Tuesday, October 31

Review: King Oddball [ Nintendo Switch eShop ]

While the folks at 10 Tons have delivered some of my favorite twin-stick shooters on the Nintendo Switch they also like to dabble in casual games it seems. Their marble shooter Sparkle 2 was a great take on the genre pretty well defined by the classic Zuma Deluxe but this time, with King Oddball, they’ve taken a new direction with a physics-based puzzler. Taking some cues from the likes of Angry Birds at a high level King Oddball is a one-button game that takes a solid shot at providing some casual but challenging fun on the Switch for anyone.

I’m not certain there’s any story to speak of but you’re apparently Kong Oddball who is determined to throw rocks at various military pieces of military equipment and personnel, flung from his very long tongue. Whether this is for political reasons, he is an alien set on conquering the Earth, or he’s simply a character stuck in an unusual game nobody may ever know. All you’re armed with is the knowledge that pressing your button will make him release a rock and send it hurtling with the power of physics in a particular direction with a certain amount of angular velocity generated by the point of his pendulum-like swinging tongue. Does it make any sense? Not a shred, but it is a simple mechanic to grasp but that you’ll find it consistently challenging to master.

What’s nice is the progression of difficulty and the various alternative modes you’ll unlock as you complete smaller areas that then combine to make a larger square on the grid. As you complete each major square the next one will open and you’ll be able to make your way through it until all levels in it have been completed as well. Each area then generally has a special space that will have a variety of functions from helping you track special achievements, your core overall stats, or added modes like Diamond Mode where you’ll be trying to complete levels using less rocks for a challenge or a Demolition Mode where you’ll be throwing grenades instead of rocks and trying to position their explosions effectively to help clear out the level of enemies. So you’ll get a pretty steady challenge curve rising as you get into each new area accompanied by a new special space and potentially some extra surprises.

In terms of the downsides this is very much a budget casual title in the way it plays but that isn’t to say it isn’t challenging by any means. Unlike a game like Angry Birds where you have a pretty fair degree of your angle and power in King Oddball you’ll have to get the sense of timing to your releases and you’ll also need to quickly begin doing some rough estimations for how your rock will fly once you’ve hit something. There are usually shots that will wipe out either all or most things on the screen but knowing what you’ll need to pull that off won’t always be obvious so if you’re having trouble I’d suggest always changing things up and trying something different. Inevitably, though, enjoyment will come down to whether or not you enjoy the setup and appreciate the many levels (including quite a number of difficult Halloween themed levels they just added!) of challenges it lines up.

For the budget price of admission King Oddball actually provides quite a lot of content that would take you several hours to likely be able to work through. Once you add on the levels in the additional modes and the challenge of some of the more unusual achievements you could likely double that time. The question will be whether you’ll want to stick out the ride long enough to enjoy it all. That will ultimately come down to tastes, what you’re looking for, and how you’re planning to play the game. Using it to fill gaps in your day 15 minutes at a time would probably be great, playing for hours at a time probably not so much.

Score: 7

  • Simple to understand, challenging to truly master
  • A variety of alternative and challenge modes will help prolong and diversify the experience
  • The price of admission is quite modest

  • If you don’t dig the gameplay style it doesn’t matter how inexpensive it is or how many levels it has
  • It’s possible the challenge curve could aggravate truly casual players

Monday, October 30

Review: Violett [ Nintendo Switch eShop ]

So far the Switch has proven itself to be well-suited to the classic point-and-click adventure genre, able to serve double duty as both a portable tablet and as a home console if you prefer to see things blown up. To this point there have been a variety of offerings that have each had their merits. Violett comes to the plate with some great fantasy art and unusual landscapes, bringing an almost Alice in Wonderland feel with it. Unfortunately, its puzzles are often too obtuse for their own good and that makes the adventure feel a bit more like a chore at times.

What will no doubt attract many people to the game is its phenomenal artwork. While some scenes are more interesting than others each setting is full of color and unusual details. There are odd creatures big and small as well as elaborate rooms and scenes that have a load of nooks and crannies filled with detail. This is a double-edged sword, though, in terms of how the game plays out in function.

The first issue is one of navigation and in figuring out where you need to go and what you need to do. A particular room that serves as a bit of a hub comes to mind. While you can put together where you’ll be able to go with some clicking around intuitiveness definitely takes a back seat to the elaborate, though fascinating, art. The same issue comes up in terms of what you need to do in any given room. A lot of the things that help you progress are flat out unintuitive and subject to trial and error. This can be a bit aggravating and many times even when I’d finally figured out the proper sequence of events to trigger to solve the problems I found the challenge unrewarding because I’d only stumbled through a solution and not truly figured it out myself.

The second issue involves the preferred control scheme being handheld mode (the game states as much as you start it up) and the scale of some of the things the game has you find or need to click on in order to progress. Given the richness of detail in the game’s art there’s a lot to distract your eye and when you couple that with the relatively small scale of some elements on the screen when you play in handheld mode it can be a real problem. What this ends up resulting in is some further degree of trial and error as you’ll see things that look like they could be relevant in the hopes you’ve found or triggered something. There is an in-game hint system but very honestly I found the clues almost as baffling as the puzzles themselves.

The shame with Violett is there’s something interesting about the experience as a whole that I’d love to enjoy. The artwork is terrific and some of the puzzles, while odd, are refreshingly different. That said, the number of puzzles where progression isn’t guided so much by thought and intuition and instead by a sort of aimless string of trial and error shots in the dark make it a bit aggravating and diminish the feeling of accomplishment in making progress. If you can overlook issues like these and want something different give it a look, just be aware of the substantial number of caveats concerning it.

Score: 5.5

  • Terrific fantasy artwork
  • Some challenging non-traditional puzzles

  • While handheld mode is superior for control the details can get lost at that scale in the artwork
  • Some puzzles feel more like a matter of hit or miss guesswork more than intuitive in their puzzle-solving
  • The hint system is sometimes as cryptic as the puzzles you’re looking for help to solve

Sunday, October 29

Review: Splasher [ Nintendo Switch eShop ]

When people think of 2D platforming the first tendency, for good reason, is to think about the likes of Mario. Running, jumping, some power-ups along the way… these are classic elements that have become the staples of the genre. The developers behind Splasher seem determined to help you think a little differently, mixing in a number of elements from the likes of Portal 2 and maybe some Super Meat Boy as well to create something much more insane, challenging, and (dare I say it... ) fluid.

