Tuesday, September 17

Mini Reviews: September 17th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Ritual: Sorcerer Angel - Filling in a somewhat unique and unusual space between casual and classic arcade style action we have Ritual, a game that feels like it would be well-suited to a twin-stick shooter but plays with less intensity. You’ll work your way through waves of enemies, looking out for power-ups and always being careful to not bite off more than you can chew. When there are enemies around with a higher level than you a single hit from them will result in death but with wily play you’ll be able to use your spells and power-ups to wear them down so they can be dispatched like anything else. There’s progression of a sort as you’ll become more effective but there’s no variation or choice in it, you’ll just continue to incrementally get more powerful at the base. Overall, it’s quite accessible and should be enjoyable to just about anyone and with so many more intense experiences on the platform it offers a more subdued but satisfying experience.

The Sinking City - There has been a real run of Lovecraftian horror titles coming to the Switch of late, no doubt making horror fans quite happy, and among them The Sinking City is the one doing it’s best to swing for the production values fences. Though there’s no doubt the game isn’t as impressive on the Switch as on other platforms for the most part it looks good, and certainly creepy, and performs well. Whether the story stands out against the competition will be a matter of taste but the environments, characters, and imagery certainly do a fair amount to establish a grim mood. Unfortunately elements like the combat and the somewhat iffy controls can drag down the enjoyment with frustration there’s a fair amount here to dig into for fans of the Cthulu and its ilk.

Golazo - The lack of raw numbers, let alone variety, in the sports game genre has no doubt been a letdown. If you’re a fan of soccer (or football, depending on where you hail from) but haven’t been willing to shell out the bucks for the likes of FIFA you now at least have another option, albeit a more stripped down one. Playing a bit more like classic sports titles with relative simplicity, and sometimes aggravatingly dense teammate AI, Golazo may not pull of a hat trick but it does a fair job at being accessible and fun. There’s no doubt it is more fun to play with others in local multiplayer, but if you’ve been starved for some footie fun it’s not a bad investment.

Deadly Premonition Origins - Never having played this series, but having heard stories, I wasn’t ready for the WTF factor to this game. With creepy characters, some of which I can’t tell are that way intentionally or just due to some strange characterization and model choices, this is a game where you’ll be scratching your head a bit over what in the world is going on. The good news is that if you’re looking for a creep factor, shooting zombies, and are fond of games from around the PS1/PS2 era inspired by the Resident Evil series you may find this to your liking. If, however, you’re looking for modern excitement, action, and play mechanics, you may be better off waiting on the new iteration of the series that has been confirmed to be coming to Switch later.

Newt One - While the Switch certainly has some noteworthy family-friendly titles that isn’t to say they’re available in great abundance. Particularly at less experienced side of the equation there simply aren’t a lot of kid-appropriate titles. Newt One, though a bit bland from a seasoned gamer perspective, keeps things pretty simple and accessible, playing as a very colorful and forgiving platformer. Your goal in each level is to be sure to bring color to everything, slowly moving and jumping along, sometimes making use of pretty basic power-ups to help you complete your missions. There’s a collect-a-thon element to it, just making you focus on being sure to hit everything as you go and be thorough, without a lot of pressure or challenge. While it won’t be a hit with experienced gamers its colorful and carefree nature should appeal to people who have just begun their gaming journey or who perhaps find most mainstream offerings too stressful.

Sunday, September 15

Mini Reviews: September 15th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Star Wars Pinball [Nindie Choice!] - If you’re either a massive Star Wars or pinball fan you can stop reading the review now and just buy this… rest assured, they’ve got you covered. Falling into the category of maximum, bordering on preposterous, effort, Star Wars Pinball isn’t just a few random tables. It’s an outright collection right out of the gate and represents an amazing value with 19 tables spanning the movies (including the more recent one-shots, for better or worse), TV shows (though, sadly, no Holiday Special), and even popular characters. Rather than phoning it in with relatively generic table layouts and throwing in sound bites to accentuate the action the folks behind the game have made a real investment in trying to imbue each table with unique character, many of them taking full advantage of the virtual nature of the game to concoct tables that wouldn’t be practical (or even possible) in a physical form. That does likely mean that not everyone will love every table but at the same time I applaud the effort and it really does make the depth of the total package remarkable. Throw in a Career mode that tries to include some elements of variety with objectives and challenges to complete and this is a great example of a game package swinging for the fences to deliver the full value of its price of admission.

Blasphemous [Nindie Choice!] - From first glance during a Direct there was no question that Blasphemous, visually, was something pretty special. With a dark and gothic tone all its own, this is certainly a stand-out in the Switch library. What may be divisive for the average gamer will be the degree of difficulty that comes along for the ride. Owing much to the likes of Castlevania in its overall style and feel, with you slashing your way through enemies, finding power-ups and secrets all about in a non-linear way, the old school sensibilities of those original games is also in full effect here. This is an unforgivingly tough game, one that will prompt controllers leaving peoples’ hands, whether being put down or even thrown. If that sounds like your jam I’d say the experience is pretty easy to recommend, though perhaps it doesn’t do a great deal to stand out from its inspirations in terms of innovative gameplay. If you’re not a seasoned gamer and aren’t looking for a title to kick you down and coldly tell you to “git gud” repeatedly you’ll likely be better off taking on something a bit less ambitious though.

Hyperforma [Nindie Choice!] - Part of what makes me a huge fan of indie titles is walking into new experiences that take me by surprise. Hyperforma easily catches your attention with some strong visuals, a great soundtrack, and gameplay that feels unusual and fresh. Combining puzzle sensibilities with a fair amount of classic Breakout, here your goal is to chip away at a 3 dimensional structure to expose and then attack the puzzle’s core. Effectively rotating each figure in 3D space takes a little getting used to, trying to keep your orb(s) working efficiently to get through the outer layer defenses while also trying to avoid blocks that will do you harm. As you progress you’ll gain some power-ups that you’ll want to put to smart use to help you work more quickly, and on a general level things remain pretty fresh throughout. Where the problems do creep in is that no matter how cool things happen to look, and though you do end up working your way through by trial and error, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I spent a fair amount of time not quite sure what I was supposed to be doing or how I was being evaluated as I completed each stage. Still, for a pretty reasonably low asking price there’s something different and exciting to it, and as a puzzle fan who usually feels like he has seen it all that makes it worth a look if you’re in the mood for a unique experience.

Inferno 2 - As a huge fan of arcade-style twin-stick shooters any game raising its hand as being part of that genre immediately has my attention. Inferno 2 is a budget-friendly entry with a solid and clean visual style, plenty of options for how you want to manage your power-ups, and some challenging play. All that said, with so many options for this type of game on the eShop I’d say comparatively it lacks the personality to truly set itself apart from the pack and jump into an immediately recommendation. It’s satisfying and challenging, yes, and its price makes it a very easy impulse buy, just don’t expect anything more than a rock solid implementation of the genre. If you’ve been spoiled by the multitude of titles already on Switch that go the extra mile though it may seem lacking.

Himno - Falling into the category of “Uhm, I’m not quite sure what’s going on here” we have Himno, a title that seems to be trying to go for a randomly-generated platformer vibe, but that ends up just being kind of flat and uninteresting in the process. You’ll use your modest moves to explore and progress from stage to stage, navigating spaces that may be created on the fly but that as a result tend to lack in personality or interest. While it may be budget-friendly it never managed to impress me as an experience I could get hooked on, especially when there’s so much out there that feels more polished, cohesive, and compelling, even on a budget.

