Tuesday, September 17

Mini Reviews: September 17th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Ritual: Sorcerer Angel - Filling in a somewhat unique and unusual space between casual and classic arcade style action we have Ritual, a game that feels like it would be well-suited to a twin-stick shooter but plays with less intensity. You’ll work your way through waves of enemies, looking out for power-ups and always being careful to not bite off more than you can chew. When there are enemies around with a higher level than you a single hit from them will result in death but with wily play you’ll be able to use your spells and power-ups to wear them down so they can be dispatched like anything else. There’s progression of a sort as you’ll become more effective but there’s no variation or choice in it, you’ll just continue to incrementally get more powerful at the base. Overall, it’s quite accessible and should be enjoyable to just about anyone and with so many more intense experiences on the platform it offers a more subdued but satisfying experience.

The Sinking City - There has been a real run of Lovecraftian horror titles coming to the Switch of late, no doubt making horror fans quite happy, and among them The Sinking City is the one doing it’s best to swing for the production values fences. Though there’s no doubt the game isn’t as impressive on the Switch as on other platforms for the most part it looks good, and certainly creepy, and performs well. Whether the story stands out against the competition will be a matter of taste but the environments, characters, and imagery certainly do a fair amount to establish a grim mood. Unfortunately elements like the combat and the somewhat iffy controls can drag down the enjoyment with frustration there’s a fair amount here to dig into for fans of the Cthulu and its ilk.

Golazo - The lack of raw numbers, let alone variety, in the sports game genre has no doubt been a letdown. If you’re a fan of soccer (or football, depending on where you hail from) but haven’t been willing to shell out the bucks for the likes of FIFA you now at least have another option, albeit a more stripped down one. Playing a bit more like classic sports titles with relative simplicity, and sometimes aggravatingly dense teammate AI, Golazo may not pull of a hat trick but it does a fair job at being accessible and fun. There’s no doubt it is more fun to play with others in local multiplayer, but if you’ve been starved for some footie fun it’s not a bad investment.

Deadly Premonition Origins - Never having played this series, but having heard stories, I wasn’t ready for the WTF factor to this game. With creepy characters, some of which I can’t tell are that way intentionally or just due to some strange characterization and model choices, this is a game where you’ll be scratching your head a bit over what in the world is going on. The good news is that if you’re looking for a creep factor, shooting zombies, and are fond of games from around the PS1/PS2 era inspired by the Resident Evil series you may find this to your liking. If, however, you’re looking for modern excitement, action, and play mechanics, you may be better off waiting on the new iteration of the series that has been confirmed to be coming to Switch later.

Newt One - While the Switch certainly has some noteworthy family-friendly titles that isn’t to say they’re available in great abundance. Particularly at less experienced side of the equation there simply aren’t a lot of kid-appropriate titles. Newt One, though a bit bland from a seasoned gamer perspective, keeps things pretty simple and accessible, playing as a very colorful and forgiving platformer. Your goal in each level is to be sure to bring color to everything, slowly moving and jumping along, sometimes making use of pretty basic power-ups to help you complete your missions. There’s a collect-a-thon element to it, just making you focus on being sure to hit everything as you go and be thorough, without a lot of pressure or challenge. While it won’t be a hit with experienced gamers its colorful and carefree nature should appeal to people who have just begun their gaming journey or who perhaps find most mainstream offerings too stressful.

Sunday, September 15

Mini Reviews: September 15th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Star Wars Pinball [Nindie Choice!] - If you’re either a massive Star Wars or pinball fan you can stop reading the review now and just buy this… rest assured, they’ve got you covered. Falling into the category of maximum, bordering on preposterous, effort, Star Wars Pinball isn’t just a few random tables. It’s an outright collection right out of the gate and represents an amazing value with 19 tables spanning the movies (including the more recent one-shots, for better or worse), TV shows (though, sadly, no Holiday Special), and even popular characters. Rather than phoning it in with relatively generic table layouts and throwing in sound bites to accentuate the action the folks behind the game have made a real investment in trying to imbue each table with unique character, many of them taking full advantage of the virtual nature of the game to concoct tables that wouldn’t be practical (or even possible) in a physical form. That does likely mean that not everyone will love every table but at the same time I applaud the effort and it really does make the depth of the total package remarkable. Throw in a Career mode that tries to include some elements of variety with objectives and challenges to complete and this is a great example of a game package swinging for the fences to deliver the full value of its price of admission.

Blasphemous [Nindie Choice!] - From first glance during a Direct there was no question that Blasphemous, visually, was something pretty special. With a dark and gothic tone all its own, this is certainly a stand-out in the Switch library. What may be divisive for the average gamer will be the degree of difficulty that comes along for the ride. Owing much to the likes of Castlevania in its overall style and feel, with you slashing your way through enemies, finding power-ups and secrets all about in a non-linear way, the old school sensibilities of those original games is also in full effect here. This is an unforgivingly tough game, one that will prompt controllers leaving peoples’ hands, whether being put down or even thrown. If that sounds like your jam I’d say the experience is pretty easy to recommend, though perhaps it doesn’t do a great deal to stand out from its inspirations in terms of innovative gameplay. If you’re not a seasoned gamer and aren’t looking for a title to kick you down and coldly tell you to “git gud” repeatedly you’ll likely be better off taking on something a bit less ambitious though.

