Sunday, July 14

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

With quite a lot going on at the moment I’ve had to pull back the time I’ve been putting into playing and evaluating all of the games that come my way. I’ll always post gameplay of the titles I get but while I don’t feel comfortable committing to full reviews for titles I do want to at least summarize my thoughts on them. So these are the quick summaries on my thoughts on games I’ve played, highlighting the ones that are stand-outs when appropriate.

Blazing Chrome [Nindie Choice!] - As a huge fan of the classic arcade run n’ gun shooters I hold Contra in very high regard, so it’s always a thrill when someone manages to put out a title that can give it a run for its money. While there have been some titles that have nailed the retro look of this iconic series most have come up a bit short in the feel department, never quite capturing the level of difficulty, variety, and hard core gunning action that made it legendary. Armed with a variety of weapons and crucial power-ups you’ll be hard pressed to get through to the end as you’ll need to overcome swarms of enemies, some tricky traversals, and tough bosses. However, if you’ve been thirsting for something that kicks you down and makes you keep coming back for more this title absolutely delivers.

Streets of Rogue - This is a title I’ve had my eye on since it initially hit early access on PC where I struggled to find the fun and had put it down in the hopes that on final release it would all come together. While I enjoy roguelikes there’s just something about Streets that just doesn’t work for me, the more open-ended structure may be liberating for the right crowd and encourage experimentation, but more often than not I just found it tedious... and I don’t think the combat mechanics do it any favors either. Definitely one to read up and watch some video for, I have no doubt it will have fans with its very different feel but I’d consider it an acquired taste for sure.

Professor Lupo and His Horrible Pets - With an abundance of puzzle games of all styles and flavors it is undoubtedly hard to make yourself stand out. This is the area where Professor Lupo is the strongest, providing a funky enough story mixed with wonderfully animated characters and appropriately described “pets” who’ll gladly help you meet your demise. I’d even say that in concept the puzzles tends to be pretty smart once you get rolling and provide a fair challenge. The challenge for me, though, on a consistent basis was the glacial pace of character movement and the somewhat wonky nature of the controls, especially when trying to play with a controller. The fun is there in the core experience, you’ll just need to get used to things and try to let the game’s humor compensate for its quirks.

Paradox Soul - Among the genres with no lack of stellar representation on the Switch, Metroidvanias are pretty high on the list. Coming at the genre from more of the budget edge of the spectrum we now also have Paradox Soul, a game that unfortunately demonstrates its lack of polish in most areas. If it were only the pretty mundane and lackluster looks holding it back perhaps it could generate some enthusiasm, but unfortunately your death-prone character who simply doesn’t have many abilities to work with never delivers much in the way of excitement. Sure, clearing areas and getting past boss fights will require some commitment and grit but the combat more often than not involves taking cover, pausing, and firing back… and that approach is pretty well mandatory given your lacking health bar. Throw in having to backtrack through dull rooms that often begin to blend together and this is a hard one to recommend with so many better examples of the genre out there to choose from.

Bouncy Bullets - Without a doubt 3D platforming has a tendency to be a train wreck when implemented poorly. The inability to easily see your feet in relation to the ground can make them notoriously challenging for all of the wrong reasons though obviously some titles are able to pull it off better than others. Bouncy Bullets, unfortunately, isn’t one of those games that flourishes under the pressure with twitchy controls exacerbating an already tough control situation. Throw in lackluster level design and pretty uninspired shooting elements and even with its budget price this is a bit of a clunker.

Senran Kagura Peach Ball - Having been previously introduced to the, shall I say “jiggly”, nature of the Senran Kagura series a while back when a new title featuring pinball-style gameplay was announced it made me laugh and I knew I’d have to check it out. Pretty well coming in expecting a train wreck, I’ll say instead that I was pleasantly surprised by the gameplay Peach Ball manages to provide to try to justify the somewhat cringeworthy visual aspects that I have no doubt have their fans. While the table complexity and variety aren’t that high, and the flippers on the amusement park table feel a bit slow and chunky, I’ll admit that there was enough here to satisfy the pinball fan in me, even if perhaps not for long. Throw some truly bizarre dialogue and events that constitute the story and while this absolutely won’t be a mainstream game I’ll give it credit for showing enough ambition and quality to justify itself as more than a mere cash-in on its more mature elements.

Monday, July 8

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

With quite a lot going on at the moment I’ve had to pull back the time I’ve been putting into playing and evaluating all of the games that come my way. I’ll always post gameplay of the titles I get but while I don’t feel comfortable committing to full reviews for titles I do want to at least summarize my thoughts on them. So these are the quick summaries on my thoughts on games I’ve played, highlighting the ones that are stand-outs when appropriate.

Slay the Spire [Nindie Choice!] - While deck building games would usually fall into the category of titles I’d file under “an acquired taste” the Switch now has 2 rock solid titles with that style of play that have proven mainstream friendly this year. While SteamWorld Quest went more story-driven and static though, Slay the Spire very much embraces a roguelike approach instead that keeps it challenging and surprising across many attempts you’ll make with its heroes that each have a very different style. There’s definitely a learning curve here, as you’ll need to experiment with different combinations of cards to work out which synergize the most effectively together and which you’re better off without. For true roguelike or strategy fans this is absolutely a title you won’t want to miss out on, it easily lives up to the positive buzz it has been receiving.