Tuesday, September 10

Mini Reviews: September 10th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

FAR: Lone Sails [Nindie Choice!] - This is one of those titles where I walked into the experience not really knowing much about it, being surprised by it being something quite different, and coming away very impressed. There’s little context to understand the situation involving the world you’re trying to survive in and little direction given, your continuous focus is just on powering up your cobbled together craft to get it moving, keep it working, and figuring out how to get it past the obstacles you’ll face. Somewhat quiet, the bleak world you’re working within makes the experience somewhat meditative as you move from one station to another keeping everything working. It won’t be for everyone but it’s just a different kind of game that I really appreciate.

Headliner: Novi News - Being put in charge of choosing the headlines that will run for a big city’s major source of news must be a weighty responsibility. Trying to balance the needs of a for-profit business, city hall, the regular people on the streets, and also hold onto some sense of integrity turns out to be a bit of a challenge. This is an unusual game that plays a bit differently from anything I’ve encountered before and I like how quickly it was able to get me connected to a variety of people with different outlooks and relationships to your character, and how that quickly made deciding which stories or spins on events to go with… to then see the consequences of those decisions. Inevitably it deals with many current political issues and different perspectives on them so it may at times challenge you to think through or moderate your own positions and biases as you come to understand the unintended consequences they may carry.

Fifty Words - This is one of those titles that is obviously laser focused on a specific demographic that’s looking for a casual game to relax with but I don’t have a problem with that. A variation on a word search, Fifty Words will have you looking for that number of words all related to a specific topic but that are interconnected a bit randomly and there are no extra letters. Depending on the strength of your vocabulary this can make it all a bit easy at times but if you’re lacking a full appreciation of at least 50 varieties of vegetables or other categories of items it’ll inevitably make it a bit tougher.

Boreal Blade - This is one of those titles where I’d imagine there’ll be little middle ground, you’ll either find it tedious and aggravating or full of ripe challenges to discover technique and nuance as you try to wipe up the floor with your opponents in melee combat. Feeling similar but distinct from a title like For Honor this game is all about smart swordplay and developing a mastery of how to block, parry, and slice up your opponents. Even more interesting is the fact that it is meant to be a multiplayer arena game featuring more than just one-on-one matches, and with a variety of layouts across its 10+ areas there’s plenty to think through in terms of strategy and approach. Aside from the steep learning curve to get to the point where you’ll feel confident you can do more damage than you’ll take the other piece of the puzzle in this title’s success will be the availability and sustained interest of its community. At launch there are often people to play with but depending on the time of day and your luck it can be hit or miss. Unfortunately the connection reliability and quality can be the same, hopefully these kinks can get resolved quickly in order to keep people interested before new titles begin eating into the player base. The best news is that if the game interests you be sure to go pick up the demo on the eShop to try it out for yourself before you need to buy it.

Gun Gun Pixies - Here we go with another entry in the darker corner of the Switch library where you can find all kinds of “unusual fare”. In this case you’ll play the part of two miniature warriors from another planet who are trying to gain an understanding of Earthlings in order to save their planet. This means you’ll need to explore their oversized rooms, shoot them with your “happy bullets” to get them to reveal clues or revelations that will help you complete your mission, and then have some interesting conversations between the straight-laced Kame-pon and the girl-crazy (and a bit dirty-minded) Bee-Tan. Overall the game doesn’t offer all that much variety, and the aiming and movement are very touchy to say the least, but to its credit there is actual gameplay amidst the shooting at crotches, “endorphin” responses, and an occasional bubble bath. It’s all pretty silly, does a great deal of teasing without revealing too much, and contains inappropriate comments of various kinds aplenty… which will no doubt please its target audience.

Thursday, September 5

Mini Reviews: September 5th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

River City Girls [Nindie Choice!] - While the beat-em-up genre was absolutely a staple of both the arcades and the early console days more recently titles have been few and far between. The great news is that if you’ve been aching for a new excuse to dust off your brawler skills and smack some bad guys around River City Girls is easily among the best offerings available on the Switch. In general reminding me of the excellent Scott Pilgrim beat-em-up from a number of years ago there’s a quality to the presentation, action, and obvious love for the genre here that’s unmistakable and it’s a blast to play solo or with a friend. Of course if you’re someone who’ll simply settle into what combos work and fail to make full use of your attacks the that continue to unlock as you progress it will probably feel repetitive but that’s simply the nature of the beast and it won’t have been for the game’s lack of trying to give you new moves to work with as you level up.

Creature in the Well [Nindie Choice!] - With Creature in the Well there’s just so much to like and appreciate. The art style is distinct and interesting, the mix of slashing and pinball elements are unique and make for fascinating puzzles and action, and there’s no doubt that I’ve never played any game like it. Once you get a fair distance into the game and begin facing more situations that center around timers though there’s no denying that it’s probably tuned a little too far towards being challenging for the average gamer. The frustration in some of these circumstances actually would often make me feel like there’s some technique or trick to things that I missed at some point, and that I’ve made it harder than it is meant to be. However, even with a fair amount of experimenting I’ve not found a way to do better than what feels like a mix of the planets aligning and outright luck to just barely satisfy a specific module with enough power before its timer goes to zero. This leaves me a bit torn on a recommendation as I absolutely think this is a game worth playing, but whether it would be toned down a bit in general or have a more lenient difficulty setting added I do think it’s in need of some tuning to be more accessible to a broad audience.

Bulletstorm: Duke of Switch Edition [Nindie Choice!] - Oh Bulletstorm, you were a title that I don’t think ever got quite a fair shake back when it was released. Built on moving from one over-the-top set piece of action to another, with plenty of opportunities to creatively dispatch enemies in between, there’s a gleefulness to the game’s violence you’ll either love or hate. Throwing Duke Nukem into the mix turns out to make the game even more over-the-top-er-er, weirdly having him take the place of the game’s main character but deliberately not changing any of the interactions or dialogue with the other characters as far as I can tell. So aside from Duke’s classic bravado (which fits into this game like a glove) there are some funny interactions from his being spliced into a pre-existing game and feeling disoriented. What then seals the deal is that the game’s intense action plays out very capably on the Switch, looking great and feeling surprisingly smooth. Even in handheld mode it manages to keep up well enough to be respectable, not something every port of this scope can pull off. If you enjoyed the game back in the day or simply have a penchant for loads of ridiculous shooting action this is a blast.

Root Letter: Last Answer - As someone who isn’t terribly familiar with visual novels, and can find them a bit too plodding with not enough to do, Root Letter is a bit of a surprise. Offering up just enough interaction that works much like a classic point-and-click adventure, smart dialogue, some strange characters, and an intriguing mystery, it’s helpful in showing what the genre is capable of in the right hands. I also appreciate the option, since this is a remastered title, to explore the game in its original anime form or with its new photo-realistic look, each very distinct from one another and impressive in their own right. If you’re either a long-time fan of the genre and have never indulged in this story or are curious about what it has to offer among the titles of its kind on Switch I’d say this is the one that has managed to make the strongest impression.

Damsel - When you envision what a game that involves killing vampires and saving innocent humans would play out like you’re probably figuring on something high on intensity and action. In the case of Damsel you’d be mostly wrong. Playing out as a speedrunning puzzle action shooter platformer of sorts it offers up a mixed bag of elements that can be engaging but also don’t quite scratch a clear itch either in the end. I’ll give it credit for not being as lacking in variety as a fair number of its competitors, but even with varying objectives and elements to concern yourself with it’s all a bit vanilla, only really kicking in a challenge if you’re determined to get your name on the leaderboards perhaps by being quick or maximizing your combos through technique.

Tuesday, September 3

Mini Reviews: September 3rd Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

FUZE4 [Nindie Choice!] - Have you ever wondered how games are developed and what it takes behind the scenes mechanically to make it happen? Have an interest in learning how to code with the motivation being to make your first game? If so, this will be of interest to you. Sporting a library of assets, tutorials walking you from baby steps to more advanced concepts, a variety of examples that you can tinker with to see how things are done, and full keyboard support (thank god), FUZE4 is a lot to take in. There’s a great deal of opportunity at your fingertips if you’re willing to invest the time and effort, and unlike books or online courses that have you learn in a vacuum the advantage here is the ability to more immediately appreciate the fruits of your labor.

