so it’ll be a nice and slow zen-like burn to get through it all, with 300 shared regular and mega puzzles, another 150 for Clip Picross, and a humble 30 puzzles for the new Color Picross mode. Yes, I’d love to have some more in the new flavor but I’m still happy to see their inclusion, especially since in this case the Picross series is playing catch-up with the competition. Which Picross variant you choose will likely come down to taste, with S3 being the least garish and carrying a sense of refinement its competition lacks. Always good for getting yourself into a zen-like calm, Picross S3 continues the series strong representation on Switch and yet again has stepped up its game to keep pace in what’s actually a pretty competitive space.


Score: 8.5

Pros:
  • As always the controls are intuitive and help is flexible in its various levels of assistance
  • Presentation is as polished and refined as ever
  • With 480 puzzles across 4 modes there’s plenty to dig into for puzzle fans

Cons:
  • Still lacking touchscreen controls this is one area where Picross is still behind its competition
  • It would have been nice to have more than a mere 30 Picross Color puzzles

Review: Ding Dong XL [Nintendo Switch eShop]


While it may seem to be counter-intuitive when you’ve played as many games on Switch as I have, focusing particularly on the indie market, it is clear that making a “simple” game is anything but. Certainly the impression when you look at a budget title with limited action is that it was just whipped together, and I’ve played plenty that have that feel, but to do it right takes some skill and even craft, even when the game only uses one button. The latest title in this space, one carrying a supremely budget price, is Ding Dong XL. While, at a glance, it isn’t a terribly complex game playing it for a few minutes reveals that it was put together with both some smarts and love.


The principle in action is simple. Pass an orb between the top of the screen and the bottom while trying not to let it get hit by anything. Simple, right? Yes and no. While it’s obvious you’ll need objects coming from two directions that you’ll have to feel out for speed and distance to send the ball between them there’s more to it than just that, and it’s the tweaks that add to the complexity and fun. There are a few power-ups you can activate for a variety of effects like slowing time, getting some extra points, and more. If you essentially glance the edge of an object without hitting it more substantially you’ll destroy it and get an extra point. Finally, as you get further new objects with diagonal trajectories, that are spinning, and more get introduced to put the pressure on further.


In the end this is a very low-budget title that very much earns what little it asks for. No, this isn’t a title that will likely occupy you for a terribly long time but as a palette cleanser of a time-waster for a reasonable price it’s probably among the very best options on the system. Throw in some silly unlocks to replace your ball (my favorite is a dachshund’s head) and it won’t change the world but it’s far more entertainment for some spare change that it needs to be.


Score: 8

Pros:
  • An ultra-budget price
  • Ideal for playing in short bursts
  • For being simple it has some nuance to it that I appreciate

Cons:
  • For most people it isn’t likely to occupy them for more than a few odd hours
  • Being realistic it’s doing nothing to remotely push the Switch hardware

Review: Super Blood Hockey [Nintendo Switch eShop]


While back in the day I was a consistent hockey fan when there were a variety of options out there, my favorites being Blades of Steel and the classic Mutant League Hockey, ever since the greatness of NHL ‘94 from EA (which absolutely was awesome) it’s a video game genre I’ve lost interest in. When I saw screenshots of Super Blood Hockey they did catch my attention though, a return to some simpler joys and even a bit of silliness were a welcome thought. While it does deliver some thrills, blood, and fun on a budget, longer term I’d say it would be best played with a friend rather than solo.


For anyone who has played the classic Ice Hockey on the NES (or on Nintendo Online, where it’s currently available) the general idea is easy to understand. You’ll be working a 3-on-3 plus goalies, and you’ll have the option of 3 different classes of players to work with, essentially small, medium and large. Working your pass and shots directionally you’ll be able to string together some smart play, and until you work out a solid plan of attack the AI goalies do a respectable job of stopping you.


To throw in some old school on-the-ice violence you can (and will) get into fights, where you’ll simply try to pummel the other team’s players more quickly than they take yours out. The winner of the brawl then gets a power play as one member of the losing team lays twitching in a pool of his own blood on the ice. In particular this sort of thing works best when playing with (up to 3) friends, just be sure to keep the excitement in the game itself.


In order to give the game longer legs for people playing solo there’s a franchise mode as well but my main comment on it would be to be ready to be patient. Building up your team from scratch is a bit of a rough road early on as you’re cash-strapped and will need to make some tough decisions on who to recruit and how to build them up early on. Expect some frustration with that as players need to fight off injuries and your budget will constrain you, but credit to the developer for trying to put in some value added content if people want to invest the time. Personally, I just like starting up an Exhibition or a Tournament and simply enjoying some on-ice excitement.


While Super Blood Hockey is hardly bad, and there’s certainly fun to be had with it (especially if you play with a friend), it doesn’t do much to rise above or even get to the same level of depth of some other classics depending on what games you’re familiar with. Jumping in to get in some goals and bloody up the ice can still be fun, just don’t expect a lot more than that. The franchise mode attempts to add some depth but that doesn’t change the on-ice action, it just throws in a management layer and some challenging decisions to be made if you’re struggling to put points on the board. If you keep your expectations in check, it’s a reasonably fun time.

Score: 6.5

Pros:
  • Some great old school gameplay, with blood
  • Quite a lot of fun to play with friends locally
  • For people seeking more and a challenge Franchise Mode is an option

Cons:
  • The more you play solo the more you’ll learn how to exploit the AI
  • Doesn’t do much to stand apart from the classics that inspired it

Thursday, April 25

Review: Theatre Tales [Nintendo Switch eShop]


Reviewing games that are intended for children can be tricky, as obviously when you’re playing them as an adult they’re not meant for you. Educational games then present an additional layer of challenge as their intent and focus is on entertainment second. However, as a parent who has two grown children I believe I’m able to take an objective look at these sorts of games and provide fair criticism.