War Tech Fighters [Nindie Choice!] - While there have been a few big robots battling in space games on Switch to date none of them have quite clicked for me. Though War Tech Fighters takes a little getting used to it’s the first that has put the overall package together in a way that’s compelling, if perhaps a bit repetitive. Strangely one of the elements that made me a believer is the use of the somewhat cinematic finishers that you can use to dispatch your enemies once their health is sufficiently low. You have a small boost to incentivize you doing them and thankfully the wealth of ways your mech will finish off enemies manages to make it fun, even if it ends up stilting the flow of gameplay. While it may lean more heavily on popcorn fun than some may prefer, a bevvy of upgrade options and a sense of flair help it to climb to the top of the genre heap on Switch.

Graveyard Keeper - Ever since the release and massive success of Stardew Valley I’ve been waiting to see what games it would inspire. Surprisingly, there really haven’t been many to date but now we have Graveyard Keeper stepping up to the plate. Certainly the elevator pitch for the game would be “Stardew Valley but with a morbid sense of humor” and that would be an accurate assessment on the surface. Dig a little deeper and spend some time with it though and there are some clear differences beyond just the gallows humor. Functionally many of the tasks and general routines are very similar, with you needing to explore, learn skills, acquire equipment through purchase or crafting, and make friends. Where Keeper comes up short is that it isn’t as structured and well crafted. Progress is slow, quest goals tend to string together too many tasks, and on a general level the game feels a bit more like a refined rough draft than a carefully composed and polished masterpiece. There’s no doubt fun to be had here, it can just be a lot of squeeze at times for not quite enough juice.

Red Faction Guerrilla Re-Mars-tered - If you’re seeking third-person shooting action with a healthy dose of destructions peppered in while this title may show its overall age it can still offer up some fun. Since it includes all of the game’s original DLC there’s a plentiful amount of content to work your way through, the question is whether what often feels like generic gunplay will sustain your interest throughout. Your missions will keep things moving with the best often being those that demand you wreck buildings using a number of means but repetition will still slowly set in. In part you can blame that on the sparse martian environments you’ll be working through which lack in distinction so mentally it all begins to meld together. Still, it has just enough to set itself aside as a unique experience on the Switch that it has some merit.

Q-YO Blaster - Let’s face it, there are simply a ton of shmups on the Switch and they come in all shapes and sizes. In terms of personality Q-YO Blaster does at least distinguish itself, with an odd sort of pixel art style that packs style and no lack of ambition. Indeed, some of the bosses almost look inspired by the likes of Cuphead in their scale and loving details, though in more of a 16-bit form. Where things are a bit more shaky is in the gameplay itself which more often than not feels a bit generic unfortunately, and the difficulty doesn’t help here with stretches that feel a bit too easy punctuated with sudden jumps. That said, if you enjoy the likes of classics like the Parodius series and want something a bit more unorthodox it makes for a great choice.

Redneck Skeet Shooting - Ugh, there are just some games that you can’t understand being released on Switch. Sure, there are mobile ports of all kinds that have made it over, undoubtedly with varying degrees of value and success. In the case of Redneck Skeet Shooting the extremely limited play, dull grinding, and very little genuine content would make it an iffy prospect even on a mobile device. Aside from looking for some sort of lowbrow humor (which there really isn’t any, I just struggle to identify the appeal beyond that) this budget title just has so very little to offer that I can’t recommend it.

Sunday, July 7

Mini Reviews: June 24th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

With quite a lot going on at the moment I’ve had to pull back the time I’ve been putting into playing and evaluating all of the games that come my way. I’ll always post gameplay of the titles I get but while I don’t feel comfortable committing to full reviews for titles I do want to at least summarize my thoughts on them. So these are the quick summaries on my thoughts on games I’ve played, highlighting the ones that are stand-outs when appropriate.

Battle Worlds: Kronos - Big picture turn-based strategy titles where you need to move your units around to outflank and outsmart the enemy aren’t heavily represented on Switch so fans of the genre will likely be interested in Kronos. Lacking the flash of the likes of Wargroove and with a more punishingly heavy consequence for failing to exercise caution and care in your every move, Kronos distinguishes itself though there’s no denying its pace is a bit plodding. However, if you’re up for a sustained challenge the unit variety, demand for making proper use of every opportunity, and smarts of this strategy fest should overcome its somewhat bland presentation.

Timespinner - With some great pixel art and a story that takes you through a variety of eras to change things up, Timespinner has its strengths. That said, given the competition in the Metroidvania space on the Switch the combat, exploration, and upgrades you’re able to obtain over the course of the game may be novel but they also fail to thrill. While the time-stopping mechanic, in theory, could have really helped set the game apart aside from some telegraphed spots where it can be useful or in boss fights it doesn’t really go anywhere. While by no means a bad game it struggles to make its case to be among the top tier of games available in the genre.