Hookbots - When it comes to multiplayer games that are fast and can make for intense competition the Switch has quite a line-up. Among its contemporaries while Hookbots may not be a guaranteed hit, it at least has some unique mechanics that help it stand apart. Each of available bot types have their own distinguishing special moves but control consistently. The stages don’t have incredible variety but verticality and some traps can make them can at least make them a bit challenging and unpredictable when the intensity heats up. A campaign and various challenges for you to attack on your own also help flesh things out for you to hone your skills when waiting for your next party match-up.

Legend of the Skyfish - Ports from the mobile space can very much be a mixed bag on the Switch but it’s always nice to run into ones that offer up some novel play and mechanically work well. Skyfish may not be terribly challenging or long, but its pretty unique style of action puzzling is at least generally quite satisfying. You’ll make smart use of your fishing ability to move yourself from island to island and pull objects around while trying to avoid traps and set yourself up for success. A nice change of pace for a budget price.

Vambrace: Cold Soul - Certainly one of the most visually-attractive games I ran into at PAX East, Vambrace: Cold Soul made strong impressions with its looks, style, and obvious difficulty. With some Darkest Dungeon-style challenging turn-based combat that will take a fair amount of trial and error to come to terms with, this won’t be an adventure for people lacking in grit and determination. Your reward for sticking with it is a reasonably interesting story with a few meaningful choices to be made and combat that can be engaging once you get past it being simply frustrating. I would recommend looking for a guide to help you make sense of what’s going on in combat though since the in-game help and instruction aren’t quite as useful as they probably should be for less hardy souls.

AER: Memories of Old - Mixing a unique art style, tranquil moments you’ll spend in flight, and some middling puzzle platforming, AER has some elements that work better than others. A general lack of clear direction may frustrate some, though there’s also an old school mentality to it asking you to experiment and discover that I appreciated. The fact that it’s over with a bit too soon diminishes its luster, but there’s no denying that when you take to the air and explore the world it feels pretty good, making it worth checking out if you’re in search of something relaxing and are content with it being somewhat bite-sized.

Monday, September 2

Mini Reviews: September 2nd Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Heave Ho [Nindie Choice!] - While having played so many indie games on the Switch is interesting and exposes you to all sorts of takes on multiple genres one admitted downside is that it can also make you a bit jaded. When it comes to my family, who are often asked to partake in helping me evaluate multiplayer games, I’d say the rate of that happening is far more accelerated. Conceptually Heave Ho may be simple, working solo or with up to 3 friends to simply grab and swing your way from the start to the finish line without falling, hitting spikes, or meeting your splattery demise in some other way. However, there’s a certain charm to it that pretty well immediately made everyone laugh and have a good time. Even after repeatedly getting frustrated in certain spots, especially when trying to keep from dropping costume-unlocking coins that can up the challenge significantly at times, the fun cut through the difficulties for everyone. Solo does work, and is great for honing your skills, but the game is absolutely meant to be played with friends, the more the better. Overall, this may be the best and most accessible multiplayer co-op game on the system.

Agent A: A Puzzle in Disguise [Nindie Choice!] - Puzzle fans have both a blessing and a curse when it comes to the Switch. Let’s just say that there’s an abundance of riches on the system, but then the problem when contemplating a purchase is deciding which in the sea of titles is the one worth picking up. Agent A has a pretty cool spy-based theme and art style but so do some other choices out there, but what sets it apart are smart, diverse, and engaging puzzles. While not quite the same, the closest example I can think of in terms of style would be The Room series. You’ll need to poke around and experiment a bit and the reward is something hidden which you then will need to work out. While nothing here is quite as elaborate as that series I love the fact that it doesn’t restrict itself to specific styles, it just keeps challenging you with new and unexpected challenges, aside from having a great sense of humor and a pleasing art style.

Plunge [Nindie Choice!] - While there’s no doubt that many may be drawn in by the unusual art style of Plunge, what should make you linger is its unique gameplay… working as roguelike dungeon puzzler of sorts. You’ll be dropped into a level with the goal of first unlocking and then reaching the exit. To get there you’ll need to work through enemies, traps, and puzzles, needing to be careful not to get yourself cornered and using some strategy to maneuver around the stage. There are situations where the isometric view doesn’t work quite so well, particularly when there gets to be quite a lot of enemies roaming about, but the quirks, engaging boss battles, and bits of variety that make each playthrough a little different help distinguish this unusual title.

Whipseey and the Lost Atlas - Undoubtedly inspired visually by the colorful and cute Kirby series, and with some simple but enjoyable core mechanics, Whipseey has some charm but doesn’t really meet its potential. Possibly its biggest issue is simply its length, which feels truncated even amongst its indie peers, but outside of the terrific visuals there’s also a sort of blandness to it all. Perhaps this is where the Kirby comparison hurts the most, you won’t be taking on new or interesting abilities, you’ll just be working the whip and core moves you start with. With some more content and variety it could have made an impact but it just feels a bit incomplete overall.

ESport Manager - In the realm of management sims you can expect there to be quite a lot going on, with layers of information to digest and diverse options for how to proceed. In the case of ESport Manager I’ll give credit for there being a ton to take into consideration, with plenty of ways to tweak your team, take some part in helping them succeed in their training and competitions, and more. The problem is that there’s just this onslaught of information and systems to work with early on and while you can limp along it’s hard to get a solid grasp of what you’re doing right or wrong. For folks who are willing to invest the time and work through the nuance this may end up being rewarding, but at least for the time I spent with it there just wasn’t enough flair or personality to justify the investment and keep me engaged in that process when there are other titles out there that do it better.

Thursday, August 29

Mini Reviews: August 29th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Grand Brix Shooter [Nindie Choice!] - While I’m a big fan of arcade-style shooters of all types I’ll admit that generating excitement for them is getting tougher on Switch as there have gotten to be so many of them. Thankfully their styles tend to be a bit varied, and many have something smart and distinct to offer to help them stand apart. That’s very much the case for Grand Brix Shooter, a title that I initially just thought was good but then as I played it more began to truly appreciate. I love the very different classes of ships that you’ll unlock and that are made available unpredictably in missions, I’m consistently challenged by some of the tricky bosses, and I think the need to regularly switch to a new ship (losing your built up experience and added power) in order to get back to full health and improve your chances of surviving is brilliant. The weirdo story you get that generally feels completely disconnected? A mystery, but there’s no denying the shooting is great!

Chiki-Chiki Boxy Pro Wrestling [Nindie Choice!] - While I haven’t played a wrestling game in years, back in the day it was fun to throw down with some buddies for some arcade-style mat action. Boxy Pro Wrestling is a pretty big love letter to those days and that style of play, keeping things pretty simple but still offering up variety and a fun wrestler customization mode. The core button presses may be the same for every wrestler but what you execute can vary quite a bit. As you get further through the circuits you’ll unlock not only new core wrestlers to play with but also currency, aesthetic elements, and moves that will allow you to create a wrestler to work with that not only suits your sense of flair but your fighting style as well. While it isn’t terribly deep and may not be as much fun to play solo, if you’ve got some friends to play with locally or matchmaking remains viable for online play, this can be a pretty fun time for a reasonable price.

