Tuesday, October 15

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

Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair [Nindie Choice!] - Retro games or those that attempt to recapture a certain vintage feel can be a tricky business and there’s no doubt that in such an oversaturated market with abundant choices hitting just the right notes must be tough. The original Yooka-Laylee absolutely nailed the presentation and even many gameplay mechanics of the Banjo-Kazooie series but perhaps was a bit too dated and sometimes empty or sterile to excite in this modern era. With Impossible Lair the target seems to have been instead set on the classic side-scrolling platforming of the likes of Donkey Kong Country and this time it all just feels like it comes together to make an experience dense with smartly hidden secrets and a wide variety of classic platforming challenges that just feel right. While perhaps the endgame may not rub everyone the right way as a whole Impossible Lair put a smile on my face, both making me nostalgic for the games that served as an inspiration and impressing me with a great deal of care in making the experience distinctive in its own right.

Felix the Reaper - If there’s one thing that Felix the Reaper isn’t lacking in it’s quirky personality. The rotund but surprisingly agile main character shuffles and dances his way through every stage with an exuberant energy that’s admirable, but I suppose that’s the effect his being in love has on him. Humor is abundant here, and as you work your way through a variety of weird puzzle sequences in order to orchestrate the elaborate demise of your given target, the mix of dialogue, some elements, and Felix’s constant strutting it’s hard not to be charmed. Mechanically the puzzle elements are pretty smart, the goal is to remain in the shadows as you manipulate the angle of light and will need to divine the sequence of moves and interactions with objects to get you to your goal. Where it can struggle initially is that there are times when it’s unclear while you’re still learning what it wants you to do, and as you get further in underneath the presentation the actual puzzles can feel a bit generic. Still, if you like a good puzzle game and enjoy a good laugh or perhaps a quirky love story this will probably entertain you for a few hours.

A Knight’s Quest - Possessing a strong sense of adventure, many nods to the Zelda series and some other titles, and reasonably open world to explore and discover things in A Knight’s Quest has a fair amount working in its favor. You’ll explore, work through some smart puzzles, gain abilities, look for opportunities to exploit those abilities, find secrets, and generally enjoy a solid adventure. Knocking it down a notch are its aping mechanics and abilities found elsewhere a bit too much, and critically lacking some of their nuances. Almost every element of the game gets a passing grade but there are rough patches with wonky geometry, some reported progression bugs, and simply a lack of polish in spots that keep it from reaching the next level. For the price it’s a solid bit of fun, just temper your expectations and be ready for perhaps a little too much familiarity overall.

The Eyes of Ara - With tablets and smartphones having opened the door to more casual gamers the puzzle genre has been in a terrific renaissance as a whole. The lone wolf developer behind The Eyes of Ara didn’t shoot for simply making a quick time-waster though, he seems to have set his sights on a much more ambitious target for inspiration… the PC classic Myst. While The Room series has tackled blending great visuals with intricate puzzles, the generally confined spaces it occupies doesn’t lend itself to as much variety as you get when you’re able to explore and move through a number of environments. Ara provides this diversity, mixing together some hidden object style elements, trial and error, experimenting with the environment, and working with a variety of items to keep you on your toes. This can, however, make the experience feel a bit uneven at times as well as inevitably there’ll be puzzles you enjoy more than others, and without a hint system there can be some frustrations and perplexing leaps of faith. Still, it makes for an engaging challenge and stands apart from pretty well anything else on Switch. One important note is that though there’s support for playing this docked it uses the pointer controls which, as always, are simply awful and frustrating due to the constant need to recalibrate. If you’re not planning to play this mostly in handheld mode you’ve been warned.

Super Box Land Demake - While perhaps I’m a bit jaded having played so many indie puzzle games over the past few years but while its presentation may be nice enough, Demake’s gameplay is what I’d consider painfully average. Perhaps if you haven’t played many box pushers in your life it may feel fresh but there’s so much bland filler as you get started it’s really tough to want to stick with it even if you’re assuming things will get better. Just there are so many more interesting and creative puzzlers on Switch than this so it’s hard to recommend.