Monday, January 25

Mini Reviews: January 25th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Gibbous: A Cthulhu Adventure (Developer: Stuck In Attic) [Nindie Choice] - I’m pretty much always a sucker for the classic noir detective style, and when a game instead chooses to skewer it a bit with humor as well it tends to make me laugh. This point-and-click style adventure is very much in the vein of the classics from the likes of LucasArts, though as always that comes with some baggage in the form of some puzzle moments that will make you seriously consider hitting an online walkthrough. The key here though is definitely the humor that comes through in some clever dialogue and some truly odd situations, and that’s backed up by what’s generally terrific hand-drawn art. If you’re an adventure fan, this title should be satisfying.

Nuts (Publisher: Noodlecake) - With a focus on the mischievous little woodland creatures, the squirrels, this is a pretty unique adventure you’ll undertake as a wildlife observer of sorts. With pretty well no introduction you’ll need to follow your instincts and meander a bit to find your mobile research station, get everything running, and get caught up with your scientist in charge via phone. At times what you’re expected to do, or precisely how, can be a bit unclear and require a bit of trial and error experimentation to satisfy precisely what the game is looking for in order for you to progress but it typically isn’t an unreasonable effort to work out what you’ve been doing wrong, even if you were pretty much doing the right thing all along. The pacing is pretty slow, but the aesthetics and pretty carefree style of play may be appealing to people looking for something more mellow and periodically amusing, though a wrinkle here and there in the story help deepen the intrigue as well.

The Unexpected Quest (Developer: Rionix) - Looking and often feeling like a game made in an earlier and simpler era, The Unexpected Quest would best be characterized as a very simple and watered-down RTS title. The fact that it has come from the mobile space makes that a bit easier to understand though. This is a game all about managing your resources, constantly checking back and clicking to get your workers to pick up supplies of various kinds, constructing buildings, and being sure to have the proper units and upgrades necessary to progress. The thing is, there’s very little strategy at play aside from perhaps being more efficient to save your time, and that makes your successes generally unsurprising and lacking in excitement. Perhaps if you’re a newbie to gaming or at least the real-time strategy genre The Unexpected Quest may be a good way to get your feet wet with the genre, anyone with even a moderate level of experience in the genre in general will likely find this to be a slog though.

Loot Hero DX (Developer: VaragtP Studios) - Games aren’t always about high-stress situations and challenges, sometimes you’re just looking for a way to kill some time while not having to expend a great number of brain cells or substantial effort. Loot Hero DX is a game that satisfies that urge. There’s not much to know, you’ll simply continue to move right and left, auto-fighting enemies and generally plowing through them as long as you keep doubling back to amass more loot for upgrades and level your powers up. Unfortunately, that’s really about all there is to it. You’ll only die if you push yourself too fast too soon, but as long as you keep going back and forth every checkpoint or so and keep leveling you’ll always be sure to win even against the game’s sometimes hulking bosses. Don’t expect much and you shouldn’t be too disappointed.

Frodoric the Driver (Developer: Projects from Basement) - OK, so in the indie space there’s gotten to be a pretty large gap between experienced but still small teams of developers toiling together and individual and somewhat green developers going solo. Frodoric the Driver is unfortunately very much the product of the latter. I was a bit intrigued by its visual similarities in screen shots to the classic arcade game Spy Hunter but all hope flew straight out the window in the first 30 seconds. This is a very bare bones offering with little in the way of gameplay, polish, or fun and even with a deep cut sale it likely won’t be worth the purchase for anyone.

Friday, January 22

Mini Reviews: January 22nd Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Shing! (Developer: Mass Creation) [Nindie Choice] -
When it comes to beat-em-ups the Switch has really fleshed its line-up out since the early days, which generally makes it tougher for new titles to make a strong impression with something new. The people behind Shing have done just that though, offering up an experience that may generally adhere to the gameplay elements you’d expect but that approaches the controls in a completely unique way. While you do have the option to go the traditional button route in order to execute your attacks the new way is to instead use the right stick, whether using simple directions or swiping moves, and that really does give the gameplay a unique sort of flow. To boot, some of the tactics you’ll need to use for specific enemies and most bosses are generally a step above the norm, requiring a bit more care and planning than simply button-mashing your way through all of your problems. Throw in the ability to play with up to 3 friends, or to freely switch between the game’s 4 characters as you play to be sure to tackle enemies with the style that may be most effective in the moment and it’s a challenging and very unique experience for what’s typically a more straightforward genre.