Omen Exitio: Plague - Right out of the gate the fact that this is pretty well purely a text-based game is likely to throw some people off. Playing out like a semi-interactive Choose Your Own Adventure at the start of your journey things will seem pretty mild and straightforward, and your choices won’t carry obvious consequences. As you get deeper into the story you’ll find that the people you’ve helped, the skills you’ve developed, and the decisions you’ve made can have serious repercussions though, something that makes this an interesting game to play through more than once if it suits you. Be ready for things to get grim, dark, and to be beset by challenges from multiple sides from monsters that take many forms.

Mekabolt - Since budget puzzle platforming titles have gotten to be a bit of a dime a dozen it’s hard to generate a lot of enthusiasm for games the likes of Mekabolt. It isn’t particularly bad by any means, and there’s a certain challenge and charm to it if you like the art and play styles, but for the most part it just is.

Invasion of Alien X: Earth in Crisis - I’m always down for something a little weird with arcade sensibilities so from that angle Invasion isn’t bad, but it also doesn’t take long for the repetition and mild indifference to set in. You’ll be working to shoot enemies and try to thwart the alien ship that looks like a gumball dispenser from overwhelming or zapping your base. Unfortunately play simply isn’t all that varied so to get something out of this you’ll really need to love the base shooting and weird enemies. Otherwise, this one is pretty miss-able.

Monday, August 26

Mini Reviews: August 26th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter [Nindie Choice!] - When a game starts up showing a warning that establishes it isn’t meant to hold your hand I’ll admit my “Ruh Roh Raggy” meter tends to go off the charts. There’s something to be said for discovering a game in your own way and time and if you don’t mind the frustrations that can come with that Vanishing is an unusual, unnerving, and unconventional adventure. Be ready to explore, adapt, and challenge yourself with the reward being what feels like random breadcrumbs that help to slowly begin to paint a picture of what has happened and who is involved. If you give it some patience and your full attention it can be rewarding, just be warned you may be tempted to hit some guides to figure out what you’re doing wrong as you can be prone to getting stuck.

Milkmaid of the Milky Way [Nindie Choice!] - When it comes to adventure games, the Switch is very well (and possibly too well) represented. The good news tied to that is the fact that there are a great number of options and styles to choose from for genre fans. As many as I’ve played on the system I’m pleased to say that Milkmaid of the Milky Way simply feels a bit different. It has come over from a mobile space so it is relatively straightforward with a point and click interface and not a lot of clutter. Puzzles are creative without too often being convoluted and confusing, seeming to hit a sweet spot where you’ll need to make some leaps of faith but may not feel like you absolutely have to consult a guide periodically to avoid screaming. Throw in a budget-friendly price and the few hours this will take you makes for a satisfying bite of quirk and charm.

Gurgamoth - Quick and intense multiplayer experiences can be fun in bursts, and since typically the genre of choice for these titles on Switch usually involves shooting Gurgamoth at least sets itself apart by doing something different. Thrown into an arena that has traps and certain death all around you along the walls, as well as random power-ups, you and your friends (or AI bots) will need to use your limited abilities of thrusting, dodging, and stunning to survive while trying to kill everyone else. The action tends to be pretty quick and crazy but also can be muddled as everyone is trying to nail the timing in striking not only first but with the right angle and timing to be sure to bump enemies into traps. Subtlety and strategy tend to fly out the window pretty quickly but I can see where this could be fun with the right crowd that isn’t looking for nuance.

Edna & Harvey: Harvey’s New Eyes - Contrasting pretty heavily with the likes of Milkmaid of the Milky Way from earlier in the list we have this entry in the Edna & Harvey series. To its credit the characters and animation style have a fair amount of quirk that help distinguish the game. Perhaps a bit more unfortunate is that I found the puzzles even out of the gate to be a bit too complex for their own good, sometimes requiring going down the dialogue tree to get something to progress and other times simply giving you next to no prompts at all of any kind to give you a clue. If you don’t mind the potential need to hit some guides to get you through there’s fun to be had here and an interesting story that allows you to watch your character grow a bit, just be sure you know what to expect.

Mr. Blaster - Well before there was even the now-infamous Worms series there was a great title that my friends and I played on PC called Scorched Earth (or some people just would call it Scorch). Working against an enemy in a somewhat randomly drawn landscape you’d hurl bombs and even more outlandish weapons at each other using your chosen angle and power in the hopes of wiping them out before they got you. Mr Blaster is sort of a bare bones or perhaps stripped for parts version of this experience, replacing random landscapes with planets that move up and down and a fair amount of variety with only a minimal amount of variation as you aim weapons that may look different aesthetically but that only behave differently in minor ways at each other. The result is unfortunately a pretty bland overall experience that simply offers too little variety to be compelling for long.

Friday, August 23

Mini Reviews: August 23rd Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Hotline Miami Collection [Nindie Choice!] - Shadow dropped as a surprise just this week Hotline Miami was one of those indie darling titles that had shocked me continuing to be a hold out more than 2 years after the system’s launch. To help soften the blow, and in what I think is a nod to practicality, both the original and its sequel have been released together in this collection. This helps with the fact that neither game is terribly long and, in general, the sequel isn’t quite as beloved as its predecessor. These titles are all about execution, thinking and reacting quickly, and often a fair amount of luck. Both are brutal in their violence, but there’s something quite satisfying when you manage to string together a series of kills and leave a bloody mess in your wake. If you’re hoping for more, the story here is on the thin (and weird) side, but there’s no denying that when it comes to intensity and carnage there’s nothing quite like it.

Wolfenstein : Youngblood - Bethesda has continued its streak of bringing games with ambitious scope to the handheld-capable Switch, but of their offerings on the system Youngblood feels the least satisfying overall. Granted, the co-op mechanics (if you’re able to find someone decent and reliable enough to play with) and the budget price help to keep this still being a great overall deal, just for some reason the characters and story here felt a little more “going through the motions” than New Colossus or the likes of Skyrim. Still, if you don’t mind watching textures morph and some visual funkiness that manages to generally keep the frame rates nimble the majority of the time, and like the thrill of dispatching Nazis in a variety of creative ways, it does manage to deliver the thrills.

Friday the 13th: The Game - Though I’ve always been a fan of the concept of asymmetric multiplayer games (a game where you’re not playing with evenly-balanced sides, one side will be more powerful but less numerous) there’s no denying they aren’t for everyone. What really works with pairing this concept with the classic horror series is that it makes pretty well perfect sense that the unstoppable force that is Jason Voorhees is able to match up well with a bevvy of camp counselors and have it make for a fair fight. As Jason you’ll need to wisely use your capabilities (each with their own cooldown) to locate, track down, and dispatch your prey, often in quite a satisfyingly bloody way. As a counselor you’ll certainly want to avoid detection and hide when appropriate but your real goal will be to complete tasks like repair a car to help you drive away or call the police in order to not just live in the immediate future but survive the ordeal as well. As always, online play can and will be a crapshoot depending on when you’re trying to play and in terms of who you may get paired with. If you consider the unpredictability of it all to just be part of the fun though, and can overlook some comically weird and quirky animations at times, there’s fun to be had here if you put in the time to understand its overall mechanics well.

Never Give Up - Ever since Super Meat Boy hit the indie scene developers have been scrambling to recapture the addicting and aggravating qualities that can make almost constant failure and punishment engaging. Never Give Up is very much in that general mold, making you use your somewhat limited platforming abilities to nimble jump over, around, and through tons of very nasty traps that will leave your body a bloody mess. Thankfully your lives are unlimited and there’s next to no delay from the time you bite it yet again to being thrown right back into the meat grinder. What stands out for this title is its smart and progressive layering of difficulty. You’ll always start with a relatively simple and light area that you can likely get through without a scratch. However, each time you reach your goal the game will then present you with a tougher and more elaborate version of that same general room, forcing you to take on more and more to reach the goal. Muscle memory is a big part of the experience, and for the most part it all plays fine, just I’ll admit there are times when the controls didn’t quite feel as responsive as I would have liked given the stakes and quick deaths in the game.

