Thursday, May 28

Mini Reviews: May 28th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Atomicrops [Nindie Choice!] - For me Atomicrops is a story of early frustration, followed by a slow warming up, which eventually became a pretty deep and addictive love. Among the many roguelike shooters on Switch it absolutely stands apart, and getting the hang of how everything works is thus an unfamiliar challenge. Are you supposed to tend your crops? Go running out into the areas to the north, south, east, and west to find seeds and supplies? Focus on making money? Make sure to plant and cultivate roses as quickly as possible since they’re an alternative and powerful currency as well? The answer to all of it pretty much turns out to be “Yes”. I don’t think there’s only one strategy or set of tactics that will make you successful but since the game provides you with very little overall guidance and there are simply a staggering number of power-ups and pieces of equipment you may encounter you’re going to need to try and fail quite a bit before you’ll have some “Aha!” moments and feel like you’ve got your feet under you. The thing is, once I turned that corner and finally began to know just enough to pick the power-ups that best suited the situation in my current run, wisely choosing how and when to invest and in what, I got hooked and had to keep playing until I finally completed Year 1. Outside of a lack of much helpful guidance, which really can make the early game a bit of a bummer, my only other major complaint is that as the screen gets full of stuff happening at night and there’s chaos everywhere, at times you’ll swear you’re taking damage but can’t tell from what. It happening only once in a while you can write it off as you just missing something but the more it happened (once every few runs) the harder I would look and there were times I legitimately had no idea what killed me, never a good thing, but obviously not something so common I couldn’t be successful. If you’ve been feeling like roguelike shooters have been feeling too much alike and in need of an evolution be sure to give Atomicrops a shot, I think it’ll “grow” on you.

Shantae and the Seven Sirens [Nindie Choice!] - While I’m a relatively recent fan of the Shantae series, having just been introduced to it in the collection release on Switch a while ago, I’m definitely getting into the groove and enjoying what feels like its consistency. Some great characters, perhaps a bit on the silly and dramatic side, backed up by rock-solid action platforming and more often than not varied and exciting boss fights. Clocking in completing my first full runthrough of this edition in a bit under 8 hours for the most part I’d consider it satisfying, though I will offer some nitpicks. While I won’t fault the game for generally being highly accessible with plentiful healing and opportunities to collect coins to be used for upgrades, that does diminish the excitement of big battles that don’t revolve around some puzzling and pattern solving. Especially in the fights against Risky Boots I sort of gave up on trying to be subtle and would just full-on blitz her with attacks until she was done, usually only needing to heal twice at most before it was done. Certainly that was my choice but at the same time her battles tended to be highly repetitive and only iteratively harder each time so my indifference felt earned. While some trappings like the enemy card system that would give you up to 3 incremental improvements to a particular skill or attack were nice they, along with the majority of the magic system attacks, felt a little under-utilized. Nice to have, but mostly non-essential so a bit wasted. Bear in mind, I’m being a bit picky only because I think the game was terrific and I just want to see it refined further and get better. While I wouldn’t call it perfect I think it’s a terrific title that gamers of just about any age or skill level could likely enjoy. There may be a few sections that will push you, and there are spots where figuring out where to go next can be a challenge, but its upbeat tone, polished presentation, and accessible fun are hard not to enjoy.

Ailment - There’s nothing wrong with a straightforward budget title that sets its sights on a goal and gets there, even if it may not feel terribly flashy or ambitious. For me that’s Ailment in a nutshell, with you playing as a crewmember who wakes up on his ship and discovers that something has gone very wrong… with an abundant use of weaponry being the best solution to that problem. You’ll do some exploring, accumulate an impressive arsenal, work only moderately hard to conserve your “big guns” for the threats that require them, and methodically work your way through the equally well-armed people you’ll run into. It lacks the edge and flair that the stronger shooters in this space have but for the very reasonable price of admission it’s also a good time for genre fans.

Despotism 3k - In terms of overall look, bleak theme, and the humor in its many odd random events complete with pop culture references and other unexpected surprises Despotism 3k comes out of the gate feeling like it has promise. Some repeated playthroughs where it all boils down to time and resource management with a lot of repetition and making small tweaks to be more efficient for better success start to chip away at that element of fun unfortunately. This is all about experimenting to figure out what combination of upgrades, managing your people to focus on which resources and when, and generally just how best to respond to events you can’t control are needed to survive. If you’re interested in that sort of challenge you may find it appealing, but the lack of real variety outside of that diminishes what initially feels fresh.

Fly Punch Boom! - I don’t doubt that coming up with new ways to make competitive fighters/brawlers have a personality all their own and not be accused of being an also-ran clone of an existing property can be difficult, especially if you’re aiming for a more mainstream appeal. To its credit, Fly Punch Boom carves out a niche for itself that feels unique, blending some mechanics of rock paper scissors with specific or timed button presses you can use to either get an edge when things get tight or to help you recover with a tough save. The problem, though, is that in practice it feels like a bit of a mess, sometimes feeling pretty random, and other times leaving you not 100% sure when you should be pressing what so prompts can be missed just over confusion over when they may appear. Weirdly it feels like it is supposed to be a quick-to-pick-up-and-play game but at the same time there’s an edge to it that cuts against that grain. If you’re looking for something different, this will deliver, but that doesn’t mean it all gels together either.