Thursday, May 24

Review: Animal Super Squad [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Of all the genres out there that make me giggle a bit “physics games” are among the most consistently successful. There’s just a certain unpredictability and lack of control that can make them a bit confounding but also tend to make them good fun. Animal Super Squad may not be a complex or high-minded title but it’s also surprisingly engaging, and with community-created levels and an available level editor it has pretty strong potential for staying power in a budget package.

Trying to describe the action can be tricky, as from level to level the nature of the challenge can vary a bit. At the base it’s a sort of action platformer, with you controlling your animal (initially a chicken, but you’ll be able to unlock even more unusual ones to play with as well) with the shoulder buttons, rolling them left to right and jumping. Where things quickly begin to get silly is where the game’s vehicles get involved, with the default being a rocket-powered toilet car if that helps to convey the level of silliness involved. This is where the physics, and both the challenge and fun, gets more involved. With each vehicle in the game there’s a trick to being successful but, in general, you’ll need to control your angle and manage your power level to propel yourself around. The rocket toilet’s controls take some getting used to but with some technique it works nicely. For added silly fun I love the touch that when your vehicle is destroyed you’ll sometimes be able to make use of the parts that fly away, allowing you to do things like jump on the wheels to amp up your animal and provide yet another element of unpredictable fun to what’s possible.

From stage to stage the difficulty can vary a bit but at a high level the normal stages don’t tend to be incredibly difficult, and are something almost anyone should be able to work out with a few failures along the way. To get the most out of the game you’ll want to be on the lookout for special pick-ups that can include new animals, some silly hats, and maps that will unlock special challenge levels. These are where the more diabolical nature of what’s possible in the game engine come forward, and you’ll generally be sorely tested to work out the timing and nuance of technique that are often needed to get through them.

In the “mixed bag” department you have the community levels, with  you being able to go through more popular and curated levels or simply dive in to try to discover hidden gems on your own. Thankfully the game has cross-platform support so you’ll be able to maximize your opportunity to find challenges that will extend the game’s life but keep in mind there are no guarantees and obviously a fair number of junk out there too. If you want to try your hand at setting up something yourself the option is available with a level editor but as a whole while it in functional it also isn’t terribly user-friendly and will likely require a fair amount of experimentation to do anything interesting, though that ties into the nature of the game as well since tuning is so vital to great levels as you’ll discover as you sample ones made by other gamers. It’s possible that scaling on some levels could be an issue in handheld mode, with things getting a bit small, but otherwise it’s good either way.

Overall, if you’re looking for a pretty budget-friendly diversion that doesn’t take itself too seriously and has quirky surprises of fun Animal Super Squad isn’t a bad deal. The core levels present a fairly consistent and enjoyable experience, there are some silly unlockables to be found hidden about, and if you want to amp up the difficulty the hidden challenge levels will make you work hard to succeed. While the inclusion of a level editor and community support are always a plus for some people walk in with the understanding that it won’t have you quickly making good stuff, it’s a bit cumbersome and there’s simply a lot to do in order to tune a level for a crazy game like this. All said it’s fun, different, pretty weird, and reasonably affordable.

Score: 7

  • Very quirky sense of humor
  • Most levels present a fair level of challenge with plentiful checkpoints
  • Hidden unlocks and seriously hard challenge levels

  • Visually it can sale a bit small for handheld mode
  • The level editor is a nice touch but isn’t very intuitive
  • Community-created levels are always hit or miss so their inclusion doesn’t necessarily add much longevity depending on your patience