Friday, August 19

Mini Reviews: August 19th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Cult of the Lamb [Massive Monster] (Nindie Choice!) - The moment I even saw the art for this title I had a feeling I would be in love. Relatively adorable cartoon animals led by a charismatic lamb who channels the unholy power of a trapped god?!?! What’s there not to like? Thankfully, if you’re a fan of often tense top-down slashing and dodging action you shouldn’t be terribly disappointed, though the game undoubtedly doesn’t break much ground in that arena with its melee weapons that make you choose between speed and power and a hodgepodge of supplemental powers. What does set it apart though, and where it may lose some people, is that managing your cult members is actually where a substantial amount of your time and efforts will need to be focused as well if you want to make headway. Now, making the normal after-run meta progression into its own sort of game absolutely gives the game far more quirk, charm, and even challenge, but the question will be whether any given player is looking for that value add or just wants to keep slashing. Depending on where you lie on that spectrum will likely determine whether it’s for you.

RPG Time: The Legend of Wright [Aniplex Inc] (Nindie Choice!) - If there’s one thing I tend to respect most in indie titles that are the passion projects of either a lone developer or a very small group is ambition, and a willingness to put it all creatively on the line. The moment you load this title up, that sense of it being made by someone who is swinging for the fences, making a game that is in all ways distinctly theirs, is impossible to miss. Dabbling in a number of genre feels, from action to adventure to puzzling to RPG elements, the game is a bit all over the place but if you’re patient with it I think more often than not the uniqueness of the experience pays off. This is one of those titles where a look at gameplay will be the only way to grasp what the game is about, still screenshots don’t do it justice and I’m not sure there are adequate words to describe the strange adventure it takes you on. However, if you’re a fan of childhood creativity and fantasy mixed with some great observations of classic gaming tropes it’s a solid and quite family-friendly time, for sure.

We Are OFK [Team OFK] - I’ll admit, visual novels and their ilk are something I still haven’t developed a deep appreciation for, and while it has its charm I don’t think We Are OFK was able to move the needle in a more positive direction, though to its credit it also does nothing clearly wrong. The story and characters feel somewhere between a sitcom and a reality show featuring an odd collection of flawed 20-somethings. That means there’s definitely something authentic about the majority of the unusual players, but for the most part for you to get the most out of the experience that really needs to be enough for you. Interactivity is pretty limited, and in general the consequences to your decisions seem to be limited to the current conversation, but watching people struggle with their lives and challenges can at least be engaging if you’re looking for an experience headed in that direction.

Voyage [Venturous] - Over time I’ve found that much like when meeting new people, indie games in particular don’t have a second chance to make a first impression. Without any guidance on what you’re supposed to do, how the limited controls work, and then some quirks with the objects I need to move around getting stuck somehow, Voyage got off to a very rocky start for me. Thankfully perhaps not everyone may be as aggravated getting things moving, and once it got some steam in its sails things improved a bit. Taking in plenty of terrific visuals as your pair of characters try to find their way forward, if you’re down for an adventure filled with puzzles that range from mind-numbingly simple to head-scratching at times (it’s oddly inconsistent in this way), there’s a handful of hours of enjoyment here. Just be warned that it’s not a journey without “quirks”.

Little League World Series Baseball 2022 [IguanaBee] - With the distinct lack of just about any sports titles on the Switch in the indie space, without even considering the pretty meager number of baseball games, I don’t doubt fans of the sport perk up a bit whenever something new comes to the table. Unfortunately, in the case of LLWSB2022 (sorry, it’s a mouthful) you’ll want to keep your expectations pretty heavily in check if you’re hoping to have some fun with it. There’s no question that legitimate attempts have been made to make the presentation a bit showy, from the sometimes elaborate moves batters make as they come to the box (which you’ll unfortunately begin skipping endlessly since they just keep doing it for every at-bat) to an occasional Quicktime-like action sequence when trying to field a ball. The problem is simply the inconsistencies, areas that need work, and sometimes baffling AI brain farts on display by your team when setting up to field the ball. Maybe the goal was to make it more “realistic”, with kids being more imperfect in their decision-making than their professional counterparts,but too many times you’ll be left simply scratching your head at their inexplicable behaviors. Throw in batting where depth perception for where the ball is feels overly tricky, struggles to understand how and when to make your team’s special ability gauge useful (even though your opponents often seem to use theirs like it’s going out of style), and pitching against the AI batters being aggravating even when being determined to throw only absolute garbage, and as a package this game seems like its doomed to be mired in mediocrity… but at least with some style.