Sega Ages: Space Harrier - When it comes to retro games essentially being ported over to the Switch they’re always a bit of a take it or leave it proposition. Some will make attempts to add some value but in the case of Space Harrier this is a pretty no-frills package relying primarily on people’s affinity for this very unusual and, I think, great arcade shooter. There is an added mode that feels like it loads up a small Pikachu on either side of you but unfortunately they really do very little to almost nothing aside from add protection in limited circumstances, hardly changing things up in any way. If you’re a fan of the arcade classic or want to broaden your retro shooter horizons this isn’t a bad pick-up but it’s likely only going to be something of interest to enthusiasts.

Friday, August 16

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

Exception [Nindie Choice!] - As a massive fan who has always loved the movie TRON you know that a game set inside a computer where you play a warrior of sorts who must overcome enemies and obstacles to succeed will get my attention. While the action platforming of Exception may not quite get to the heights of coolness of that classic movie franchise it still manages to throw a unique look and feel, as well as some smart stage designs into the mix. Stages play pretty quickly (assuming you survive) and with each pivot and transformation they throw things at you a little differently. Granted, your movement at times can feel a little sluggish and perhaps there’s simply not an amazing degree of variety in enemies and situations but regardless this title has a fresh feel, looks spectacular, and generally keeps you coming back for more action.

PC Building Simulator - This may be about as niche a title as I’ve played on the Switch, and yet as someone who has assembled my own PC from scratch more than a few times, I’m happy to say that PC Building Simulator absolutely delivers the authentic goods. If you’re a build enthusiast or would like to get a taste of what being one entails, this game will not only walk you through the minutia and meticulous process of placing each component, it will also have you working with real top-notch hardware. In the Campaign you’ll take over a small PC repair business and spend your time turning things around by doing everything from simple virus removal and diagnostics to incrementally more ambitious assembly tasks. On the other hand if you have the hang of the controls, which admittedly could use better instructions as you get started or when you’re having trouble, you can go into Free Build mode and simply go nuts trying to construct the mega-rig that you could only dream of being able to afford. Control quirks and initial struggles to get used to how things operate aside, as instructive gaming goes this may be the most successful title of its broad kind I’d played on Switch.

Gravity Duck - Sporting a relatively simple premise with a weird twist on gravity shifting, in that there are spots where you will shift 90 degrees to walk on the walls as well, Gravity Duck is a decent but not amazing budget puzzler. While the controls when you shift to the sides do make sense to a degree, you’ll always move in the direction you press regardless of orientation, their digital movement and lack of nuance can be aggravating when there are times where nuanced analog controls would have been a great help. Overall I’d say it’s a take it or leave it proposition, but if you enjoy this type of challenge it’s not bad for the price of admission.

Sagebrush - With an isolated setting in what appears to be an abandoned compound of a religious group Sagebrush is all about a slowly unraveling mystery to discover what happened. Exploration and some problem solving will help you make your way through new areas where you’ll find audio recordings (that often feel like they’re relayed in a linear fashion, though somehow spread out in many locations) and assorted notes that will help you piece together a picture of things. This is one of those games where the idea is that the payoff at the end of the journey will justify the pretty dull and uninspired path to get there, you’ll need to decide whether that’s enough to justify your interest.

Tuesday, August 13

Mini Reviews: August 13th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Pix the Cat [Nindie Choice!]Classic arcade action fans who appreciate a game focused on chasing high scores will likely get a kick out of Pix the Cat. To give you an idea of the action is plays like a mix of Pac-Man and Snake, with some visual flair reminiscent of Chu Chu Rocket. You’ll be looking to move over eggs, form a line of chicks that will follow you (OK, so maybe there’s a bit of Flicky in there as well), and deliver them to targets positioned elsewhere on the screen, progressing quickly to the next stage once you deliver them all. While there can be enemies in some cases to contend with your most typical enemy is time since each run only lasts 5 minutes. To get further you’ll need to be more efficient and keep your combos going, which will keep your pace steadily increasing. The one issue is definitely that the analog stick and even the Pro D-Pad don’t fare as well as I’d like as the speed picks up, with the controls starting to feel sluggish. Alternative stages, some more puzzle-oriented modes, a multiplayer Arena, and various fun modifiers unlock as you progress but the core is all about patterns, optimizing your path, and trying to keep ahead of the movement as best you can.

Quench [Nindie Choice!] - This is a title I initially checked out at PAX East and it made enough of an impression I was excited to get a chance to play more of it. Working a bit like a mix of a god game and a puzzler, Quench will have you using elemental powers to aid herds of animals, though primarily your initial bunch of elephants, through a variety of environments and situations. You’ll need to use rain to replenish the land or put out fires, wind to clear away sand or divert enemies, quakes to clear boulders, and lightning to zap thorny vines or even revive fallen animals. Your resources aren’t unlimited so you’ll need to work out what paths you want to take and make smart and careful use of them as much as possible to replenish the land and keep your herds moving towards their goal. With a relatively slow pace and naturalistic themes it should appeal to the crowd looking for a more soothing experience to enjoy.

Doughlings: Invasion - This variant take on the classic arcade shooter ala Space Invaders and others keeps things pretty simple but as you progress manages to consistently change things up a bit. Your default character and gun are very straightforward but as you collect thumbs ups dropping from slain enemies and eventually genetic modifiers you’ll gain power-ups that will temporarily juice you up and allow you to do more damage. Probably my biggest complaint is just the lethargic pace you tend to move with, making this a better recommendation for people who enjoy a milder action challenge than those looking for intensity.

Grave Keeper - In principle this should be a solid and entertaining game, combining twin-stick shooting with hack-and-slash combat as you work through waves of enemies and bosses. In execution though, the pacing is too slow, the upgrades are too lackluster, and the feel of mobile grind-fest roots permeate the experience. There are almost constantly challenges or objectives you’ll unlock, which will give you some currency, which you can then use to incrementally upgrade your gear, but nothing really excites. Just overall it plays out too vanilla and lacks in excitement from its sluggish pacing.

Tap Skaters - One button action games always have a very mobile feel to them but Tap Skaters in particular feels like an experience far better suited to your phone or tablet than the dedicated Switch. You’ll tap the button (or the screen) to switch to the next platform as you make your way down a mildly random structure, avoiding obstacles and other skaters. This is a grind to take your mind off of things as you wait for an appointment for a few moments at a time, not something you’ll likely enjoy in anything more than bursts, but again it would probably simply be better on a mobile device.

Saturday, August 10

Mini Reviews: August 10th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Pillars of Eternity Complete Edition [Nindie Choice!] - Damn RPG lovers, the Switch has been a terrific return to Nintendo fully delivering a variety of options in this genre. Pillars of Eternity further solidifies that statement, providing a deep, satisfying, and even challenging experience depending on how you set things up. What makes it stand out is that this isn’t another JRPG, it’s a conversion of a more classic PC RPG, with a different perspective and feel, going with an isometric view and pausable real-time combat. The struggle to make the interface friendly for console moving from mouse and keyboard is real, getting the hang of navigating menus and hitting every possible screen you’ll need to manage your characters and gear can take some time. Once you settle in though it’s a very satisfying experience that should appeal to a pretty wide audience.

Subdivision Infinity DX - I’ve been a fan of the space dogfighter/shooter genre since way back in the day when it was pretty well defined by the Wing Commander series. Ever since then there has been a slow but steady stream of titles that have roughly hit some of the same marks but just haven’t been able to reach that same level of quality, including a few already on Switch. Subdivision Infinity DX does a fair job of trying to provide an approachable control scheme and mildly exciting missions fighting against craft both small and large, even throwing in what would amount to boss fights here and there. However, the overall lack of speed and lack of nuance or complexity the controls frustrated me more often than not and up against some of the competition already on the system it just couldn’t keep my attention as much. That said, for people who aren’t familiar with the genre this may be a stepping stone that’s more approachable than the likes of the much tougher Everspace.