Phantom Doctrine - When it comes to turn-based tactical strategy there’s no doubt that emulating the X-Com mold from the PC space is a smart way to go. That said, the various attempts (short of Mario and the Rabbids) to make this sort of experience work on the Switch have been a bit half-baked. Coming in somewhere in the middle to the bottom of the pile we have Phantom Doctrine, which tries to build some intrigue with its cloak and dagger feel. While what is going on outside of the missions themselves can be interesting (though perhaps a bit confusing as you try to get your bearings) when you’re in the action the interface and mechanics feel pretty clunky and detract from the experience.

Mainlining - Starting with the positive Mainlining comes to the table as a pretty unique experience on the Switch, with you working to use your computer and hacking skills to catch cyber criminals. If you like the challenge of not having a game hold your hand there’s an additional plus as you’ll be left to work with the information you have access to and will have to  follow every lead at your disposal in order to progress. Where it takes a major hit is with the controls though, as this is obviously a game that was made for the PC with a keyboard and mouse and while the attempt to make it work with a controller isn’t a horrible stab it really makes for a cumbersome experience.

Monday, July 1

Mini Reviews; July 1st Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

With quite a lot going on at the moment I’ve had to pull back the time I’ve been putting into playing and evaluating all of the games that come my way. I’ll always post gameplay of the titles I get but while I don’t feel comfortable committing to full reviews for titles I do want to at least summarize my thoughts on them. So these are the quick summaries on my thoughts on games I’ve played, highlighting the ones that are stand-outs when appropriate.

Duke of Defense - Given that the tower defense style strategy genre is pretty well-represrented already on the Switch in terms of numbers Duke of Defense is a bit of a tough sell. Granted, it plays a little differently than some of its contemporaries but its look and overall experience still feel quite generic unfortunately. Granted, outside of exceptions like X-Morph Defense and OTTTD that clearly break away from the pack Duke of Defense isn’t any worse than any of the rest, it just lacks that spark of excitement and originality I look for in this overdone genre.

We. The Revolution - Definite points for being daring enough to do things differently and to help put people into the mindset of a very different and tumultuous time in history but this is very much an acquired taste. Sorting through the evidence and trying to make the right decisions from the bench while managing your personal and political livelihood as well isn’t something you do often so it’s interesting but it isn’t without its issues. I suppose part of the point is being forced to decide between what you’d choose to do morally and what you may need to do pragmatically to stay alive but it can also be aggravating when it comes to gameplay.

Cybarian: The Time Traveling Warrior - This is one of those titles where very quickly I struggled to find the compelling fun. While your warrior character may look cool his extremely limited moveset for attacks quickly makes for dull gameplay. With so many side-scrolling games already on Switch that both look amazing and have exciting gameplay to boot this really comes up short.

SCRAP - With a mix of endless runner, platforming, and a bit of puzzling in its gameplay SCRAP isn’t too bad as a budget title to play anywhere but it’s just nice... not thrilling, but nice. It plays smoothly, you’ll be challenged to grab everything on every stage the first time through, and at times you may need a few attempts to get your timing down. Not bad for the price though, I suppose.

Irony Curtain: From Matryoshka with Love - I think it may be possible that the classic adventure genre may be among the toughest to have a break out hit with. This is in part because, as a whole, the majority of titles I’ve played in the space have a pretty consistent level of quality and polish, delivering some laughs with smart puzzles of all types. Irony Curtain has a slightly different sense of humor than many of the others but the lovable but misunderstood weirdo main character thing has obviously been done to death so it’s hard to get super excited. Still, if you enjoy the genre and getting in some giggles it’s a good choice.

Scrap Rush - While you try hard not to be overly reductive when evaluating games when there’s an unmistakable inspiration involve you have to note it. While Scrap Rush does offer up a bit of a variation on the method of dealing with obstacles and dispatching your enemies there’s no missing its similarities to the Bomberman franchise. To its credit its single-player mode at least has a different feel to it, even if it isn’t terribly exciting, and it does a decent job of helping you understand what you’re capable of. Then, whether against bots or friends, you’ll be working to shove blocks of scrap at each other and trying to squish everyone else while not allowing them to do the same to you. It doesn’t do a lot to clearly stand on its own but it’s not a bad alternative if you and your friends could enjoy a variation on a familiar theme.

Azuran Tales: Trials - It has a bit of an old school feel to it, and once you get rolling Azuran Tales isn’t too bad but there’s no denying its quite rough around the edges. Awkward animations, some bugginess (falling through the floor), and mechanics that aren’t quite up to modern standards hold it back but if you’re patient with it there’s some challenging gameplay to be found here that may appeal to people looking for something to dig their teeth into.

Attack of the Toy Tanks - I’m a bit torn on this one as I have fond memories of playing Combat way back on my Atari 2600. For what it lacked in complexity and attractiveness it made up for with fun with crazy ricochet shots and variety. While Tank Toys may look much better the core experience isn’t terribly different, you’ll move around trying to shoot your enemies while using cover to your advantage. Just whether playing against the CPU or someone else it just doesn’t do much to make itself exciting.