Sporting a very attractive and colorful animated art style at first glance Splasher could be mistaken for a more casual affair but within a few levels any thoughts in that direction can be shoved aside. While not as cruel as the likes of Meat Boy and its ilk you’ll still need to work hard to hit your jumps accurately, properly utilize the painted surfaces that allow you to stick to or bounce off of the walls, and knock out targets along the way to trigger traps like buzzsaw blades and laser beams. Initially you’ll only be able to shoot water yourself and nozzles in the level will spray the paints on the wall so you’ll only need to work on making the proper use of them. Within just a few stages you’ll be given the paints yourself to splatter on the floor, walls, and ceilings and at that point it really steps up the challenge since it leaves it to you to not only decide which surface you need to paint how but also sometimes what combination of action you need to manage in specific sections, jumping, spraying the wall, bouncing off of it, shooting an enemy, and then landing on another platform where you can finally take a breather.

What I love most in the game is how the challenge evolves as you play and how it then gets to be even more crazy fun. At the most basic level you can choose to merely survive a level, making your way from the start to the finish. For an extra challenge you can try to get all of your buddies who you’ll see on your way and who will tempt you to stray from your path and risk dying to rescue them. To step it up even further you’ll need to collect sparkling paint along the way, cleaning it off of surfaces, killing some enemies, or shooting special spinners. If you manage to collect enough by the end of the level you’ll then be able to get the exclamation mark to top off your friends who’ve spelled SPLASH and then you’ll be ready for the real fun! If you thought the game was great in the straight-up Normal mode, it really shines when you take the challenge and play in Speed Run mode. While I don’t normally get into them there’s just something special about the flow in Splasher where, once you get in the zone, racing through the levels and nailing all of the jumps and moves feels exhilarating!

All that said, there are some stumbling blocks along the way. The biggest issue, though I certainly did learn to compensate for and live with it, is that stopping is just a little too slow for my tastes. Early on I had a tendency to struggle with landing on platforms, often hitting them but then not being able to stop or then trying to correct in mid-air and then overcompensating. No doubt there’s not a universal standard for how things should work at this level but where games like Super Meat Boy seem to get it right from the very first step Splasher seems just slightly off, though admittedly not by much. Where precision is so vital, though, it isn’t quite as perfect as I’d like. Another concern will probably be how the game’s appearance doesn’t do a great job of conveying the level of challenge that you’ll be facing. While it is enormously rewarding for gamers who live for this sort of thing there’s no doubt less experienced gamers will be spending quite a long time repeating the same tough sections.

Splasher is simply a whole lot of challenging platforming fun, requiring you to be on top of your game both mentally and physically. Once you get into the flow of things it is pretty amazing how fluidly you’ll be able to move through the levels, aiming and shooting mid-air while you dodge between traps and enemies. What sometimes starts out seeming to be a formidable challenge will fall with some repetition and tuning and the sense of accomplishment when you complete some of the levels is substantial. If you’re up to the challenge you’re in for a lot of fun!

Score: 8.5

  • Fresh and exciting 2D platforming
  • Generally excellent and stylized art
  • Even more challenging and fun in Speed Run mode!

  • The control is great but isn’t quite as tight as I’d prefer
  • The level of challenge ramps up quickly and will likely lose more casual gamers

Review: This Is the Police [ Nintendo Switch eShop ]

One great thing about indie games is that because of their reduced scale they can do things differently and take you to places you’ve never been mentally. This Is the Police is an excellent example of this in action, putting you in the shoes of an aging police chief, Jack Boyd, who gets embroiled in a pretty insane series of situations. While perhaps the outcome can only be influenced so much by all of the collective decisions you make through the game’s ultimate conclusion the journey was completely unique for me, and there’s something to be said for that.

You begin the game a bit off-balance, finding yourself facing the cameras at a press conference and being asked about many things you’ll ultimately come to understand much better but for the moment you’ll need to wing it. Within the first few days you’ll get to know all of the major players and you’ll even be forced to start making hard choices as well. There’s a sense as you make them that perhaps regardless of which paths you choose there are likely inevitabilities at play but you can still feel a gravity in which way you decide to go. The narrative side of the equation, as a whole, I found to be the strongest and most interesting element in the game. Animated in low-poly art slides and excellently voice narrated there’s a story going on that grabbed my interest and kept me playing through to the next day, curious about how events would unfold and how my decisions may have influenced them.

Your control in the day-to-day sim side of the game is also interesting, and often hectic, but perhaps deliberately it often feels like an exercise in aggravation. At the high end you’ll need to manage the cops and detectives on your force, dispatching them to incoming calls for a wide variety of incidents or assigning them to investigations. Oh, if only it were that easy! Every day is a resource battle and the moral of the story seems to be that no matter what in order to make that omelet some eggs are going to have to be broken. Your choice in the matter will often be who is paying the price for that.

If members of your force ask off for the day (for a truly amusing variety of reasons) do you tell them no and risk reduced morale? Do you let them and risk encouraging irresponsible behavior and being short on staff, potentially putting citizens or other cops at risk? Do you simply decide not to respond to calls that you assume aren’t that serious? Do you send inexperienced members of your force to a scene and risk negative outcomes of a variety of types? To complicate matters as the game progresses you’ll have additional layers of motivations for either responding to or ignoring calls. Want to keep someone in the mob happy or get a cash infusion for looking the other way? There will also be incidents that begin to go south where you’ll need to make judgment calls on how to resolve them, whether through more peaceful means or by force. Often the fate of your officers and civilians will rest on which path you choose and you ultimately can’t predict the outcomes so you’ll need to be instinctive and hope for the best. What you’ll find are a lot of decisions to be made and that all of them can create as many problems as they solve. If you’re the type of person who wants to play a perfect game this will likely frustrate you, and in many ways I think that’s the point in the game to a large degree.

That sense of futility may also be one of the game’s greatest flaws, and a lot of the problem is that there’s simply too much going on at once. There are timed events that could require you to fire (or find shadier means to get rid of) personnel or to completely dedicate your resources to a single purpose and then neglect their normal duties. You can choose to comply and risk problems on one side of the coin in the form of litigation or investigations or you could ignore the orders and be forced to live with the consequences of that in the form of penalties, especially when dealing with city hall who could choose to cut your budget and force you to eliminate positions. The detective track is there for longer-term investigations, which mostly end up being about reviewing pictures that represent the crime and you try to put together the proper sequence based on eyewitness testimony, but it seems half-baked and under-utilized. There are your ongoing problems with trying to deal with people asking off, people who are hitting the bottle too hard, and simply officers you may lose in the line of duty. You’ll fight with city hall. You’ll be pushed and pulled in different directions depending on how you decide to approach the various factions of the criminal underbelly of the city. It can be a bit overwhelming and ultimately you often get a sense of helplessness in trying to believe that you’re truly managing things for anything more than simply staying alive.

The thing is, to a great degree, I believe that’s the point of the exercise and for the most part I commend the effort that has been put into the overall experience. This Is the Police ends up being a pretty fascinating character study of a man with good intentions who’ll need to make a lot of bad decisions. You can try to maintain your integrity but the game seems to be written in the direction of not letting you do so for long, or at least not without paying such a steep price that you see the wisdom in picking and choosing when you’ll need to go dirty with good intentions… or at least you’ll tell yourself that. Games like these ask you to put yourself in a different position and then force you to play out events in a world where the deck is stacked against you and you don’t have the luxury of surviving without doing some unsavory things and pairing with terrible people. While it isn’t a perfect game in execution and it can be frustrating, often on purpose, it does make for a fascinating ride.

