Thursday, October 18

Review: Zarvot [Nintendo Switch eShop]

One of the best parts of getting to see and try out so many indie titles is that they tend to be full of surprises. The first glimpses of Zarvot came from one of the Nindie Directs, though at the time all I could appreciate was that it involved 3D geometric characters and had a great sense of visual style. Having enjoyed other titles that had what I thought were similarities I had high hopes it would be fun, but the final product has turned out to be so much more than I expected. With a bizarre and even challenging Story mode that absolutely makes it stand above almost any title you’d try to compare it to, Zarvot combines some arcade shooting with a strange adventure and infuses it all with some quirky charm as well.

In the Story mode you’ll play as a cube named Charcoal, who decides with his friend Mustard to get a special gift for their friend Red. While narratively the events revolving around finding, losing, and then reassembling the gift aren’t too complex the enjoyment is all in the journey and the bizarre things that happen along the way. You’ll move through some very pretty areas that almost have a close-up photorealistic quality to them while having to help or fight other geometrically-shaped characters as well as a strange menagerie of real-world items. While it’s all pretty silly make no mistake, the boss fights in particular will take some frantic movement to keep out of trouble and then line up shots to destroy everything.

As a shooter this can be a tricky affair as you’ll aim in the direction you’re moving, so trying to leave yourself enough room to turn, fire, and then run away again is a pretty constant struggle. Thankfully since you rock both a dash and a double-jump you are pretty nimble, and if you’ve got time holding down the fire button to charge up a laser blast is also a great option. Later on a chomp move comes in handy, though pressing the 4 face buttons to activate it is a tad awkward. As you go you’ll periodically find objects that will unlock maps in both the Arcade (for you to run up scores solo) and Versus modes (where you can play against up to 3 friends.

While Arcade mode can be challenging fun the lack of online leaderboards robs you of the motivation to continue trying to get better aside from besting yourself. Versus offers up a handful of different modes to compete with friends over, though for the most part it’s fine it also struggles to truly differentiate itself from other titles in this space on the console. It needs to be noted that with all of its detailed environments and bits of atmosphere there are definite hiccups in performance on a regular basis. For the most part you can deal with these pretty well but they can sometimes be aggravating as they can interrupt the action a bit. Also, every once in a while there’ll be an area with more narrow elements that you’ll need to move over and the slightly floaty directional controls make these a bit painful.

All said, Zarvot’s Story mode is absolutely one of the most surprising and unusual experiences I’ve had on the system. Whether you’re fighting a banana or a carton of milk, rolling on a skateboard, or trying to convince a ladybug to open her coffee shop everything has both an element of humor and heart that help make it memorable. While the same can’t quite be said for the solid Arcade and Vesus modes they certainly further flesh out the package and add to the replayability of the title past the handful of hours it will likely take to complete the Story mode. If you’re searching for a title that’s just got a style and feel all its own, Zarvot stands out as memorable.

Score: 8

  • The game’s Story Mode is weird, silly, and oozes with both charm and challenges
  • Your repertoire of moves, though not too extensive, are effective but make you work for your wins as things progress
  • Arcade mode and Versus modes provide added longevity

  • There’s no denying that slowdown happens periodically and quite noticeably
  • A few areas that require precision movement can be frustrating due to your somewhat floaty character movement
  • A lack of online leaderboard support makes repeatedly hitting the Arcade mode less exciting than when you can try to best other people