Wednesday, May 27

Mini Reviews: May 27th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Indivisible [Nindie Choice!] - Probably one of the things I appreciate most in an indie game is for it to surprise me, and with its unwillingness to be constrained by a clear single genre Indivisible absolutely does that. Blending elements of a platforming adventure, an RPG, and even some Metroidvania exploration, it’s not quite like anything else I’ve played and that’s usually a good thing. Strict traditional turn-based combat tends to be dull to me so in particular it’s the pretty active combat in the game that I came to appreciate the more I played. You’ll certainly get into a consistent rhythm, working attack patterns you find most successful. But, there’s just enough strategy to what could just be a button-mashing mess to make it interesting in terms of who you attack with how, when, and then chaining into someone else. To sweeten the deal further I have to say that I really enjoyed the game’s characters, with the quality of the writing and voice acting their interactions just rang a bit more true than I typically see in an RPG. They’re still pretty traditional in their roles at the core but they have some genuine personality and that was a real driver for me to return and see where the story took things next. While genre purists may look at this as a hodge podge mutt of an experience I appreciate the mix and am hoping to see more in this vein in the future.

Monster Prom XXL [Nindie Choice!] - In the event your days as a teenager in high school weren’t traumatic enough, and you’re looking to recapture some of the unpredictability and excitement of that time (albeit in a monster-fied form) you may find Monster Prom to your liking. Taking control of one of the pretty archetypical leads your goal is to use what time you have wisely to boost your stats, try to make the most of every social situation, and woo one of your classmates to join you for the big event. The road to doing so will likely be far more daunting than you’d expect as, much like in life, figuring out the “best move” in a wide variety of circumstances can be quite tricky, especially since what may work to advance your agenda will often be relative. For your best odds of a positive outcome you’ll likely want to be laser-focused on the monster you’re most interested in hooking up with, not passing up any opportunity to put the pieces in place for success, especially since some missteps are quite likely along the way. I will warn that while I found the game to be quite entertainingly funny it has a willingness to “go there” with some of its humor in ways I didn’t expect at all. I’d consider that to be a pleasant surprise, but if you’re more easily offended you may want to keep looking.

Journey to the Savage Planet - One quality I admire most of this title is that right from the start it leads with a pretty messed up sense of humor. You’ve been sent out to a remote and unexplored planet in search of resources… but since you’re pretty expendable, rather than have the proper gear along for the ride you’ve been given a 3D printer and some canned video to help motivate you. Good luck! As you progress and return to your ship you’ll often find new videos, including some commercials that absolutely cracked me up, these were always a welcome surprise and helped break things up nicely. In terms of exploring the planet, collecting resources, and simply trying not to die? Eh, there’s good and bad. The environment is quite colorful and given the alien surroundings visually there are consistent surprises in store for you. Waypoints and tips for your next objective are often helpful but there can be spots where you’ll feel a bit lost not just in terms of your location but also your current purpose, which can be frustrating since the game is generally very linear in what you’ll need to collect to craft your means to progressing to further areas. What may really ruin the experience for some will be the game’s performance though, as there’s a cost to it generally looking very impressive. Even as a person who will outright ignore minor framerate hitches or visual glitches at times it was hard not to notice frame skips and stutters at times either in expansive areas or when the action got tense. These don’t often interfere with your chances of success but it can happen, and that’s always unfortunate. If you play mostly in handheld mode this is, as is almost always the case, definitely a problem exacerbated in that mode of play versus docked. If you’re a fan of survival titles the first-person perspective, feeling of adventure at times, and peppering in of shooting may make it worthwhile and a lot of fun since the genre typically hasn’t been handled this way on Switch. If you’re not a fan of performance issues or were looking for something favoring shooting and action over exploration and crafting you’ll likely want to look elsewhere though.

Turmoil - Games that were made for the mobile/tablet space coming over to Switch can often be a dicey proposition. Gameplay that works for touchscreens and often more casual players doesn’t always translate as well on dedicated gaming hardware. In the case of Turmoil, though, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised, with it delivering a pretty smart strategy and resource management experience in a relatively humble package. You’ll take control of a tycoon-to-be, invest in a plot of land, and then work with the resources available to you to try to strike it rich. Finding the oil can be a challenge in itself sometimes, especially trying to do it efficiently and with an eye on cost effectiveness since drilling costs time and money… something you may overlook though if your initial wells have run dry. Not only do you need to focus on trying to keep your wells pumping, you’ll also want and need to keep an eye on the prices refineries are willing to pay, considering whether to store your oil and wait out better prices or deciding to take what you can in the event prices will continue to go down. There’s certainly some luck at play in your success in terms of how much oil is in any given plot but the real trick is in making the most of what you’re given. Overall, a smart and unique experience on the system.

Missile Command: Recharged - As someone who played a ton of the original Missile Command in the arcades and at home (originally on the Atari 5200 and more recently on my MAME cabinet with a trackball controller) I was actually quite excited to see this classic get an upgrade of sorts. Unfortunately, while I suppose Recharged visually does look more modern, but still with a decidedly minimalist aesthetic, I think in the competition between the old and new school the modern version falls decidedly flat by comparison. I’m not sure I ever feel like games turning into mobile-esque grinds where you’re constantly trying to gain currency to upgrade your stats to play longer is a good move, but knowing the vintage experience so well in this case it’s a particularly painful change. You’ll still ultimately want to put your primary effort into protecting your missile bases but the lack of complete control over which you’re firing any given missile from is a terrible concession to touchscreen play when you’ve got someone playing with a controller. The addition of power-ups in theory could spice things up but for me instead they just add a random element to your success rather than it being more a measure of your skills like it was in the arcade original. I’m ecstatic that Atari has been revisiting the archives to make modern takes on some of its vintage library but to this point the results have been disappointing at best. They really need to get people who are in tune with what made the originals iconic rather than seemingly believing they’re just ideas in need of modern trappings.