Score: 7

  • A strong narrative full of drama, intrigue, and moral ambiguity for you to ponder over
  • The presentation of the cut-scenes does a fabulous job of sucking you into the story and is the backbone of the overall experience
  • I never felt at ease or comfortable and on top of the situation, and in this case I believe that is intended

  • The nature of the story and events can be challenging and won’t leave you much room to be moral, you’ll only have control over which bad paths you decide to take
  • There are overlaps in timed and random events at times that are aggravating. Even if you’re not supposed to be able to dig out of all situations unscathed this can still push into feeling unfair at times
  • Some aspects of the overall experience are better developed and full-featured than others, the investigative track seems a bit light and is more of an afterthought than I’d have liked

Thursday, October 26

Review: Moon Hunters [ Nintendo Switch eShop ]

Moon Hunters is just something very different than I’ve played as a whole and that is both a great thing (yay, diversity!) and a concern then it comes to making recommendations. Moreso than any action RPG I’ve played there’s simply a massive amount of narrative content hiding everywhere in the game. The characters you choose, the places you visit, the people you’ll meet, and the attributes that define your personality will all be different each time you play and that will lead to different interactions and outcomes. That’s all very interesting but what it means is that the challenge and enjoyment in the game isn’t derived from “beating it” on a single run, it is about unlocking new characters and starting points, getting greater insights into what’s going on in this world, and experimenting to find your way to the best conclusion over the course of several runs… and if you can play with up to 3 friends it can be even more fun.

Starting with the characters you have to choose from to play with I have to give credit for their play styles being pretty radically different from one another. Each character will have a standard attack, and secondary attack, and some sort of mobility skill. Over the course of the game as you collect gemstones you’ll have options on how to upgrade each of these in different ways to become more potent. You’ll begin with a choice between 4 classes, with 2 roughly playing out as melee style (I’ve found it tougher, overall, to stay alive using these) and 2 that are generally more ranged. In order to be effective you’ll really need to figure out how best to work with their combination of skills since the monsters you’ll face can require some tactics to take out, especially if there are several attacking you at once. As you complete playthroughs you’ll be able to unlock 3 additional classes and these are generally even more unusual in their style and that makes for refreshing options as you contemplate further runs after completing your quest which usually takes a little more than an hour.

What sets Moon Hunters apart is the number of ways you’ll be tested as you have random encounters with people, animals, and even spirit beings of various kinds. It is how you choose to interact in these situations that will affect your stats, your personality, and then ultimately how your character will be remembered once you’ve completed your quest and take your place among the stars. What keeps it interesting is that not all choices result in outcomes you may anticipate and in your travels you can’t ever be sure which personality traits may come to help you if you have random encounters where being either brave or even foolish may give you a new opportunity. This, as well as your ability to start in different regions and visit entirely new parts of the world, is what is helping to drive the need and desire to play through the game multiple times and get your arms around everything that’s going on and how to get things to their best outcome.

In terms of issues the first and foremost is that people have the right expectations when they’re deciding if Moon Hunters is a good fit. It absolutely delivers some challenging action RPG gameplay with diverse characters, and as you go to different regions the monsters you’ll face will vary. If you can play with some friends the experience will be enhanced as combining some of the class abilities can make your party quite formidable. However, there’s no escaping the element of repetition you’ll end up having as you work through your encounters and interactions differently in the hopes of figuring out how to unlock all of the game’s secrets. In that way the general brevity of a single playthrough is both a blessing (it minimizes your time investment per run) and a curse (the number of things you may be able to unlock in one run is inherently limited). Aside from that there aren’t many complaints though I will note that the load times can feel pretty substantial in places and I did get occasional stutters in play that didn’t seem to correspond to anything in particular.

All said Moon Hunters is an ambitious and well-executed exercise in storytelling as much as it is in implementing the game’s action. I found the change of pace to be refreshing, and the presentation and imagery helped establish lore without it just being a bunch of gibberish written to the screen as some games have done. There’s a care and attention to detail to it all that I hope people will give a chance and discover, but I can see where people may give it a rough playthrough or two and decide to move on as well. If you’ve been looking for something that sets itself apart from most of the games of its kind out there, even if it may not meet all of its goals, Moon Hunters is a worthy attempt worth giving a try.

Score: 8

  • A rich narrative for an interconnected world full of choices to be made
  • A total of 7 character types (including the 3 unlocks) that each play very distinctively to help minimize the feeling of repetition
  • Local multiplayer is great and the length of a typical playthrough makes it easy to have a satisfying complete session together

  • If you’re not down for playing through the game multiple times and exploring the full world (that can’t be done in a single run) and what the game has to offer it won’t be for you
  • While I found the somewhat unpredictable nature of outcomes from your decisions to be fun I suppose it could be aggravating
  • The load times can be pretty bad at times, be warned

Review: Time Recoil [ Nintendo Switch eShop ]

10 Tons is back yet again to bring twin-stick shooter fans something to shout about and Time Recoil is worthy of some praise. While it is concerned heavily with gunplay, and you’ll need to be accurate, the time-slowing mechanic completely changes up how things play out and making it very much its own animal. Though I believe that the gearing towards replaying levels will make it more of a niche title overall, for people who enjoy this style of play Time Recoil has quite a lot to offer.

There is an overall story behind all of this that will play out as you progress through the game involving an accident that has given you the power to jump through and slow time and an evil mastermind trying to destroy the world. While it isn’t anything major or surprising this approach does do a better job at helping to define your varying objectives in missions, whether to collect information, rescue a specific scientist, or take a specific person out. It’s nice to see an attempt to give the proceedings a narrative, and that does make for a few twists and turns along the way, but the game really is still mostly about action.

Given the intensity of previous 10 Tons shooters what may be surprising is how much the time-slowing mechanic changes things up. You won’t be choosing your weapons and enhancements, instead you’ll generally be working with just a pistol (though you will get your hands on a machine gun at times) and abilities that you’ll activate by killing a certain number of enemies within a short period of time. The result is a sort of ballet of violence, with you experimenting with different combinations of tactics to either save up for more powerful time abilities that can kill a whole room or even stop time completely or to keep rolling by using cheaper skills to alternate shooting guards and then bursting through walls to quickly take out more. It is this puzzle of sorts that sets the game apart and is what will need to grab you to make the game compelling over the long haul.

That leads well into the downside, as overall compared to the other 10 Tons games I’d say that playing through on Normal difficulty to the end of the story will take less time than either of their previous shooters. The idea is that you’ll then either play through again in the harder modes (these get much tougher as you’ll find in Normal when you killed someone their bullets would disappear, that change makes the game far harder) or you’ll begin to tackle the very demanding Time Attack modes which are all about planning, route optimization, and execution to turn in some insanely intense and quick (adjusted with slowdown) times. If that doesn’t appeal to you the value proposition of Time Recoil is a tougher call.

