Friday, April 16

Mini Reviews: April 16th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

The Darkside Detective: A Fumble in the Dark [Spooky Doorway] (Nindie Choice!) -
The classic point-and-click adventure Renaissance is really quite a thing to witness, and it is quirky and funny titles that The Darkside Detective that help not just to keep that spirit alive by existing, but by being a genuinely good time as well. While the overall length of time you’ll be playing may not be as extensive as in some titles, there’s something satisfying about the broken out 6 case structure… sort of breaking things down into 6 satisfying bites of maybe an hour and change or less (depending on your process and whether you savor every item’s descriptions) depending. If you miss the silly adventures of yesteryear or simply would like a good laugh (or 10) this is an easy title to recommend.

Knight Squad 2 [Chainsawesome Games] - The original Knight Squad was a pleasant surprise, delivering pretty easy-to-grasp local multiplayer game that worked well whether people worked in teams or went free-for-all across a variety of modes. Matching that with a pretty reasonable price and it was a refreshing mix of action and some strategy that stood apart from many of its contemporaries. Enter the sequel, which refines pretty well everything just a bit, adding some spit, polish, and new options… but for people who already have the original it’s not clear there’s quite enough here to warrant picking it up. So it’s an odd situation. There’s no doubt this is an improved version of the original, so it’s the version to pick up given the choice, but it may not have big enough changes to warrant a purchase from fans of the original.

Deiland: Pocket Planet Edition [Chibig] - There’s a challenge in the indie space, since top-quality and deep titles don’t typically carry a premium price, so even games that are more modestly priced don’t get much of a shield when it comes to quality and polish. While Deiland is certainly pleasant and cute enough, having you take care of and modestly develop your little planetoid by planting and cultivating crops, attending to quests, and dealing with occasional threats. The problem is simply that with so many incredible life sims already on the Switch there’s ultimately little here to make a case for it standing out as it lacks in the depth, variety, and even personality of many of its peers. If you’re looking for a relatively cheap fix it may do, just keep your expectations in check.

Stitchy in Tooki Trouble [Polygoat] - It’s always great to see colorful and pretty family-friendly fare appear on the Switch, and in those regards Stitchy in Tooki Trouble fits the bill pretty well. With large characters and a general look that scales nicely down into handheld mode even it works pretty well on a high level. Where it struggles a bit is with originality and variety, sticking mostly to the classic formula and not doing much to really flex in any way. That said, for younger or less seasoned gamers who aren’t quite so jaded it may not seem as generic and the somewhat slower general pace of play and movement might work out nicely, so if your target is accessibility it may be a great match.

Godstrike [Freedom Games] - Billed as a tough-as-nails boss rush shooter essentially, that description is absolutely accurate. The problem, to me, is that even in the "Tutorial" while you're trying to get an understanding of what's going on the game is determined to destroy you with enthusiasm. This approach of "all stick and no carrot" might have an appeal to a subset of the audience but mixed with the limited power-ups that also then chip away from your time (once you run out of time any hit means it’s game over), not even yet understanding the big picture, it’s a perplexing choice. Mix that with the shooting action and visuals actually being a bit on the dull side (just designed to be hard, but not exciting) aside from the need to conquer something hard for its own sake this is a tough sell as there are many more rewarding and still super-tough shooters out there on the system already.

Wednesday, April 14

Mini Reviews: April 14th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Rain on Your Parade [Unbound Creations] (Nindie Choice!) -
While most people spend so much of their lives consciously trying to be kind and courteous with others that isn’t to say they can’t have a mean streak in them. Since even in games I tend to stay the noble course I do personally enjoy those that take being nice off the table… requiring that you unleash your inner jerk that has been so starved for air. Much like Untitled Goose Game before it, Rain on Your Parade is all about letting you not only let your asshole flag fly but also to typically revel in it. Let yourself cackle as you send people running, ruin special events, and generally run amok… it’s liberating. What helps elevate it further is simple creativity and variety in the scenarios and what you’ll need to try to do, keeping the experience from being one note. There are some cases where mechanically working out the nuance of what you need to do and how can be frustrating at first, but for the most part you’ll be too busy enjoying the chaos of it all to be bothered if you’ve got virtual karma points you’ve been saving up to burn all at once.

Astro Aqua Kitty [Tikipod Limited] (Nindie Choice!) - I like it when games manage to surprise me a little bit, especially when they’re in genres where I feel like I’ve seen just about everything. Even as much as I love retro-styled shooters, and have played a ton of them, there’s just something about Astro Aqua Kitty that feels a bit different. With large spaces and multi-step missions, there’s almost an Adventure-like quality to play here, though make no mistake you’ll need to do plenty of shooting and in spots it can get challenging. Managing your upgrades and perks is essential as you progress, and finding the right synergy of weapons that don’t have you too quickly running on empty with your power can be tricky but the freedom of choice you have is quite welcome and not typical for the genre. Leveraging plenty of cute kitty-ness and some very classic arcade shooting, Astro Aqua Kitty delivers a surprisingly satisfying experience for a budget-friendly offering. 

Cannon Brawl [Temple Gates Games] - While there’s no doubt that people will be quick to see Cannon Brawl sharing some gameplay similarities with the Worms series I’ll go even older school and say that initially it reminded me greatly of the vintage Scorched Earth (though everyone I knew just called it Scorch). Lobbing attacks at each other of various degrees of lethality, trying to perfect that feel of power and angle to make a precision shot, and plenty of swearing at your friends when they manage to pull it off quicker than you do. The thing is, there’s more here than either of those series as, in my mind, Brawl throws in an element more akin to tower defense where strategy demands more work from you, establishing your area of control, trying to gather and protect resources, and needing to constantly shift your concerns as you must mind your defenses as much, if not more, as you attacks. While staying power may be an issue with keeping you interested I’ll at least credit the effort in coming up with some smart revisions to a well-worn formula.

Gravity Heroes [PQube] - With so many shooters of all kinds on the Switch it takes some effort to set yourself apart. To its credit, Gravity Heroes does manage to do this, throwing the element of gravity (in 4 directions, mind you) into the mix which gives it an almost puzzle-like element at times. In practice though, I’m not as positive it makes for a highly-compelling experience. Tackling it solo just ended up feeling a bit slow and bland, and while throwing some friends into the mix with multiplayer did add some interest, the feeling of it all coming together never quite hit. If you’re looking for something different it’s worth a try, but I worry the shooting lacks a very satisfying feel and hook so the experience suffers with that quite a bit.

Poison Control [Nippon Ichi Software] - It’s wild how such oddball and quirky titles continue to come from Eastern developers, and if you’re willing to lean into the experience they can be a bit of unexpected fun. That’s definitely the case for Poison Control, whose story I don’t think I could begin to have the space to try to explain apart from it being unusual. That pairs well with the gameplay, which sort of mixes a rudimentary third-person shooter with an action puzzle game. Though the game’s dialogue and stories revolving around the various hells you’ll be looking to clear continue to pull you along and are interesting, unfortunately the same can’t be said for the gameplay, which never really takes off or has its parts feel particularly integrated with one another. If you’re into this style it may be fun, but otherwise you may find it falls a bit flat the further you go.