Shadows 2: Perfidia - I’ll just come out and say it, for the most part the indie titles that have tackled horror so far on the Switch just haven’t generally been great as a whole. You can tell what they’re aiming for but for the most part the creeping sense of dread just hasn’t been there for me. While Shadows 2 isn’t what I’d consider a great title, it reuses assets pretty well everywhere and mostly has you trudging through very similar maze-like corridors completing very rudimentary puzzles, I will at least give it credit for using a blend of visuals and sound to give me a feeling of unease. So while the experience may not satisfy the gamer in me very well if you’re looking for something that may give you the creeps this may be one of the better budget-friendly options available on the console.

The Forbidden Arts - The pitch of a side-scrolling adventure where you’ll use elemental powers to combat evil is always a good start, but while The Forbidden Arts has some flourishes in places for the most part it unfortunately fizzles. With the action moving between a somewhat funky 3D overworld where you’ll typically explore a somewhat empty space and side-scrolling platforming with combat nothing quite feels polished. Dialogue is sparse and perfunctory, combat is repetitive and generally pretty clumsy, and the platforming is pretty generic as a whole. Your elemental attacks at least look interesting, and try to add some excitement, but on the whole this title struggles to make an impression and keep you coming back for more.

#RaceDieRun - Filling a space somewhere between a racing game and an endless runner we have #RaceDieRun, a game that can sometimes hit a satisfying groove but that is also just a bit odd. Unlike your typical endless runner where you’ll generally stick to lanes that you’ll move between here you have more full control on the course, having the option to quickly shift over in a roll move or simply navigate depending on the situation. As you progress, the winding tracks will continue to get filled with more barriers and hazards that will send you back to the start, and each run is scored, giving you bonuses for things like using your boost the entire time or not dashing. The stretch objective of grabbing a pill-shaped item that is hidden on every track is nice but pursuing these was usually aggravating, mostly pointing out to me how limited your abilities to control your movement are, but some may relish the challenge. There aren’t many options like it on the console, so credit for it being different, but it won’t be for everyone.

Epic Clicker Journey - Clickers are kind of a genre that came and went in the PC space, temporarily proving to be a little different and brainless for simply relaxing for a bit, but then generally fading quickly to the back burner. Translating that to console is proven to be possible with Epic Clicker Journey, with furious mouse clicks being replaced by the frantic tapping of your shoulder buttons, but the lack of satisfaction issues have come along as well. There’s not much to this, you’ll tap your way to victory or fall in defeat, trying to use money to upgrade yourself and help you tackle tougher stuff. Really, that’s all it is, and it is incredibly repetitive… true to the “genre” but I think the wear on your fingers and controls (aside from your patience) is a valid concern. Throw in the cumbersome and clunky nature of the interface as you try to navigate menus and this just doesn’t end up being very satisfying.

Tuesday, August 6

Mini Reviews: August 6th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Rise: Race to the Future - Since there’s a general lack of racing games on Switch, in particular those that aren’t cart racers of some kind, it’s always good to see another option available. With its very attractive and polished looks Rise gets quite a bit right, pulling you in with its visuals while also including some solid track variety to keep things more interesting. Unfortunately, without any elements of combat on one side or a greater degree of nuance as a technical racer on the other, after a while the excitement starts to wane which leaves the game somewhat in the middle of the overall pack, certainly not without merit but feeling a bit too vanilla to make it a must buy.

The Church in the Darkness - One of the things that can make indie games interesting and exciting is their ability to do things that are unexpected. Certainly playing a game where your goal is to infiltrate the compound of a cult that feels highly reminiscent of Jamestown to try to locate and save your nephew holds quite a bit of potential in that area. You’ll need to choose between using lethal force, stealth, or some combination of both as you try to collect essential gear and info to help you in your mission. While the top-down gameplay isn’t terribly unique, the situations you’ll find yourself in and the decisions you’ll need to make quickly do provide for variety and even replayability if you’re intrigued by the game’s hook. It won’t be a game for everyone but I’ll give credit for it daring to be different.

Robbie Swifthand and the Orb of Mysteries - This puzzle platformer has a polished look and some surprises along the way but also has a tendency to get dragged down by a reliance on cheap deaths to prolong itself, which can be annoying. You’ll play the part of the nimble thief who has been charged with collecting a mystical relic but who is looking to grab some loot along the way as well. The platforming itself is pretty solid mechanically and you’ll quickly be able to master your crouch jump and some other techniques that will keep you working to execute as you try to avoid death. While I understand the game is billed as being difficult the reliance on traps obscured by the foreground or things you simply can’t know about until you die to them (often repeatedly) moves into being cheap a bit too often, making many areas more about trial and error than raw skill.

Bear With Me: The Lost Robots - Since there’s an abundance of classic point-and-click adventure available on the Switch, much of it also featuring humorous characters and situations, the overall bar you need to clear to make your mark is a high one. In principle, Bear With Me has the right idea, mixing its black and white visuals with a main character who sports the voice of a classic noir detective… and who happens to be a teddy bear. The puzzles are reasonably sensible, the environments look good, and the general script tries to blend the noir style and seriousness with some silliness… and that works. Unfortunately, for me the voice acting really is a let down, having the right sound but generally failing to deliver on the laughs it’s going for, leaving the final product good but not particularly great.

Super Wiloo Demake - When it comes to budget titles it can always be difficult to identify where to put the bar in terms of overall quality. Super Wiloo Demake has the essence of a good title, delivering some colorful visuals, nice if not terribly original power-ups, and occasional flashes of creativity in level design. However, for the most part it’s also pretty derivative and blandly generic stuff, failing to clearly exude any qualities that make it stand out beyond its low price. If you’re looking for something bite sized and cheap to just play for a while it should suffice but overall it’s quite forgettable.

Friday, August 2

Mini Reviews: August 2nd Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Forager [Nindie Choice!] - When footage of this game was originally shown as part of one of the Nindie Directs any fan of Stardew Valley would have been challenged not to be intrigued with what appeared to be a familiar look mixed with some silliness. To be clear, Forager has little in common with that beloved indie since it isn’t as deep or varied and lacks the entire social component. The thing is, if what you loved was collecting and cultivating resources and slowly building things up Forager can quickly make you forget about all of that. The initial hour or so while you get established are definitely a bit of a grind but once you begin leveling up, investing in new skills and technologies, and expanding your footprint of islands you own there are a ton of great surprises in store for you. New exciting buildings and equipment mean some vastly improved gear and then when you begin to encounter dungeons it’s surprising how this game just keeps going. One negative, though it will hopefully get a patch, is that in at least one of the dungeons (the Crystal Caves) performance took a substantial hit with everything slowing down (though it at least remained playable). Aside from that issue though it’s an addictive loop, unlocking new technologies, finding new surprises, and working on your plan as you expand your skill tree.

Solo: Islands of the Heart - If you’re looking for something with a slower pace, lacking in pressure, and helping you be a bit introspective about life and love this may be just what you’re looking for. You’ll move from island to island, solving what are usually pretty simple puzzles, doing some platforming, and then periodically answering some questions that will tend to give you pause as you consider the answer (especially if you’re being honest and not simply going with a knee-jerk response). What ultimate effect your answers may have on the course of the game would likely take multiple run throughs to discover but if you’re looking for an excuse to slow down, relax, and ponder a bit this is a great game for helping you do so.