The folks at 10 Tons have really done a phenomenal job with releasing 3 games that would, at a high level, be considered to be in the same genre but that are so incredibly different in how they play. Time Recoil is what I’d consider the biggest gamble of the bunch, tapping into a very different skill set, opening up a very different kind of challenge, and yet still delivering some thrilling gameplay. If you enjoy the almost puzzle-like nature the game evolves into once the main story missions have been completed, and trying to play through the same levels to eke out efficiency, there’s a lot to be challenged by and enjoy here. If, however, that sort of action is fun for a little while but not appealing to you for the longer haul it is a tougher call.

Score: 7.5

  • Delivers a very distinctive experience with some nods to classics like Max Payne in terms of overall feel
  • It scratches a shooter itch but also requires some strategic planning to maximize effectiveness
  • If you’re into replaying the same levels with stepped-up challenge and optimizing your runs it has quite a lot to enjoy

  • The overall story campaign isn’t terribly long on Normal compared to other offerings
  • While you do obtain more interesting time powers as you progress, overall the style and flow of things doesn’t change substantially, you’re generally working to be accurate with your pistol and working with your powers
  • If you don’t really dig going back to get faster times in Time Attack the amount of content in the game drops quite a lot

Review: Poi [ Nintendo Switch eShop ]

Sometimes in this world it is all about timing and I’d say that in terms of its arrival on the Switch Poi is likely to get trampled in the Mario Odyssey rush and that’s an absolute shame. Once people have had their fill of Odyssey, and perhaps a palette cleanser in between as well, my hope is that they’ll come back and give Poi a look. Sporting colorful locales, some cute characters, numerous styles of play, and helping of charm Poi love letter of a game very much inspired by the classic play of Mario 64, Sunshine, and more.

Throughout your journeys in the game you’ll be in control of either a young boy or girl (a nice touch) on their quest to find Explorer medals and become accomplished adventurers. The format of this is highly reminiscent of Mario 64 and other games of the genre where you’ll start out with an objective in mind and the world you’re in will adjust accordingly, sometimes opening new areas or exposing new elements. You’ll still be able to complete some objectives as you go but I’ve had some cases where I’ve gotten medals for other objectives and that has reset the progress I’d made on my intended one. Since a typical run for a medal isn’t terribly long the good thing is that this isn’t generally a big deal.

What consistently surprised me with Poi was how many secrets there are in the game. The levels are all fairly big and tend to have distinctive zones that are well-designed for challenging your platforming skills as well as your eye for “suspicious” areas to explore. Curious gamers like me will find all sort of hidden nooks, crannies, and passageways hidden here and there, often before even getting a prompt from someone in the level that there’s something there. As you get rolling you’ll also find fossils and other collectibles strewn about here and there but they’re handled well and at no point did there get to be a collect-a-thon feel to things, just when you stumble upon a set of bones in the ground or you see a gear hiding nearby you’ll want to pick them up since you’ll unlock even more medals and fun as you find them. As new secret areas open up they’ll often bring themed challenge levels that are distinct from the others. Whether these involve platforming, your ability to fly, or some form of exploring the game does an excellent job of continually offering up new gameplay throughout your adventure.

Getting into the downsides overall I’m happy to say there weren’t many stand-out issues. I will say that some of the enemies can be troublesome to deal with and can feel cheap for the wrong reasons. It wasn’t unusual to end up taking damage from an enemy even as I had hit and killed them, and sometimes this was an annoyance when trying to do something more challenging. I won’t lie, one remnant of the older 3D platformers that comes along for the ride is the camera control. Thankfully it is never a crippling problem, and I think all gamers have become more accustomed to controlling it than they used to be, but there were times I wished it was more dynamic and I didn’t have to tweak it myself to try to get a good angle on the action. The most obvious issue for it has already been noted, there’s no escaping that this is a game inspired by a different generation of play, but I think it represents the time very positively and even sands down some of its rough spots as well.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with Poi and would easily recommend it to anyone looking for a classic 3D platforming fix with some well-implemented touches. I also acknowledge that this is a review being written shortly before the goal posts are likely to be forever adjusted by Mario Odyssey. That does make it a bit challenging to not be unfair, crippling Poi in advance for the unknown, while at the same time not being naive. In the end I’d say that regardless of the direction 3D platforming may be moving in, and the expectations that will come with it, Poi is a terrific taste of nostalgic beats that fans of the genre should enjoy.

The review copy of this game was provided by Alliance Digital Media

Score: 8

  • Solid level design and control reminiscent of the best classic 3D platformers
  • Plenty to discover and find along the way without it becoming a collect-a-thon
  • Consistently challenging while rarely seeming to be unfair, so very accessible overall
  • The camera can be finicky at times
  • Some enemies can feel cheap with their attacks at times
  • This is a throwback experience and not meant to directly compete with the likes of Odyssey

Review: Knight Terrors [ Nintendo Switch eShop ]

One of the more interesting aspects of gaming on the Switch is that with its portability it can be an appropriate platform for game I wouldn’t normally think of as a great fit for a home console, and yet for what they are they work. Knight Terrors is a game that falls pretty firmly into that slot, in some regards feeling a bit more like a mobile game with its “endless runner” style at a high level, but also in terms of its very budget-friendly price. So is it worth the price of admission? That’s mostly dependent on what you’re looking for and whether you can keep your expectations in check.

While there are a number of different unlockable modes that will give you variations on the overall theme make no mistake, this is a mix of an endless runner with some slashing and power-ups along the way, then throwing in a bit of Flappy Bird in places (or entire modes) for good measure. If that sounds like it could be fun for knocking out several minutes at a time while you’re on the go there’s plenty to chew on here as each round will let you get your legs under but then will quickly amp up the insanity to make you sweat. Get far enough or get a high enough score and you’ll unlock the next mode and new power-ups that will help you in future runs. Simple but effective.

Visually while there’s not that much going on overall what there has a consistent art style and the very large sprites of everything make it extremely well-suited to play in handheld mode. There aren’t very many animation frames but what there is makes it work all things considered. The control is very simple as well and this is probably the area where I think it best distinguishes itself from mobile offerings as the need for two buttons would have likely lead to pokey on-screen controls of some sort that make me miserable. Instead you’ll be able to use the shoulder buttons to either side to make your knight jump and slash and it feels accurate and responsive.

In terms of downsides it’s tricky and everything needs to be measured relative to the asking price. It isn’t incredibly deep and doesn’t change substantially as you get higher scores and unlock new mode and power-ups but relative to cost it all seems to be reasonable. In terms of targeted complaints I’d say that the load times can be surprisingly long for a game with so few overall assets and when you’re in the zone you really want a quicker turn-around to get right back into the action. In addition, there’s just something about either the hitbox or something with the purple bug-eyed monsters that felt weird and I’d keep just barely colliding with them every once in a while.