Hyperforma [Nindie Choice!] - Part of what makes me a huge fan of indie titles is walking into new experiences that take me by surprise. Hyperforma easily catches your attention with some strong visuals, a great soundtrack, and gameplay that feels unusual and fresh. Combining puzzle sensibilities with a fair amount of classic Breakout, here your goal is to chip away at a 3 dimensional structure to expose and then attack the puzzle’s core. Effectively rotating each figure in 3D space takes a little getting used to, trying to keep your orb(s) working efficiently to get through the outer layer defenses while also trying to avoid blocks that will do you harm. As you progress you’ll gain some power-ups that you’ll want to put to smart use to help you work more quickly, and on a general level things remain pretty fresh throughout. Where the problems do creep in is that no matter how cool things happen to look, and though you do end up working your way through by trial and error, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I spent a fair amount of time not quite sure what I was supposed to be doing or how I was being evaluated as I completed each stage. Still, for a pretty reasonably low asking price there’s something different and exciting to it, and as a puzzle fan who usually feels like he has seen it all that makes it worth a look if you’re in the mood for a unique experience.

Inferno 2 - As a huge fan of arcade-style twin-stick shooters any game raising its hand as being part of that genre immediately has my attention. Inferno 2 is a budget-friendly entry with a solid and clean visual style, plenty of options for how you want to manage your power-ups, and some challenging play. All that said, with so many options for this type of game on the eShop I’d say comparatively it lacks the personality to truly set itself apart from the pack and jump into an immediately recommendation. It’s satisfying and challenging, yes, and its price makes it a very easy impulse buy, just don’t expect anything more than a rock solid implementation of the genre. If you’ve been spoiled by the multitude of titles already on Switch that go the extra mile though it may seem lacking.

Himno - Falling into the category of “Uhm, I’m not quite sure what’s going on here” we have Himno, a title that seems to be trying to go for a randomly-generated platformer vibe, but that ends up just being kind of flat and uninteresting in the process. You’ll use your modest moves to explore and progress from stage to stage, navigating spaces that may be created on the fly but that as a result tend to lack in personality or interest. While it may be budget-friendly it never managed to impress me as an experience I could get hooked on, especially when there’s so much out there that feels more polished, cohesive, and compelling, even on a budget.

Tuesday, September 10

Mini Reviews: September 10th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

FAR: Lone Sails [Nindie Choice!] - This is one of those titles where I walked into the experience not really knowing much about it, being surprised by it being something quite different, and coming away very impressed. There’s little context to understand the situation involving the world you’re trying to survive in and little direction given, your continuous focus is just on powering up your cobbled together craft to get it moving, keep it working, and figuring out how to get it past the obstacles you’ll face. Somewhat quiet, the bleak world you’re working within makes the experience somewhat meditative as you move from one station to another keeping everything working. It won’t be for everyone but it’s just a different kind of game that I really appreciate.

Headliner: Novi News - Being put in charge of choosing the headlines that will run for a big city’s major source of news must be a weighty responsibility. Trying to balance the needs of a for-profit business, city hall, the regular people on the streets, and also hold onto some sense of integrity turns out to be a bit of a challenge. This is an unusual game that plays a bit differently from anything I’ve encountered before and I like how quickly it was able to get me connected to a variety of people with different outlooks and relationships to your character, and how that quickly made deciding which stories or spins on events to go with… to then see the consequences of those decisions. Inevitably it deals with many current political issues and different perspectives on them so it may at times challenge you to think through or moderate your own positions and biases as you come to understand the unintended consequences they may carry.

Fifty Words - This is one of those titles that is obviously laser focused on a specific demographic that’s looking for a casual game to relax with but I don’t have a problem with that. A variation on a word search, Fifty Words will have you looking for that number of words all related to a specific topic but that are interconnected a bit randomly and there are no extra letters. Depending on the strength of your vocabulary this can make it all a bit easy at times but if you’re lacking a full appreciation of at least 50 varieties of vegetables or other categories of items it’ll inevitably make it a bit tougher.

Boreal Blade - This is one of those titles where I’d imagine there’ll be little middle ground, you’ll either find it tedious and aggravating or full of ripe challenges to discover technique and nuance as you try to wipe up the floor with your opponents in melee combat. Feeling similar but distinct from a title like For Honor this game is all about smart swordplay and developing a mastery of how to block, parry, and slice up your opponents. Even more interesting is the fact that it is meant to be a multiplayer arena game featuring more than just one-on-one matches, and with a variety of layouts across its 10+ areas there’s plenty to think through in terms of strategy and approach. Aside from the steep learning curve to get to the point where you’ll feel confident you can do more damage than you’ll take the other piece of the puzzle in this title’s success will be the availability and sustained interest of its community. At launch there are often people to play with but depending on the time of day and your luck it can be hit or miss. Unfortunately the connection reliability and quality can be the same, hopefully these kinks can get resolved quickly in order to keep people interested before new titles begin eating into the player base. The best news is that if the game interests you be sure to go pick up the demo on the eShop to try it out for yourself before you need to buy it.

Gun Gun Pixies - Here we go with another entry in the darker corner of the Switch library where you can find all kinds of “unusual fare”. In this case you’ll play the part of two miniature warriors from another planet who are trying to gain an understanding of Earthlings in order to save their planet. This means you’ll need to explore their oversized rooms, shoot them with your “happy bullets” to get them to reveal clues or revelations that will help you complete your mission, and then have some interesting conversations between the straight-laced Kame-pon and the girl-crazy (and a bit dirty-minded) Bee-Tan. Overall the game doesn’t offer all that much variety, and the aiming and movement are very touchy to say the least, but to its credit there is actual gameplay amidst the shooting at crotches, “endorphin” responses, and an occasional bubble bath. It’s all pretty silly, does a great deal of teasing without revealing too much, and contains inappropriate comments of various kinds aplenty… which will no doubt please its target audience.