Bezier: Second Edition (Developer: Thalamus Digital) - As a huge fan of arcade twin-stick shooting action I feel like I’m generally hard to surprise when it comes to new releases in the genre. Then I played Bezier and I was forced to reconsider that thought. While the elements of the action aren’t necessarily unique in and of themselves, flying around blowing things up, needing to focus on “mini bosses” that may require different tactics, building your power-ups, and taking on a boss… it’s just the game’s weirdo visual style and audio for the boss in particular that will catch you by surprise. First, everything is quite colorful, but in addition most enemies just have a level of visual complexity to them in their varied shapes and even movement that are distinctive. Now, one issue these unique visuals have is that they can substantially muddy up the screen, making it difficult to differentiate harmless debris from slain enemies from enemy projectiles or even small enemies. This does tend to make you feel like you’re taking unfair hits periodically as your eyes attempt to process the colorful visual soup in front of you. It may not be perfect, and at first you may struggle to understand what few rules the game has for success since the overall feel is pretty unique, but it at least has the guts to do its own thing which you can choose to dig or reject, and I can respect that.

Red Colony (Developer: RunicCodes) - If you’re ever wondered what kind of game you’d get if you put a zombie survival adventure in a blender with a healthy serving of soap opera-ish tropes and perhaps a sexy cheesecake calendar and hit puree you’d likely end up with something resembling Red Colony. Depending on what you’re looking for this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as in a campy way it can be quite entertaining, especially since it’s quite easy on the wallet. I wouldn’t say that the game is too heavy on the scares, but you will need to concern yourself with efficiency since typical of this genre resource scarcity can be a concern if you’re not careful. Really, it is the pretty ridiculous story, full of “good friends”, sex, betrayal, and just general weirdness that keeps things going more than the horror, in many regards the zombies play a crucial but supporting role as your enemies but the pull is to see how this mess of complicated relationships plays out. Clocking in at around a handful of hours if you’re in the mood for some blood, reality TV-esque rocky relationships, some jiggle-age and maybe a laughably uncomfortable sexy pose (looking at you, the Nanny) it’s at least entertaining for a reasonable price.

Solar Blast (Publisher: Ultimate Games) - Just because a game comes to Switch with the distinct feeling of a mobile-friendly title doesn’t necessarily doom it to mediocrity. A common problem, though, is when the core gameplay is perhaps a bit too simple and fails to take any real advantage of the Switch’s power or even screen size, which is the case with Solar Blast. It’s not a bad casual action-y game, you’ll need to move your somewhat limited shield around the orbit of your sun in order to protect it from a variety of threats. These start out as simple and straightforward but as you progress it does at least get a bit trickier and offer power-ups that change up your approach nicely. The thing is, there’s no denying it’s also incredibly simple and doesn’t have a great need for detail so it would likely work just as well, if not better, on a phone. For people who play mostly docked and prefer a Pro Controller, fair warning, you’ll need to use the JoyCon since for now Pro Controller support isn’t present. In theory touchscreen play may be best, though then you do risk your finger obscuring some details of what action there is to see. It’s not a bad game, but its presence on Switch feels more forced than most.

Otti: The House Keeper (Developer: Maksym Vostruhin) - Games that are expressly made for tablets and are suited to casual players are always tough to review fairly for a dedicated console like the Switch. Throw in a premise and style of play that is pretty overly simplistic and very trial and error and you’ve got a sense of the Otti experience. Your job is to set up traps inside a house in order to dissuade burglars from stealing the gold. This wouldn’t have to be bad but you’re so heavily constrained in what traps you have available and even where you can place them that it simply doesn’t end up being very engaging or fun since you never feel like you’ve got much in the way of choice to work with. Throw in a very simple (though I suppose cute) art style and this is really only for people seeking out basic casual play and little more.