If something quick, challenging, and fun for a budget price is what you’re looking for Knight Terrors delivers a pretty solid value. It isn’t going to set the world on fire but that also isn’t its goal, it just wants to give people something good to play in bursts. While you can certainly play it in docked mode this game screams handheld mode and gaming on the go for a variety of reasons. If you enjoy endless runners and are looking for a small but solid challenge on the go Knight Terrors is a great match.

Score: 7.5

  • A well-executed and fun endless runner
  • The unlockable power-ups appear randomly and make runs feel and play a bit differently
  • The price is easily in impulse-buy range

  • Don’t expect the world, it is a slashing endless runner with some variants of play
  • It can feel a lot like a mobile game
  • Load times can feel long at times

Monday, October 23

Interview with Sampo Töyssy on Time Recoil

Ever since dipping their toe into the Switch pool just a few weeks ago the folks at 10 Tons have been cranking out parts of their backlog and newly-released titles on the Switch. Coming on the heels of subsequent weeks where they’ve released 2 of their popular twin-stick shooters they’re now bringing a third to the table in the form of Time Recoil, blending elements of getting your combo meter going from kills with a time slowdown mechanic that makes it a very different kind of game. I was able to get some time from Sampo Töyssy, one of the game’s lead developers.

Since I could see many potential answers to this question what games and/or movies would you say influenced the style and story of Time Recoil the most?

ST: SUPERHOT and Hotline Miami were definitely a large influence. Regarding the time manipulation stuff the Quicksilver-scenes from X-Men were an inspiration. The game uses your basic "mad evil scientist extorting the world" trope which appears in a lot of superhero and sci-fi movies.

Would you say that the almost puzzle-like nature of the game in many levels, particularly if you're looking to do some speedruns, was a central piece that drove the design of things? Making sure that someone who is observant of which walls are in place in a given spot or to be sure enemies are paired or in clusters that would create a good power-up charging opportunities are there to be found and exploited?

ST: The puzzle-like qualities come from the games that inspired Time Recoil. In Time recoil you will die a lot less and you'll be much quicker if you have a good plan on how to play the level. For example, when speed running the levels you might need to find a way to trigger Time Freeze to get a three-star time.

Working with at least the bones and some of the assets that are common with other 10 Tons shooters how would you say that affects the process in creating new games within your group?

ST: Time Recoil was a relatively quick project. It would not have been possible if we didn't build on an existing game like Neon Chrome. We started prototyping different ideas and experimented with art style in late 2016 while finishing up Neon Chrome mobile and working on Neon Chrome Arena DLC.

Full-on production of Time Recoil started in January 2017 and it took only around six months to finish the game from the prototype to the release version. We had our summer vacations in July so the release was pushed into early August. The PS4 and Xbox One versions will be out in Sep and Nintendo Switch should follow quickly after. Mobile port is also in the works, but it will be a bit different so it takes some time.

Having now played 3 twin-stick shooters using roughly the same core engine from 10 Tons I'm impressed at how different they all are in terms of their structure and even gameplay fundamentals. How are variant games like this pitched or proposed and what is the oversight in place to ensure each game is distinctive but carries a consistent level of quality with the other titles?

ST: With Time Recoil we prototyped with several core ideas before we landed on the idea which became the finalized game. We use internal and external testing to verify that the prototype is enjoyable. Obviously one game can't satisfy all players but we'll try to make sure there's a group that enjoys the game before going forward with the production.

I've talked to a number of either lone wolf indie devs or to extremely small single-title teams but 10 Tons is a little bigger with a little more oomph. What would you characterize the indie experience like from where you're sitting and where 10 Tons is as an indie?

ST: The market situation has been getting harder for indies. There were times when you got some sales for even lower profile titles, but today it looks like there's less space in the middle. You either convince your target audience or you don't. The market and the potential is larger than ever but the amount of games coming out is massive and a large amount of them are at least ok. An indie hit game from 2014 might not be a hit game in 2017.

Having announced you're going to be bringing your titles to Switch but not having anything with a firm release date yet what has the Switch experience been like so far for you all compared, perhaps, to the process of getting your games onto the Vita with some of your other titles?

ST: From tech perspective Switch has been easy to work with. Nintendo really did a marvelous job with the tools. We've been sailing smooth ever since we got into the developer program. Really looking forward to see how the games will be received.

Any comment on what you're personally set to work on next?

ST: We're designing a few prototypes with a team that will create one of the next 10tons games. Soon we'll start producing the prototypes and then we'll see where it goes. I've done top-down shooters in some form since 2014 so probably some other genre next.

I wanted to thank Sampo for taking the time to answer my questions as well as Tero for helping to coordinate. Time Recoil will be hitting the Switch eShop this Thursday!

Review: Jackbox Party Pack 4 [ Nintendo Switch eShop ]

If you own a Nintendo Switch once again you have no excuse for a party with nothing fun to do because Jackbox Party Pack 4 is now available and, as always, it’s quite a lot of fun. The overall format remains the same as ever, with the Switch acting as a hub for running the game and everyone playing on their cell phones. While the majority of games are for from 3 to 8 players the beauty of them is scalability as additional people are always able to participate and vote as the audience. Rather than dilly dally on the basics we’ll just get right into the games inside since that’s always what makes the Party Packs so special!

We’ll open with the only returning game from previous incarnations, Fibbage 3, which is actually one of my family’s favorites. As before it manages to mix unusual trivia with people’s ability to deceive their friends to set the stage for some laughs. One player will choose the topic from a usually odd list and that will prompt a trivia question. The goal is to come up with an answer that will hopefully fool your friends and then to try to figure out which answer is the real one. This always tends to keep people on their toes as the questions range through all sorts of topics and if you find yourself falling into patterns with your answers the likelihood is that your friends will notice this as well. A novel twist on this formula is a new variant called Fibbage: Enough About You where instead of answering trivia questions you’ll be prompted to reveal a truth about yourself. Prompts are generally pretty innocuous like perhaps “What sort of food you can’t stop eating until it’s gone once you open the package” and as with the normal game people will then first try to come up with a plausible lie and then vote on which one they think is the truth. The one struggle my family had with this one is that we honestly know each other a little too thoroughly for some of these questions to be hard to spot the truth in but among more casual friends this could be a lot of fun or even an excellent ice breaker of sorts!