Chroma Squad - If you grew up enjoying the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers this title may have a special appeal to you since in essence it is a tactical RPG where you take control of a time remarkably similar to them. What adds to the fun is that these aren’t meant to be the heroes portrayed on the screen, instead you’ll be working behind the scenes to produce the show itself and aside from making your way through battles you’ll be looking to jazz things up to make your show more exciting and gain more viewers. This management twist, with you needing to hire talent, buy equipment, and make some decisions at the production level helps to give the game some flavor, but if you’re here purely for the tactical RPG elements you may find it comes up a bit short. While it all works the angle you view the action in can sometimes make targeting the right spot on the grid a bit cumbersome or confusing and the overall depth of strategy is lacking if you put it up against some much more accomplished tactics game already on the system. If, however, you’re looking for something a bit different and silly that makes use of tactical RPG elements this could be a winner for you.

Standby - Quick and dirty (and typically quite challenging) gameplay is what Standby offers, and if you’re into precision execution platforming it will definitely deliver. While the action is pretty pulled out, making playing it handheld possibly a bad idea, as you progress you’ll find you need to see what’s coming to try to prepare yourself. This title is all about muscle memory, hitting your marks, and nailing every slide, wall jump, and shot in order to keep moving and stay alive. Not for the easily frustrated, it should keep challenge hounds occupied for a while with its increasingly demanding levels.

Hardware Review: PDP Faceoff Deluxe+ Wired Audio Controller

Well, here’s a first for me… it’s time for my inaugural hardware review! Being honest to this point since I adore my Pro Controller I haven’t been too inclined to worry over checking out other peripherals out there. However, given the opportunity to check something out and provide a review for other people who may be curious I had to jump on it.

What you’ll get here is a reasonably well-constructed controller that feels a lot like Nintendo’s own Pro controller in terms of dimensions and layout but that has stripped away from functionality as well as added a few bonus features while coming in at a far lower price point. For you gamers on a budget out there this should be tempting, just be sure you carefully consult the fine print and check as many reviews as you can to ensure its what you’re looking for and can work with.

Starting with the positives though the overall heft of the controller is on the light side, making it “feel” a bit more fragile, it does feel good in my average-sized hands. For the most part everything is in roughly the same spots and is comfortable to use. The joysticks themselves are nice and sturdy, and critically don’t feel either too tight or flimsy. The ridge on the edges of the sticks I think will go either way for people. It takes some getting used to, and I initially wasn’t a fan, but at the same time I could see how perhaps it helps minimize the chances of your thumb slipping at the edge.

When it comes to features that make it unique the most notable feature, and possibly why you are investing in it, is the audio jack. Depending on how and what you like to play this could either be a mere convenience or essential. If you don’t mind being tethered within 10 feet of your dock (this plugs into the USB port on the back) and enjoy playing something like Fortnite which natively supports chat this may well be your jam, and you’ll simply learn to accept the quirks of the overall controller. If you’re only using it for the audio jack and are going to play on the TV or a monitor and don’t want to disturb anyone around you I suppose it would work nicely as well.

The other two notable features are a bit of a mixed bag, and are all about your personal tastes. I have no doubt the inclusion of a D-pad is exciting for some folks out there, as obviously the base Joycon design is a bummer with 4 buttons in its place, and the wonky issues with the Pro Controller itself are pretty well-known. While I’d say this D-pad is better in terms of overall accuracy I’d also note that it is a bit on the mushy side and since I’ve generally come to accept D-pad play just isn’t all that great on Switch I’ve learned to stick to the joystick. Still, again I’d say it has an edge on the Pro Controller and since this is far cheaper it may be just what you’re looking for. The completely unexpected feature that took me by surprise is the inclusion of 2 additional triggers that are on the back of the controller at the mid-to-bottom area. They actually lined up nicely with where my fingers normally rest so they’ve got that on their side. That said, I pretty quickly was happy to find I could remove that panel since I was more often accidentally triggering them than on purpose. Again, for the right person with some adapting this could actually be a net positive but I was just happy I could opt out. I suppose the final cool feature is that you can remove the faceplate and replace it with something themed (they have Mario and Luigi plates, for instance). Interesting, though not something I’d use.

In terms of what will make or break your decision it’s really a tug of war between the positives and the compromises. There’s no doubt this thing is far more affordable than a Pro Controller but for the most part this is because of what they’ve removed from the picture. It being corded is probably the biggest limitation, so you absolutely need to be within less than 10 feet of your dock to use it in the first place. The other big omissions are motion control (depending on what you play this could hurt more or less) and support for rumble (again, game dependent since some implement it so poorly I rush to turn it off). In terms of feel it does things right I’d say, just feeling a bit lighter in construction than the Pro controller but still being generally comfortable and in no way feeling cheap.

With pretty well everything for every upside there’s a downside but the trick is whether that results in a net gain or loss is heavily dependent on your preferences and how and what you like to play. It’s budget-friendly but stripped down and has a limiting cord. It has great plug-in support for your headset so you can easily use chat but there also aren’t many Switch titles taking advantage of that (for the moment). It has a decent D-pad but I wouldn’t say its overall feel and comfort level quite matches the (more expensive) Pro Controller. My conclusion is that for the price you’re getting about everything you’d have a right to hope for in a controller, and while it is hardly perfect it is a third party peripheral that performs very respectably and is worthy of your consideration.

Score: 7.5


  • A respectable budget option
  • If you’re looking to play titles with in-game chat support it may be your best option
  • Shows thought and care in the details that I respect


  • There’s no getting around the cord, and the need to be absolutely sure you’re playing within less than 10 feet from your dock
  • If you’re a fan of motion controls or rumble you’ll be out of luck with this controller
  • While I appreciate the option of the added triggers on the back I wanted to remove them quite quickly (which you thankfully can, though it then leaves a bit of a gap on the back)

Tuesday, July 30

Mini Reviews: July 30th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Super Mega Baseball 2 [Nindie Choice!] - At long last a high-quality and very broadly accessible baseball title is available on the Switch. After the disappointment of the RBI Baseball series I was a bit down on things but since I was a big fan of the original Super Mega Baseball on PC when I heard the sequel was coming to Switch I was excited. Let’s be clear, if you’re first and foremost a fan of the major leagues and are looking to control real teams and players this game likely won’t do it for you as it lacks the license. What it delivers instead is rock-solid gameplay that quickly makes concerns over your team’s name or your favorite stars melt away though. What impresses me most here is that the game works reasonably well even if you’re a bit of a novice, with things like automatic fielding covering over some areas that aren’t always implemented well. That said, if you’re willing to invest your attention in fine tuning your hitting, pitching, or even going for a sliding catch at the right times you absolutely can apply some technique and get great results as well with a little bit of practice. Absolutely a terrific title for sports fans.

Songbird Symphony - If you’re on the look out for a title with a wholesome story, cute looks, a great soundtrack, and a mix of puzzle platforming and rhythm game elements you’ve really lucked out with Songbird Symphony since it manages to check all of those boxes. Perhaps somewhat predictably when a game attempts to bite off so many things at once the result can be that some areas suffer with some issues though. There’s a lot to like about the game, with an earnest charm and some variety, but the gameplay can meander in quality from good to ho-hum to a bit rough around the edges in places. In particular, the puzzle platforming never truly takes flight and the rhythm elements, though paired with some great music, have mechanically awkward controls and are a bit all over the place in terms of difficulty and even responsiveness. The positive is that you don’t appear to be penalized and unable to progress even when struggling with these segments but I wish they’d taken the time to refine them rather than allow you to move on even if you were a disaster on a given song.

