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)