Next up is probably my family’s favorite game in the new pack, Survive the Internet. In this one everyone will first be given a prompt of some kind that you would typically see on certain types of websites to comment on. Those comments, without their original context, will then be given to someone else to then try to make sound awful or silly by pairing them with a new prompt you make up. So, for instance, my daughter couldn’t come up with a response for a video she was given and just responded with “Huh?” It wasn’t a lot to work with but I made the title of the video ‘Morons who watch this video will probably be left saying, “Huh?”’ Not very subtle, but in this round it worked. What’s interesting is that you can at least try to be strategic with your comments. In some ways going as simple and nondescript as possible could work but that also gives your opponent a blank slate to work with and can backfire. You could attempt to sabotage the person by giving a narrow or specific comment to try to throw them off or railroad them but someone savvy may also be able to turn that around. As always the other challenge can be knowing your audience, so if there are in-jokes that get laughs you may want to move in that direction. Keep in mind, though, that if people go to the well too often that can also backfire so you really need to exercise some strategy as well as your creative chops to get people laughing. It’s the somewhat unpredictable nature of it all that had everyone asking to play this one several times as everyone seemed to have fun with it.

The next up steers into new territory with a game built around dating apps and it is called Monster Seeking Monster. Each person will be given the type of monster that they are and an associated power that you’ll need to consider in how you interact with people and play the game. With my particular monster my goal was to lure people into trying to go out on a date with them but to then reject them so I’d get double points. Each person had their own specific type of monster that then informed their overall strategies as well. Each round everyone would have a limited number of times they could choose to text other monsters, trying to convince them to take them on a date. At the end of each round everyone gets to make their choice, no doubt informed with a strategy based on their monster type, and the scores are then tallied. Out of the pack I think this one will be the toughest to find a way to play as certainly in multi-generational family settings it all feels really creepy and weird. Even among couples I could see things either being very pointlessly predictable or ripe for drama of some kind (“It’s just a game honey, I’m just trying to win!”) so I’m thinking parties with primarily single friends and some alcohol may be necessary for this one to reach its full potential. Credit to Jackbox for going off the board for this one though to try something very different!

Bracketology is the game in the pack that will support the most players, up to 16, and it may be the easiest concept of the bunch to grasp as well. Things start out pretty simply with everyone being given a specific prompt (or two, depending on how many people you have playing) to provide a simple answer for. Once everyone’s answers are in the game will pair them all up into a tournament-style bracket and the betting and fun begins. People will first be individually shown a specific pairing from the brackets to place a wager on which answer they think will win and then the bracket will be walked through, with people voting on their favorite answers until a winner is chosen. Points will go to the people who provided the best answers but if your predicted pick is correct you’ll also stand to rack up points as well. Things get a bit more crazy is the second and third rounds as between rounds the criteria you’re voting on will change. So you’ll start with a much more generic prompt like naming a favorite actor, but once voting begins it changes to which one would be the best on Dancing with the Stars. In the final round there would even be an additional change after that so there’s a degree of luck involved but if you’re aware of how things can change between rounds you can at least try to come up with answers that could seem versatile perhaps. It’s a relatively quick and easy game, and since the voting phase remains open and people can see what has gotten votes and can change them for a limited time it makes for lively discussion as people try to convince each other which answer is better. It’s fun!

Last, but not least, is a game dear to my heart for two reasons: Civic Doodle. First, everyone in the family generally enjoys the Jackbox drawing games for their just being very different and generally funny. Second, this is actually very similar to a game my family used to play drawing on our placemats while we’d wait at a restaurant. It will all start with a random sort of squiggle, and 2 people will be given a relatively short amount of time to run with trying to draw things to go with it to start having it make sense. What’s fun is that everyone else is able to watch both being drawn in real time and can respond to the “art” in real time with a variety of emojis so pretty well everyone remains engaged in this one almost constantly. At the end of each round a winner is chosen and that will then become the core art that the next two people will then add to. After a few rounds you’ll have your winning collective “masterpiece” and the only thing left to do will be to have people come up with a slogan to describe it! This will be repeated for a second round, and then for the third things will change up again as people will need to work together to create a portrait element by element. This time more than 2 people will be working in parallel so it steps up the challenge and the composite person you end up with at the end can be really unusual to say the least. Overall this one is a lot of fun and has a tendency to meander all over the place in terms of theme, and there’s not necessarily a great advantage to being artistically inclined since, as always, drawing on your phone or tablet with the tools provided is only so accurate.

Overall there’s quite a lot of diverse fun to be had with Party Pack 4 and it may actually be the strongest one yet in terms of the average strength of all games included. Monster Seeking Monster is definitely the outlier, not because it is a bad idea but because it is so heavily dependent on the group playing it. While my tendency would still be to gravitate towards one of the Party Packs (2 or 3) that includes Quiplash, still my overall favorite Jackbox mini game, Survive the Internet is extremely strong, Civic Doodle may now be my favorite Jackbox drawing game, and the inclusion of Fibbage is always a plus. In the end you’ll need to read over the various games and choose which Pack works best for you but if the question were which 2 Packs were the best to buy I’d automatically make Party Pack 4 my second without question.

Score: 8.5

  • Survive the Internet shines as a great new idea for the series
  • Civic Doodle is a lot of fun and may be my new favorite Jackbox drawing game
  • As always generally a lot of fun for family and friends of all ages (make use of that filter on games that include it!)

  • Monster Seeking Monster is 100% dependent on the group you’re playing with
  • I’d still consider Quiplash the best overall Jackbox mini game and it’s in Packs 2 and 3

Sunday, October 22

Review: Party Golf [ Nintendo Switch eShop ]

We’re less than a year into the lifespan of the Switch and the local multiplayer options for it are already pretty diverse. Simply adding Party Golf to that pile and saying it has added diversity, however, wouldn’t tell the whole truth. Given the sheer volume of game modes that are baked in and the ways that you can choose to customize your gameplay experience further, Party Golf drops a sort of megaton bomb of ways you can enjoy local multiplayer with up to 7 of your friends (provided you have enough JoyCon to go around). The main question is whether the core mechanics and presentation will work for the people you’re looking to play with.

In terms of presentation there’s no getting around the fact that it is a relatively bare bones affair, though that’s not to say it doesn’t exude a very specific sense of visual style. The pastel colors and simple geometry it uses mix nicely with the dynamically-generated landscapes you’ll be playing in. The ground will slope irregularly, have bumps and ditches in it, and hills will even have outcroppings that will force you to back yourself up at times. I’d just consider it a small aesthetic price to pay for never being quite sure what layout you and your friends will be facing next.

The real name of the game here is diversity, and the game offers so many modes in theory if you took the time you should be able to find a few that everyone can agree is fun. While the standard mode works well with everyone just trying to get to the hole the quickest, using the analog stick to both aim and indicate force and then tapping their “A” button, it is the really crazy variants that help the game shine the brightest. For strategy, Use The Force isn’t a big change, only adding the ability to employ a force field to push your enemies away with limited uses, but strategically if you can deny your closest competitor the hole it can make things a bit more thrilling. For the skilled, you have Flap where you can essentially make your ball hop again mid-air, making for a competitive race to the hole. For the crazy, Ant Ball is pretty well just insanity, with everyone’s ball made super-small and the hole is surrounded by indestructible mines that you’ll need to slip through. One that I’ve seen mentioned often is called Rat King, and it presents quite a number of weird strategic and spoiler opportunities which I find fascinating. If you hit any of your opponents you will stick them, forcing cooperation from that point to get to the hole. If you’re looking to sink the leader people may be able to team up and completely ruin their chances with this… or of course it can just make for chaotic fun.

