Monday, March 30

Mini Reviews: March 30th [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Vampire: The Masquerade - Coteries of New York - Being only mildly familiar with the Vampire series, but having generally heard good things, I perked up when I heard about this. Though this offshoot of the main series plays out in a visual novel form the world you find yourself in still has a full and lush quality to it that many in the genre lack. As you progress you gain the sense that there’s a deeper mythology and bigger world outside of your own experience, and the ability to play through with 3 different characters who each have their own journey helps to reinforce this feeling. If you’re a fan of vampire lore, well-written characters and dialogue, or in immersing yourself in a different world where you’re able to explore possibilities outside of your normal experience it’s a pretty fascinating title that’s a real virtual page turner and, for me, proves out the potential for what visual novels are capable of when the proper effort is put into world building, terrific accompanying art, and interesting characters and motivations.

Bubble Bobble 4 Friends - As a massive fan of the original Bubble Bobble both in the arcades and at home on the NES I was thrilled to hear the series was getting a new lease on life. Thrilled to see that there was a means to play the original very conveniently in this new iteration I actually went and played a bit of it first just to get that warm hug of being reacquainted with its simple-but-challenging and ever-charming play. In terms of the new version there’s no doubt that visually it is now more in-line with current standards and looks attractive. Not content with it only being able to be played with a friend you also now can play with up to 4 people, and when matched with the family-friendly nature of the series that should be great for families. My complaint would be that though this new version is fun enough and charming in its own right I still think I’d prefer to play the original comparatively, there’s just something in that special sauce that hasn’t come over in the modern translation. Perhaps for people without the nostalgia for the original this will be more of a hit though, it’s cute, challenging enough, and has enough that it does its own way to differentiate itself while not walking away from the formula the series is known for completely.

Deep Sky Derelicts - While it’s extremely reductive to use comparisons to other games to describe new ones since it quickly paints a picture it is convenient. So with Deep Sky Derelicts I’d say start with a picture of Darkest Dungeon but set in space and with a sci-fi rather than a gothic bent. If you guessed that implies that it can be a tough game, you’d be right. Though Derelicts lacks perhaps some of the cruel edge of the challenge of your party members being inclined to going insane that also diminishes some of the game’s overall personality and memorability as well unfortunately. If you’re down for the challenge of managing combat and understanding how best to utilize your team and the equipment you find you’ll probably dig it, but if you were hoping for narrative threads or something bigger and more exciting to tie the experience together you’ll likely find it a bit lacking.

Mekorama - Even after simply making a rough draft debut in Mario Odyssey, it was obvious that Captain Toad would be a viable puzzle franchise, and his games have more than proven that out. For fans of the series that could make Mekorama appealing, as it shares many of the same sensibilities and visually is quite pleasant. Obviously transplanted from the mobile space it plays best using the touchscreen, though there is cursor-style support for playing when in docked mode as well. The disappointment, however, will come with the fact that though the puzzles are nice enough there’s not the charm and polish of Nintendo’s own series. If you’re looking for a cheaper alternative without quite the same flair though it’s a fair alternative.

Factotum 90 - I’m always a fan of running into games that tackle a well-known genre mechanic and add a twist, something Factotum 90 does admirably. In general I’ve tired of box pushing puzzle games as a whole but because of the split-screen way it’s presented in this title is at least refreshing and makes the gameplay feel more distinctive. That said, the overall lack of length and variety make it more of a satisfying bite than a meal, and an understanding that despite the novelty of the single-player co-op the game offers the puzzles are generally pretty familiar in their design may make it trickier to recommend.

Friday, March 27

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

Travel Mosaics 2: Roman Holiday [Nindie Choice!] - What can I say, if you didn’t check out the original iteration of the game on Switch and love Picross-styled puzzles you’ve really been missing out. While I’ll agree that the naming, the art style, and some aspects of the presentation scream dated and have a feel of something you’d find people playing on a tablet don’t allow those elements to get in the way of what I’d consider the most challenging and well-implemented Picross title out there. The puzzles are large, generally involve the use of more colors than the competition, and the power-up system is smart and at times absolutely vital if you want to clear challenges without any mistakes. Carrying a very fair price and hours of satisfying puzzling these titles are an absolute steal so be sure to give them a try, once the gameplay gets you hooked the rest of it all tends to just fall away.

DOOM 64 - While I’ve played many iterations of DOOM over the years going back to the original shareware the N64 incarnation of it was one that I’d missed out on. I’d always heard that it was solid and did things a little bit in its own way and having played it I’d tend to agree. Something about the level layouts feels a bit more intricate (though you could also call them confusing, to be fair) than what I associate with the original DOOM iterations, and the quasi-3D look is at least interesting which at the time I’m sure it helped the game to stand out nicely. While there’s no doubt going back to the earlier style of FPS play feels a bit odd I’d say among the throwback titles in the genre I’ve played this is the most successful and accessible of the bunch, managing to avoid being utterly painful as many tend to be by being about as highly evolved as the genre got before moving on to the fully 3D world of Quake and many others. Recommended for those seeking a look back at the genre’s earlier days that has the best hopes of not shattering any rose-colored memories of how great shooters used to be.

Bug Academy - One of the great things about indie games is that they can sneak up on you and defy expectations. While it isn’t always fair to judge a book by its cover the effect that a game’s eShop logo has on your impression of it is unmistakable. A look at the one for Bug Academy unfortunately doesn’t inspire confidence, at best it gives the impression of something thoroughly generic. However, though it no means offers much more than simple pleasures as a goofy flying physics game where you’ll enlist as many flies as you can to pick up and move items around in a variety of scenarios it is different and satisfying for its modest budget price. If you’re looking for something like, a bit silly, and certainly family-friendly it isn’t a bad idea for wasting away some hours with.

Thunder Paw - OK, so here we have an indie platform shooter with a reasonably good look, somewhat cute main character, and what seems like some promise out of the gate. Only when you keep playing it for a few stages the lack of inspiration in the level design, a complete lack of explanation of what benefit there is to collecting blue gems or the hidden packs on each level, and enemies that are rock stupid and repeat the same weak sauce attacks quickly dash any hopes for a satisfying experience. In truth the game feels unfinished in a way, like there were intended additional game systems they laid the foundation for and then just released without them being completed.

Pooplers - I’m all for weird and wacky games, especially when you’re getting a group of people together for some laughs and fun. In principle, Pooplers and its scatalogical gameplay offers such an opportunity with each player controlling a baby who you’re to navigate through the stage trying to “cover” as much territory as possible. To jazz things up a bit you’re trying to avoid being detected or then caught by Mom and there are some power-ups to try to grab that will give you a variety of benefits to get the edge on your competition. The problem is that it’s really a one-note experience without a whole lot of nuance and whose theme and various fart noises simply can’t cover up the stench of ho-humness that permeates the action.