Tuesday, September 11

Review: Nefarious [Nintendo Switch eShop]

We all know the formula well since it has been ingrained in our heads by popular culture and by games as an extension of it: The good guy always saves the princess. Of course this idea hasn’t aged well over time, but the trope is an easy one to use to explain away basic motivations since it’s pre-understood. In more than one way Nefarious attacks this idea and turns it on its head, putting you in the role of a villain, Crow, who not only captures a princess but has his sights set on 5 of them which he’ll use to power his Doom Howitzer, enabling him to take over the world.

Probably the most notable aspect of the game is its sense of humor and the fact that its characters defy expectations by asking critical questions. What would happen if the heroes got bored of endless saving the princess? What is the kidnapped life like and what does the nature of the relationship look like between the captive and captor? Do all princesses need saving in the first place? These questions and others are explored with a great sense of humor, as well as some heart, throughout the game and through its conclusion there are some surprises to go along with them.

In terms of the action for the most part it’s standard platforming fare with you using your upgradable punch and gun arms to deal with your enemies while carefully working your jumping skills. The main event most definitely is the game’s boss battles though, where you’ll essentially get to replay some classic throwdowns from the opposite side. This means you’ll get to do things like use a wrecking ball or a giant robot to subdue the heroes who are trying to stop you, really making Nefarious a unique kind of experience and full of pleasant surprises.

Though they each have their uses not all power-ups are made equally and you’ll need to cater which you use to your goals at times. For instance, grenade jumping is highly useful for getting collectibles but aren’t as effective at dealing with enemies as your weapons that lack that ability. This may mean you’ll want or need to revisit stages you’ve completed, but grinding it out will give you more currency to upgrade your health and number of projectiles you can fire so that’s likely in your best interests anyway. Mechanically the controls mostly feel good but there are times when they can frustrate, no doubt to a degree tied to the many different situations you’ll find yourself in. Thankfully the checkpoint system tends to be pretty reasonable so that can help diminish the pain, but especially down the stretch you’ll need to grit through some challenging stages and battles in order to… win?

Filled with humor, abundant references to popular franchises, and solid fun Nefarious is a breath of fresh air. Crow’s surface villany is backed by a fair degree of heart and his interactions with the world’s heroes and the princesses he abducts tend to be entertaining for how they play with and subvert expectations. Topping that off with some epic boss fights you’ll generally experience from the other side it simultaneously thumbs its nose at and shows great appreciation for classics we’ve come to know and love. If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to take the reigns and help the bad guy win for once it’s a fun ride full of surprises.

Score: 8

  • Both celebrates and skewers classic franchises
  • Playing out boss fights from the other side is a thrill
  • Clever dialogue and character interactions

  • Much of the platforming itself feels a bit generic, though in some places it offers nice variations
  • Especially down the stretch it gets pretty difficult
  • Not all control schemes are easy to adapt to and find success with