Going over issues even with the simplicity of the experience that isn’t to say there aren’t some rough patches. Periodic inexplicable slowdowns are just part of the experience and I can’t say that I saw any particular things that seemed to trigger it so I’m not quite sure what the issue is, I’d even hit slowdowns while in the menus at times. Even as basic as all of the assets and elements used in the game are load times sometimes feel a bit on the long side, which does break up the energy in the crowd rather than being able to quickly move from mode to mode and keep everyone fully engaged. One casualty of the levels being procedurally generated is that some variants and their rule sets cause entire levels to essentially be unplayable. There is still some strategy to be had in these cases, with people at least fighting to get closest to the hole, but in some cases everyone just has to sit there for a few minutes waiting for the end of round timer to start counting down. Finally, while I love the fact that if you’re moving slowly enough you’re able to hit your ball even while going down a hill the detection for this can be spotty, particularly when you’re playing in modes that have irregular ball shapes. Your shot indicator will turn on and off a bit randomly, taking the oddball shapes into account and modifying the criteria for when you can hit may have helped manage this better.

Ultimately this is a game that lives or dies on the willingness of the people who are playing to give in to the simplicity and embrace all of the crazy modes that it offers. If you’ve got a rowdy group of people who are on board there are some great laughs to be had with Party Golf, probably even for people who don’t consider themselves very skilled at games since so many of the modes have a certain element of chaos inherent in them. If, on the other hand, your crew isn’t buying the base experience it won’t matter how many modes you bring to the table, it just isn’t going to happen. If you think you can play with the right people there’s a lot of diverse fun to be had in this package though!

Score: 8

  • More modes and possibilities than you can shake a forest full of sticks at
  • Simple enough control that anyone could quickly learn and begin playing with
  • Relatively quick rounds allow you to keep the experience engaging and unpredictable

  • Irregular slowdown can interfere with the fun at times
  • Random issues or inconsistencies can show their head every once in a while
  • For people who can’t get over the simplicity of the presentation and control the numerous modes won’t matter

Review: Putty Pals [ Nintendo Switch eShop ]

While the Switch has sort of introduced a revolution for easy 2-player experiences that can be brought and shared anywhere, to date it hasn’t had anything quite like Putty Pals. Using a claymation art style that tips considerably into Cutesville, it pairs that with relatively simple controls to craft an experience that could be appropriate for people of any age. Don’t be deceived though, this is hardly a game relegated to being “for the kids” in terms of its depth of challenge. Putty Pals delivers a full feast of progressively challenging co-op platforming married with clever ideas.

In general your actions in the game include jump, flattening yourself so your partner can springboard off of you, and reaching out to grab, whether your partner’s hand or objects. While this may seem a bit limited the number of situations and ways these moves are put to the test is actually quite impressive and also challenging. You’ll, at times, need to jump, flatten, and let your partner spring off of you while in the air as a for-instance, or on platforms that only one of you can move over one player will need to grab and pull the other to safety. Credit to the developers for playing with these concepts in quite a number of ways, you can see and appreciate the effort to try to keep things fresh through the game’s many standard (and hidden) stages.

It should be noted that you can play the game in single-player mode but even though there have been a number of left/right brain games already on Switch, or ones where you could pull things off solo reasonably well, the combination of actions you’ll need in this don’t make it well-suited to you being successful, at least not for long. Playing with a friend is very obviously the intention and overall far more manageable. That’s not to say the game is easy though, if anything the candy-coated visuals cover many demanding sections that gamers with too little experience may get aggravated by. At a minimum I’d say you either want to have the game played by two moderately-able gamers or one very strong one with an inexperienced one since there’s a degree of planning and precision in many areas where some wisdom will come in handy.Thankfully the game’s plentiful checkpoints will act as a safety net so that you won’t finally clear a challenging section to then additionally need to survive something else before you’re set for good. Additional good news, if you and your partner think of yourselves as more hardcore gamers there’s plenty for you to work with as well! Secret putty swirls hidden on each stage will unlock additional challenges if you find each one in the level, and within those you’ll then be able to unlock time trials so you can test how efficiently you’re able to work as a team while on the clock. The scalability of what’s available in the game, as long as you buy into the core experience, is actually pretty impressive.

Getting to some criticisms aside from the major “area” distinctions levels within the same region are pretty well impossible to discern from one another. While the specifics with the order and types of challenges you’ll face in each stage will vary this creates occasional “Didn’t we play this before?” situations. Another thought, that would be easily patched, would be in the area of making the game as accessible as possible to everyone. While the default buttons for control make reasonable sense the lack of an opportunity to remap them to better suit each individual player is an oversight, especially if you may be trying to play with much younger, or perhaps older, gamers. Finally, while my skill level appreciates how quickly the game gets rolling with more challenging situations, it seems to fly in the face of the theming to a degree as well. While it looks like it is a game very much for kids it probably skews a bit higher than you may assume. While, no doubt, kids can be challenged and work through things (and the checkpoint system helps with this greatly) I could see where they could hit a wall relatively early and that may put them off to continuing. That’s where pairing less experienced gamers with stronger ones may be necessary so their skills can help pull the newbie through. One notable trick in this regard is that even if your partner has fallen into the lava (or killed in some other fashion) if you’re able to get to the next checkpoint you’ll pull them forward. It is things like this that may save the game for the less experienced players but I’m not sure if that wouldn’t eventually make them unhappy nonetheless.

In the end Putty Pals is a refreshingly-clever platforming game that is best played with a friend. Ideally you’ll both have at least some moderate gaming chops, and if you do there’s a wonderful variety of content within that you’ll be able to overcome and enjoy together. If you’re wanting to play with someone less experienced things can still work out but you’ll both have to be patient as they come up to speed and work out their coordination. Solo play is possible but once you get in several levels it would get to be quite aggravating trying to coordinate your various button-presses for both characters by yourself. While it isn’t perfect, Putty Pals is an excellent cooperative-play-focused platformer, and that’s not something you’ll likely see often.