Hoggy 2 - Cute, colorful, and surprisingly challenging at times, Hoggy 2 is a budget-friendly puzzle platformer with very basic controls and a bit of charm as well. There’s not much you need to understand at a fundamental level, on each of its 200+ stages you’ll be working to collect all of the fruit without dying. In your way are a variety of obstacles, traps, and enemies, and you’ll need to carefully manipulate gravity to move between the floor and ceiling to get through it all. While I wouldn’t say any of it feels like something you haven’t seen before if you’re a puzzle platforming veteran, I do give some credit for it surpassing my expectations for the price of admission and showing some smart level design even relatively early on.

Mighty Switch Force Collection - If you’ve never heard of or played any of the Mighty Switch Force titles before, and enjoy a solid puzzle platformer, you may be in luck with this one. This series is all about moving through levels, capturing criminals, finding secrets, and working out some action platforming puzzles along the way. While there are 4 games in the collection 1 of them is a remaster of the original so consider it’s more like 3 unique games in reality. Breaking it down a little further the last game in the collection, Mighty Switch Force Academy, is a multi-player experience which allows for both co-op and competitive play using the same general look and style. All in all it offers up satisfying play for a reasonable price but just be sure you understand there are essentially 2 original games, a remaster, and a multi-player variant here when considering the cost of admission.

Kill la Kill The Game - As someone who has watched some anime over time, but has hardly kept up over the years, Kill la Kill is something new to me so walking into the world of this game is definitely a bit mind-boggling. There’s some seriously crazy/weird survival of the fittest mixed with schoolyard clique mixed with serious family issues stuff going on here, and while it is an entertaining roller coaster ride for the uninitiated it may be hard to follow. With the sheer volume of story told through animated and voice acted cut-scenes this is an experience catering first to fans of the series, without a doubt, and its gameplay takes a back seat. The good news is that when you finally do get down to playing while I could see where some button mashing could be effective the 3D arena fighting is surprisingly satisfying, though perhaps over the long term lacking in depth. If you’re a fan of the series my impression is that this title has gone all out to make you absolutely feel at home and happy. If you’re not, the impressive presentation may be more wasted on you leaving a title that can be fun for a while but doesn’t really stand up to the quality of play offered by other fighters already available on the system though.

Terrorhythm - Starting with the elevator pitch, a game mixing up a rhythm game with a beat-em-up, Terrorhythm had my interest. At a glance its stylish and futuristic looks also add to its appeal. Unfortunately, where things get a bit more dicey is in the gameplay itself and a lack of overall variety. Granted, beat-em-ups tend to traditionally be a bit on the repetitive side but they can compensate with cool attacks or combos and a need to maneuver around the screen. Here you just have enemies coming from either side of the screen that you’ll take out… but ideally that will happen to the beat, bringing the two elements of the game together. Except whether it has something to do with the animations, the muddiness of the beats in the track, or perhaps the responsiveness of the controls it just doesn’t quite connect somehow. It’s playable, it has its moments, and it’s in the proximity of coming together, but the end product just doesn’t quite gel unfortunately. Overall this makes for a playable game that is uneven and not terribly satisfying for fans of either genre.

Friday, July 26

Mini Reviews: July 26th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Moving into a new phase with the site and trying to make better overall use of my time in terms of finding a balance I can no longer keep the pace doing full reviews. I’ll always post gameplay of the titles I get but while I don’t feel comfortable committing to lengthy write-ups for titles I do want to at least summarize my thoughts on them. So these are the quick summaries on my thoughts on games I’ve played, highlighting the ones that are stand-outs when appropriate.

Zombie Driver - It can be a bit of a challenge to rate games that have simply been around for a while when they arrive on Switch. Even for a title I’m familiar with, like Zombie Driver, that I enjoy since the magic of initial discovery is pretty far back in the rear view mirror it’s hard to get in touch with that old excitement. That said, within a few missions, hitting the streets in a classic top-down fashion, running over zombies, picking up power-ups, and blowing things to bits it’s pretty easy to get back into the groove. This isn’t a very complex or deep game by any means, it’s an arcade-y celebration of mindless violence, blowing stuff up, and power-sliding through hordes of undead walkers. If you are mindful of its limits and don’t waste time focusing on the fact that it shows its age in a few different ways it’s a budget-friendly means to letting off some steam with some fun.

Fantasy Strike - While I’m pretty enthusiastic, overall, about this new fighting game the first thing I’d say is that with its controls I’d consider it to absolutely be an acquired taste. Having played many fighting games over the years, first there are those classics with their own distinctive styles ala Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, and their ilk. More recently, newer fighting games have instead tended towards sweeping movements and less complicated or character-specific moves, making them more accessible. Fantasy Strike is sort of in the middle in my mind, with more simplified controls that are accessible yet that somehow feel awkward to me nonetheless with a feel that’s different from even the other more simple titles out there. They’re not bad, they just take getting used to. There’s no doubt the game’s characters look fabulous, though their styles tend towards familiar in many regards. I’d like to recommend it whole-heartedly but I also can’t convince myself that it’s sure to appeal to as wide an audience as some other indie fighters on the system. I see this being a divisive title in the end, though I’d imagine its fans will be quite passionately in love with it since it does dare to be a bit different.

Automachef - Factory construction and automation games have been “a thing” and pretty popular in the PC space for quite some time now. So it was no surprise when Team 17 announced they’d be bringing Automachef to the Switch, hoping to capitalize on the lack of such a title on the platform. It’s presence is a bit of a mixed blessing though, definitely delivering on the methodical and somewhat addicting (for the right crowd) style of play but demonstrating the challenges of playing such a game on a console as well. Stating it plain and simple progress and success aren’t going to arrive quickly here, as even early on you’re going to need to pay careful attention to the tutorial, think things through, and experiment in order to put together the base machinery that will make your assembly line function properly but also efficiently. Probably the worst failing the game has though is that “debugging” things on your line that aren’t working as they should isn’t always as straightforward as it should be. When it comes to your automated machinery you’ll find the equipment can be quite picky about being placed in certain places and ways in relation to other parts, but while you can observe your line breaking down it isn’t always clear what the problem is, adding to the potential you’ll just burn out on it before you get into the groove. If, however, you don’t mind the quirks and “meticulous” is your middle name, this may be a home run for you.

Pawarumi - Among the genres that have become quite well represented on the Switch arcade-style shooters are most definitely holding their own. Showing a fair amount of technique in its design, aside from sporting a terrific overall look, Pawarumi on some level will allow you to just go old school and try to dodge and weave your way to survival but it’s also much more than that. As if trying to manage 2 states in the likes of Ikaruga weren’t complicated enough, Pawarumi instead gives you 3 to think about. Depending on the color of your enemies, changing which weapons you attack with (each with their own pattern, just to further complicate things) will give you a different result. Whether chewing through them more quickly, replenishing your shield, or building up your gauge being smart about your play in the heat of the moment can mean the difference between success and failure. Unfortunately, in the initial stage it also can make the experience a bit of a pain while you try to wrap your head around how it all works. If you're down for taking on complexity while you're dodging and weaving through enemy fire this may be a home run for you, but for me it got to the point where managing 3 types of fire was just too much overhead that kept me from enjoying the game's great visuals and simply staying alive.

Gunpowder on the Teeth: Arcade - OK, so going the retro route to make modern games that capture the look and essence of playing games on platforms like the Gameboy is a thing. I get that. When you first start up Gunpowder on the Teeth it just feels like a classic run and gun with a washed out all-grey color palette. Maybe it’s not a look for everyone, but if you don’t mind it the action can still deliver some fun. But then you start dying for reasons that can be highly frustrating and/or annoying. You see, with the limitations of the available colors there are times where it is damned hard to see enemies, see their bullets, see barbed wire that will cut you up if you hit it wrong… and that gets irritating. Sure, you can understand where things are and what to do through sheer repetition but that feels like an extremely sloppy problem to have, and for me it really brings the game down a notch.