Thursday, May 21

Mini Reviews: May 21st Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

What the Golf? [Nindie Choice!] - Bless the indie devs that are determined to just completely go off in left field and do something unique. What the Golf is not really a sports game, or necessarily a puzzle game as much as it is a constant string of new riffs on the theme of golf, horrendous puns, and a wide variety of pop culture homages. While not all gamers may get every reference, which range from certain infamous mobile games to a super hot indie shooter that had unique mechanics to even a few concerning a certain mustachioed plumber, since it doesn’t dwell on any theme for long it won’t slow you down or limit your enjoyment. For people who just want to blow on through it may not take terribly long to “beat” if you just go to each hole and then keep going, but the additional par and starred challenges sometimes significantly (perhaps a bit inconsistently) ramp up the difficulty by adding new rules or even veering off to an entirely different kind of challenge altogether. Much like one of my favorites from a previous year, Pool Panic, What the Golf? is a collection of discovery and fun that just about anyone should enjoy.

Red Wings: Aces of the Sky - If you’re looking for airborne thrills on the Switch the list is a pretty short one, so for fans of aerial domination should be excited for the arrival of Red Wings on the system. With a pretty lengthy set of missions and unlocks for playing as either the Germans or the French there’s a fair degree of content to keep you busy, and though for the most part it sticks with straight-up vanilla dogfighting some mission variants and complications will pop up to give you new strategy elements to consider and nuance to figure out in terms of your approach. Upgradeable skills allow for just enough tuning to feel like you’re able to customize your experience and should help you address any areas you think you’re struggling in while the special ability to just plain pull out a gun and shoot one of your enemies adds a little bit of unexpected fun, and with perk upgrades it can really help you out of a jam with added benefits. While I wouldn’t say it’s an outright winner in the contest to dominate in this subgenre, the Switch already has some other comparable games set both in space and in the skies, it’s at least a contender and should satisfy fans of this sort of experience.

Gravity Rider Zero - The Trials series has always stood out to me as a smart and creative alternate take on a racing game, moving the focus on turns and managing speed more to technique and managing your angles of attack. Taking a watered down element of that gameplay, throwing in some pretty wild stunt and trap sections, and settling in somewhere between an action game and a racer we have Gravity Rider Zero. It’s sort of an odd game to play in some regards, seeming like it should be more technical but more often taking on an almost casual feel. So much of what you see almost ends up being automatic as you twist through tight curves, things like that are all a matter of the camera moving to show the action, but really your gameplay remains in two dimensions throughout. There are times when this can make it hard to see what’s coming but more often than not the controls are forgiving enough that you can make things work out anyway. Even in stages where you have competitors on the track with you progress isn’t defined by your ability to defeat them, your objectives and success are based more on your time and performance metrics, they’re just sort of there to motivate you to do better, also an odd approach but one that makes the game extremely accessible. If you think you’d enjoy an experience that feels somewhere between racing and action, with some wild roller coaster-like track design, it isn’t a bad game to check out.

80s Overdrive - 80s arcade throwback racing is absolutely a genre I can get behind, as someone who was playing them before I could get behind a wheel for real I spend a lot of time with them. While the likes of Outrun and some of its contemporaries have a very specific look and feel to them there was also a pretty simple but effective design to their tracks and format as well. In the case of 80s Overdrive there’s no doubt the developers were inspired by these titles, and they absolutely nail some aspects of it, though they struggle in some others. When it comes to visuals there’s no doubt they took great care in getting it right, and through a variety of environments and conditions their effort shows. It has that classic look but enhances it quite a bit in a few areas and their diligence is admirable. Where things struggle a bit has more to do with the stages themselves, the flow of racing, and your rivals. The track layouts can just be odd, perhaps a bit over-long, and tend to have stretches that are just a bit dull. As you progress the move to tighter roads ups the ante a bit but there’s not that classic sort of flow with normal turns and then that one or two big turns you had to be ready for kicking into low gear for. Then there’s the cars on the road. The other cars often aren’t in lanes, inexplicably change multiple lanes at random, and just don’t make a ton of sense. Perhaps nothing makes this more clear than trying to get started where it isn’t unusual for your competitors to bump into each other and get stopped right in front of you when the race starts. Whether by accident or design things like this really detract from the fun and hold back the nostalgic experience from being complete.

Arrest of a Stone Buddha - Much like the previous title from this game’s developer, Friends of Ringo Ishikawa, Arrest of a Stone Buddha may be better defined as a gaming experiment than a traditional game. Slowly and somewhat sparsely leaving breadcrumbs of a story along the way you’ll tend to move between intense (but ultimately pretty repetitive) gunfighting and being left to somewhat aimlessly wander town in search of whatever it is the developer is trying to convey. The combat can be pretty tricky as attackers will come at you from both sides, with some coming in close (which you’ll want to disarm for their gun, then break their arm to be done with), and others stopping to take a shot at you. Your need to get people in close to be sure you don’t run dry on ammo makes this into a bit of a dance at times, carefully avoiding shooting a few people to allow them to get near you so you can disarm them, but with mobs of enemies coming at you they can get layered on top of each other at times, making it very difficult to avoid getting taken down. These sequences at first have a very old school arcade feel to them I appreciated but over time don’t really evolve at all so they then can get a bit aggravating to endure. The issue is that then there’s just not enough narrative payoff to persisting, making the experience more frustrating than engaging.