Theatre Tales provides a means to enjoy classic fairy tales in a semi-interactive fashion with your kids. While currently only the first story, Little Red Riding Hood, is available (I’ve confirmed the other stories that are currently locked are tied to the initial purchase, though I’m not sure of the time frame for the other stories) I was impressed with both the relative variety and simplicity of actions involved. To progress the story you’ll need to click on specific objects, and the game is good about prompting you my moving them if you don’t know what to do next.


In addition to simply clicking on items to grab or manipulate them there are also a few mini games sprinkled in, in this case a pretty simple color-matching game with some flowers. By mixing in some variety of tasks, and having a few silly alternative choices to some of your options, there is some care to this, at least showing some effort to be simple and approachable and yet offering a few surprises as well.


While I can’t comment on the entire package, and it’s a bit of a bummer that I’m unsure of the timetable for when the rest will be available, for its very low price the semi-interactive storybook style of Theatre Tales is pretty nice. While obviously it doesn’t have a load of content and once they know how everything works there’s not much left to discover for younger children who enjoy repetition I could see some elements like putting the Wolf in a silly costume being a consistent source of amusement for them. If you’re looking for a way to help your younger children enjoy the Switch this isn’t a bad option.

Score: 6

Pros:
  • A very low-budget asking price
  • The semi-interactive nature of the story and variety in actions gives a well-known fairy tale some added life

Cons:
  • While other stories are promised they’re currently locked and it’s unclear when they’ll become available
  • Obviously outside of the target audience of younger children this likely has very limited appeal

Review: Death Coming [Nintendo Switch eShop]


While I’m a huge fan of puzzle games I’ll admit that having played so many over time it can be tough not to get a bit jaded with them. While new ideas come to the table periodically, and are exciting, too often games with reasonable mechanics but stale ideas are put out and for genre veterans that’s a drag. Certainly one way to help make gameplay that may not be as fresh entertaining is to use humor or the unexpected to your advantage, though I’ve found for this to work you need to go all in. That’s certainly what the people behind Death Coming have shot for, and the result is a puzzling experience not quite like anything I’ve played, and if you’ve got a bit of a sick streak in you the chain-reaction death and destruction you can unleash can be both entertaining and satisfying.


In the game you’ll play as a Reaper, whose goal is to collect as many souls as possible. The catch is that you’re unable to do the killing directly, you’ll need to make smart and often patient use of elements in the environment in each level to bring people to an untimely demise. While there are simpler kills you’ll be able to get my doing things like knocking over signs or other objects that are obvious the real creativity and fun kicks in when your tasks are more complex, requiring that you kick off a chain of deaths.


The can get quite strategic and tends to be where replay value kicks in, as your first time through you won’t always understand how everything works. Knowing that some things that you’re able to trigger will spread danger into a larger area if you’re efficient you can scare a small crowd into that space by dropping things near them, meaning when you drop a power line into the pool you can have the satisfaction of frying a big group all at once and you’ll be rewarded with bonus points accordingly for the combo. Just to make things a little more challenging as you find success angels will be sent around to patrol and try to thwart you but as long as you’re patient they’re not much of a threat.


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.


Score: 8.5

Pros:
  • Pixel art death and destruction, most of it full of surprises
  • Chain reaction sequences can be challenging but also are so satisfying when you pull them off
  • A very fair budget price per evil laugh

Cons:
  • If you don’t have a morbid sense of humor this absolutely won’t be a good match for you
  • A rewind option would have been great to remove the need to start a level over if you mess up a big kill

Wednesday, April 24

Review: Homo Machina [Nintendo Switch eShop]


It’s hard not to have mixed feelings with transplants from the mobile space sometimes. While there are great games that play well on a tablet or phone that also then translate wonderfully to the Switch and justify their presence there are others who don’t. Whether it’s a function of them playing poorly with a physical controller (some not at all) or that there’s just not enough meat on their bones to feel like they belong on a dedicated game system it just doesn’t always work out.


In the case of Homo Machina I have mixed feelings, as I’ll give it credit for its novelty. As the name implies the game revolves around you controlling a person at a mechanical level. Each major system in the body is represented by machinery that you’ll need to work out as a puzzle to manipulate in order to get the person up and moving.


This is very much a game intended to be played vertically in handheld mode like a tablet. In docked mode it being horizontal leaves bars on either side but the bigger issue is that it then uses pointer controls, which in general are universally awful since the calibration needs to constantly be re-centered. Using the touchscreen as obviously intended lets you play much more easily, but from location to location in the body play inconsistent. In some cases the puzzles are intuitive and even clever but in other cases it honestly just felt like trial and error hunting and pecking without necessarily making a whole lot of sense.


Overall, I’ll give credit for the idea and presentation being unique. Some of the dialogue between the workers within the body is mildly amusing, but the emphasis here is on the gameplay and working with the body machinery first and foremost. If you’re looking for a different sort of puzzler to play and don’t mind playing with the Switch as a tablet it’s not a bad find, just understand that its strongest suit is its novelty.

Score: 6

Pros:
  • Representing body parts and systems as machinery is at least different
  • While puzzles vary in their quality they’re at least typically interesting and unique from one another

Cons:
  • Absolutely should be played vertically using the touchscreen, docked play uses pointer controls and while playable is aggravating
  • In terms of the experience its strength is more in being different than being thoroughly fun