Wednesday, February 20

Review: Paladin [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Arcade shooters have taken many forms over the years, and it’s always a bit exciting to see what indie devs can come up with borrowing elements from multiple titles and combining them into something new. In the case of Paladin it’s a bit of an odd mix, seeming to borrow some inspiration from the likes of Defender and perhaps a bit of Missile Command, but then throwing in twin-stick shooting and progression in the form of upgrades as well. While this description may pique the interest of shooting fans in principle unfortunately in execution the gameplay simply doesn’t manage to sustain interest for very long.

In the game you’ll first choose your ship, and there is at least a marginal level of importance in this decision, though most of the difference comes down to cosmetics and the behavior of your specials and at their core they all play roughly the same. Facing waves of enemies you’ll initially be trying to simply avoid taking hits but then there will also be aliens whose focus is on attacking the cities that are along the limited scrolling space you’re able to fly back and forth in. You’ll want to avoid cities being destroyed as lightning will strike down over the space they once filled and that makes flying along the skyline much more difficult and dangerous (aside from wanting to save human life I suppose).

On its surface the upgrade system makes sense and forces you to make some tough decisions, which I do appreciate. In particular, if you’re willing to take the risk of going into a given stage carrying only 1 or 2 lives at a time replenishing them remains cheap, though the cost goes up for each life you want to add for insurance. So if you’re either able to avoid losing lives or are at least willing to take a chance and never maintain more than 2 or 3 at a time you’ll free up money to spend on improving your ship and cities in a variety of ways. From ship to ship the value of building your Rage meter faster to enable a special attack varies, most are pretty lackluster. You can also purchase screen-clearing Nuke attacks, which if you collect enough money you can then link to triggering when you get hit to effectively nullify the loss of 1 life, which can be handy as things get more intense.

Where things begin to go wrong is with the fact that the shooting action gets to be repetitive, though at least new enemy types are consistently introduced along your way through the game’s 40 stages. The same can’t be said for the bosses you’ll face every 10 levels that are all roughly the same, just with a newer (and generally cheaper) attack added. Additionally, on a general level the cities are simply there, though with enough neglect they can be destroyed, but there’s nothing compelling about them. You’ll see some aliens zapping them, and you’re able to bolster their shields and ability to counter-attack, but that all just seems to amount to under the hood numbers. You don’t have the tension of something like making ships drop people that you could catch in Defender for instance, they just seem to serve as filler that fails to add any real excitement.

While Paladin seems to have some good core ideas and inspirations it just doesn’t do very much with them to help take the game to the next level. There is some variety between the ships and the few modes that are offered but it is all very limited and feels almost entirely the same, with nothing generating very much excitement as a whole. The result is at least interesting for a little while, but unfortunately its ideas ultimately feel muddled and it simply doesn’t sustain interest well enough to make a serious impression in a very crowded genre on the Switch.

Score: 6

  • The upgrade system is smart and forces some tough decisions
  • There are a number of different modes and ships to choose from that change up the formula a little bit
  • For the first run or two, while it is all a bit more fresh, it has an edge of excitement to it

  • The inclusion of the cities never really bears much fruit and fails to add much tension or excitement
  • While each version of the boss you’ll face gets tougher it’s later attacks just feel a bit cheap and taking them down is more of a chore once you work out a strategy rather than being exciting
  • On a general level after a run or two repetition sets in too quickly and the game lacks a long-term hook to compel you to keep coming back for more