Friday, August 12

Mini Reviews: August 12th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Hindsight [Joel McDonald] (Nindie Choice!) - There’s just something about playing the right story-driven game that speaks to some aspect of your own life or trials that’s difficult to quantify but unmistakably powerful when it hits you. Connections to your parents, childhood, good memories and bad… perhaps I’m just at the right target age for this sort of experience but Hindsight spoke to me in a way few games have managed. That said, depending on where you are in your life and what your experiences may have been, I have no doubt that this won’t be universally true, or at least possibly not to the same depth for everyone. What helps the game further is its relatively simple but very effective presentation, with everything rendered in a 3D space you can rotate around the camera on and take in the full moment with rather than just seeing experiences through static pictures. The means of navigation through memories is tied to this ability, as you’ll need to look around for the specific object or spot that will allow the story to move forward, and I’ll admit that sometimes this method works better than others. Regardless, if you enjoy being taken on emotional journeys and appreciate a healthy hit of nostalgia and rediscovering memories from the distant past this is a terrific title to go on that road with.

Before We Leave [Balancing Monkey Games] (Nindie Choice!) - City-building strategy titles in the indie space have proven to be a difficult target, it seems, based on what usually seem to be middling results bogged down by an over-abundance of menus and interface struggles. More than anything else what I appreciate about Before We Leave is that it bucks that trend, generally keeping its interface clean, relatively simple, and in general focused more on providing an enjoyable experience rather than some crazy challenge. The pretty cool thing though is that it also scales upward pretty nicely, providing added drill-down information for those who wish to seek it out and bask more in the raw numbers of it all… and while I wouldn’t think it would provide a deep challenge it seems capable of satisfying the more casual to at least moderately experienced city-building vets. While I hit a bump or two in the tutorial with being able to apply what it was throwing at me, and perhaps getting in a little trouble playing with some toggles that I didn’t really understand, the majority of the concepts for expanding your empire make sense. You’ll need to steadily increase your different building types, seek out the means of accumulating more resources, and then work to tune everything to make it as efficient as possible. While perhaps it won’t be for everyone the fact that folks at different skill levels should be able to reasonably grasp what it will take to find success, implement it at least mostly properly, and then sit back and watch your people thrive makes it worth a look for strategy/sim fans.

Arcade Paradise [Nosebleed Interactive] - Oh, the feels this game gives me… and it’s one of those things where it triggers something that makes me worry that I can’t be objective about the experience. As a devout disciple of the local arcades in my youth the hook of the title, where you’ll inherit a laundromat to manage that you then invest some elbow grease and effort into in order to turn it into an arcade, really speaks to me. Just as I’m sure you’d find managing a real-life arcade to be less than a dream job at any given moment though, Paradise has you spending a fair amount of time on “busy work” tasks, meaning if you want to be a success you can’t just sit around. If you want to rake in the cash as quickly as possible being on top of the laundry biz, at least in the early stages, is absolutely crucial, and that can get monotonous as you work from day to day putting things in the washer, then the dryer, then getting them out the door as fast as possible to make every dollar you can. Cleaning is at least general some fun since pretty well every task has been “game-ified” in some way, though once you’ve cleaned the toilet a few times it loses some charm. The one critical area where I’d say the game let me down is in its loose adaptations of over 30 arcade machines ranging from more recognizable to generalized in some way. Playing the games effectively and tracking the daily to-do list yields rewards and unfortunately that, at times, will mean playing some of the lesser in-game titles. However, if you’re looking to get your Zen on, working on something you love, and playing some odd arcade games to fill in some time, it’s still a bit of dream fulfillment for the generation that grew up loving these magical places.

Star Seeker in: the Secret of the Sorcerous Standoff [Benedict Ide] - Before saying much about this game I’ll put a core fact out there to open, that this is a game with a very focused and limited scope that you’ll likely complete in just a few hours. Pretty much as the name of the game implies everything is focused on this one particular case, with you walking in, getting the skinny from the people on the scene, and then working through clues and deductive reasoning to work everything to a resolution. Fortunately, this plays out a bit better than I’m describing it since there’s also a fair amount of personality and humor thrown in as well to keep things more entertaining. It’s by no means a meal, but as a light bit of fun between bigger fare it would make a perfectly reasonable snack.

Super Bullet Break [BeXide] - Mixing together a few elements like deckbuilding strategy, roguelike challenge, gacha game-like collect-em-all feels, and plenty of provocative anime gals posing, there’s no doubt that Super Bullet Break has a style all its own. A fair question would be whether all of that makes for a superior experience, and though I’m sure there’ll be people who find it to their liking (probably mostly because they find the game art agreeable), on the average I’d say it’s a no. Granted, with time and building a better core deck it’s not just possible but more probable that you could cobble together a deck to match a character where you find your groove and can do some serious damage. For me, when comparing this to the competition, it just felt that outright randomness played too big a role early on with too many cards that lacked synergy and thus what seemed to be a bit too much grinding to get to a reasonable point where you feel you have decent footing. Unique but a bit unwieldy.