Tuesday, May 26

Mini Reviews: May 26th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Piczle Cross Adventure - Having been a huge fan of the Picross series as well as a number of its competitors I’ve come to be pretty excited by titles in the space offering up a new take of some kind. In concept Adventure is a solid idea, take the now-familiar puzzling gameplay and mix it up with a wacky-ish story complete with some RPG progression. In practice, while I appreciate the effort to go the extra mile to do something different (complete with a fine sense of humor, mind you) for me the puzzles themselves when paired with the quality of life around the interface are what holds it back. Having played several takes on how to mechanically make the interface more helpful and intuitive I’ve just gotten accustomed to a few different way things are done to make the experience more efficient while also making it more challenging. Working in only one color (in this case that is part of the hook of the villain, which is silly and I appreciate it, but it does make things more dull) and just the overall flow of things works fine but if you’re been shopping around it unfortunately just feels dated overall. Still, if you’ve been feeling like you want some connective tissue to bring the experience together rather than just solve random puzzles this is a nice change of pace.

Golf With Your Friends - Over the years there have been a variety of takes on the game of mini golf, ranging from pretty great to lacking. Throwing a load of creativity and unexpected surprise elements into the mix, helping to move the game beyond just the normal confines you’d find on a physical course, this title does manage to differentiate itself on the core level. In addition, if you’re able to find people to play with online (note, it supports up to a crazy 12), things kick in pretty nicely (if a bit chaotically) as everyone is free to swing at will. With the Switch being so local co-op focused and in general the prospects for long-term availability of competition online being so poor what, for me, drags the experience down is the lacking degree of effort put into playing in-person with your friends or family. Hotseat play is a terrific option if you’re playing clustered together and can easily pass the controller around, and is appreciated for potentially being a cost-conscious choice as well, but to not have support for multiple controllers? In addition, just simple touches like changing the order of who shoots first at each hole or having who shoots next be based on distance from the hold and not merely round robin… getting these simple things wrong really took the wind out of my family’s sails. The good news is that these could, in theory, be addressed, but as it is I think whether you’re interested in the game should vary with how you intend to play it and with whom.

Aqua Lungers - When it comes to local multiplayer games I absolutely respect an approach that shoots for simplicity. When you have people over to play they don’t want to get oriented for a long time while you’re whooping up on them having already mastered the mechanics. With its scheme really only revolving around a few actions, a limited number of effective power-ups you can grab, and easy-to-explain gameplay Aqua Lungers does well in this area. The problem, and the real challenge for games of these kinds that Lungers comes up short on is in keeping things simple but also having nuance and depth that will keep pulling you back in. It’s here that the game doesn’t fare as well, just unable to bring enough longevity and variety to the picture with its “grab the gold and stay alive” mentality that works for a bit but wears out pretty quickly even as the game continues to throw new traps and monsters at you… just after a while none of it feels very fresh and the game loses its hook.

Crypto by POWGI - With certain types of word-based puzzles presentation isn’t particularly a major concern, it’s really just about an accessible and unencumbered experience. Consistent with its brethren from Lightwood Games there’s absolutely a no-frills quality to Crypto, but as is usually the case I can’t say there’s anything missing either. You’re given a quote by someone famous and your job is to work out which letters substitute for which in order to decipher it, and that’s pretty much all there is to know. Your only interface is a collection of the letters in the puzzle and once you select your target letter all of the positions that letter’s in within the quote become highlighted and you can choose the replacement letter. If you enjoy this sort of puzzle in the newspaper or in puzzle books it does a fine job of implementing it easily to enjoy in a digital form for a budget-friendly price.

Concept Destruction - While admittedly getting the experience right has always tended to be a challenge I’m actually a big fan of destruction derby-style racing. Trading paint, trying to line up a solid hit, and then trying to hobble around and stay alive can be quite a lot of fun if it is implemented well. Perhaps fittingly in relation to the cars and arenas in the game being made from cardboard I’d consider the gameplay here flimsy at best. Rather than one of the ways to disable an opponent being to take out the engine here the target is the battery, though its position towards the middle of the car can unfortunately make it a real challenge to get at very well. The physics and driving can feel a bit loose and funky, even before your tires get all wonked up, and in general you just don’t feel the impact of a hard hit, generally robbing you of one of the greatest thrills of the sport. Throw in that driving in reverse (a classic tactic to protect your engine) can be done but doesn’t feel purposely supported as a strategy and it just ends up being a somewhat limp experience unfortunately.