Score: 7.5


  • Platforming fun for a pair of friends or family members
  • Hidden objects will unlock secret levels which can unlock time trials so if you love the concepts there’s plenty of content to enjoy
  • Makes clever use of the relatively modest move
    set with a variety of scenarios and action puzzles


  • Despite its very cute appearance it would be challenging for a pair of less experienced gamers
  • Single-player, while possible, is not viable long-term
  • Level-to-level visual “sameness” in places

Saturday, October 21

Review: Super Ping Pong Trick Shot [ Nintendo Switch eShop ]

There’s something to be said for a game that takes a relatively simple idea and runs with it, and this is a big part of the indie spirit that I appreciate. By offering up a well-executed game driven by a simple idea for a reasonable price no matter how niche the end product may be there can be value for someone. Super Ping Pong Trick Shot is one of those super-simple concepts married perhaps not with the most impressive presentation but that still surprised me a bit in its ability to make the experience compelling, at least for a little while.

One terrific aspect of the game is that its title is so painfully literal. If, to this point, you’ve been unable to tell what the game entails you’ll be trying to throw a ping pong ball, with an angle and given amount of power, so that it lands in a cup. To add the word “trick” into the mix very quickly these shots will begin to place demands on your geometry skills, looking to ricochet the balls off of surfaces at different angles. Finally getting to “super” on top of that the developer threw in warps and surfaces of different types from sticky, to metallic, and more, that will further complicate your shots. So, at least in terms of the base tools for making the game interesting, there’s been some thought put into things.

There are a number of control options available to you including use of the touchscreen and motion controls (but notably excluding the Pro Controller) but I found the relative precision of using the JoyCon to be preferable. You’ll simply need to set your angle of attack, press a button to start your power gauge, and then press again to make the gauge stop. Done. Now you’re left to hope you’ve plotted out your shot well and that you’re in the cup! To make things a bit more interesting aside from your primary objective of getting in the cup each stage has additional objectives to try to either reward your skills or perhaps to just tempt you to make things harder on yourself. Sometimes there’s an additional cup you can shoot for, sometimes it will give you a time limit to beat, and sometimes it will challenge you to make your shot above or below specific angles. Again, I’ll give credit for taking the extra steps to improve the experience as I could just as easily have imagined the game being focused only on that primary shot. While you can play by yourself, just to prove to yourself you’re good at this I suppose, I’d definitely recommend a little healthy competition with a friend going head-to-head to spice things up a bit more. If you’re able to play against someone it really elevates the experience naturally, and that will also typically motivate you both to not just make the shots but to do so in a way that is worthy of rubbing in each others’ faces.

Getting into the not-so-great phase of the review the first thing to be clear about is that though it is hardly an expensive title it is unmistakably basic in terms of its concept and presentation. There’s nothing more to the game than what its title implies, and as long as you keep that firmly in mind, I’ll at least say that it works diligently to make the most of the idea as it can. In terms of appearance I’m not sure what more you could really expect, if nothing else making it visually impressive would never alter the simplicity of the core experience. It has a very basic look and yet for what it has set out to do it works out, though if you said it looks like it could be at home on a mobile phone I wouldn’t disagree with you either. In terms of longevity I’d say you have two main factors to consider. Do you have someone you can play this with that will likely enjoy the experience and whether only alone or with a friend how many hours or play sessions are you hoping to get out of your humble investment? It is what it is, it is relatively inexpensive, you know what you like and what your gaming budget looks like, the choice is up to you.

Overall I’d say I was very pleasantly surprised with Super Ping Pong Trick Shot but it helps that I walked into the experience with no expectations whatsoever. For games of this type I’ll say that it is in the upper echelon for effort expended on a simple idea and that obviously a good deal of care was put into making the most of the niche genre this would represent. While I wouldn’t heartily recommend the game to probably anyone if you’re looking for something a bit different that is inexpensive to occupy a little bit of your time, and it sounds interesting to you, I’d say that there are worse ways to spend your money.

Score: 6

  • Among the Ping Pong Trick Shot games I’ve played on Switch it is undoubtedly the best!
  • A variety of control options, and perhaps with a friend motion controls would make for more fun
  • The bonus star objectives on every stage are a nice value add

  • There’s no getting around that this is a very narrow niche title in the grand scheme of things
  • The graphics are fine but are undoubtedly simple overall
  • In general I would doubt it would get very extended play, it is more of a fine distraction for a night or two, and at its asking price maybe that’s not so bad

Friday, October 20

Review: The Count Lucanor [ Nintendo Switch eShop ]

There’s something to be said for timing when you’re releasing games and The Count Lucanor’s release on Switch in the season of Halloween I would doubt is an accident. People seeking out a few scares or something unexpected will usually impulsively check out reasonably-priced fare that seems creepy and while it has a relatively low-res “12 bit” look to it make no mistake that The Count Lucanor delivers some truly weird and creepy visuals here and there.

You’re just a poor boy named Hans who has decided that he’s fed up with living in poverty and tells his mother that he’s going to set out to find a fortune. After meeting a few people along his way he stumbles into a field of goats being tended to by a shepherd and from just about that point in the game everything goes into weirdsville. Waking up to the darkness and some strange noises he will encounter some pretty insane things before finding his way to a castle he’d never before encountered. At the entrance he meets a strange creature who has quite a proposition: If the boy can figure out the creature’s name he will be generously rewarded.

From there you’ll be on your journey of discovery, trying to solve puzzles to get letters from the creature’s name in the hopes of finding success. This will require talking to some increasingly strange characters, finding items, unlocking rooms, solving a variety of relatively simple but often clever puzzles, and surviving quite a number of harrowing encounters. I’m trying to be vague in the interests of not ruining much, since there isn’t loads of content in the game, but I’ll say some of it is certainly memorable. It’s not exactly a horror game but there’s no getting around the fact that there’s some damned weird and grim stuff here… so probably best not to give to the kiddos to check out.

The good news is that most likely the kids, as well as many adults, would probably be discouraged by the main character’s almost glacial rate of movement. I’m all for establishing pacing in a game but this feels a little more like padding the length at the end of the day. A crucial thing to know before you waste too much time on a death after completing some puzzles, be sure to have some gold coins and plot out when best to save, to do so you’ll need to give one to the crow on the fountain in the courtyard. Death can come quickly and tends to take you by surprise every once in awhile so you may not want to save constantly (gold is useful for other things you’ll need as well) but losing progress and needing to repeat puzzles can be painful given the rate of movement.

At the end of the day The Count Lucanor is a bit of an unexpected gem if you’re in the right mindset and are looking for something different and creepy to play at this time of year. If you want action and excitement you can just keep on looking, the game will frustrate you within the first few minutes. If, however, you like your stories weird, your imagery to include a sense of the macabre, and to have equal moments of “OMG!” and “WTF?” sprinkled into the experience you could have some fun for a little while.

Score: 7.5

  • If you’re in the mood for something very different this fits the bill
  • The puzzles are in the middle of the road generally, not mind-numbingly easy but not aggravatingly difficult either
  • What can I say, this time of year the game is a good fit

  • Character movement is undoubtedly slooooow
  • Once you’ve solved the puzzles and learned the game’s secrets you’ll never likely want or need to play it again
  • If you're not into the retro look you'll want to avoid, obviously