Tuesday, October 29

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

Skullgirls 2nd Encore [Nindie Choice!] - While I’ve consistently heard nothing but great things about Skullgirls from my friends who are massive fighting fans up until PAX this year I’d never gotten to check it out myself. Watching the game being played it’s hard not to be impressed by the diverse and beautifully-animated characters, some of which have some of the craziest moves and specials I think I’ve seen. It’s also very apparent that this is a pretty technical fighter, which was where my one real concern with the game cropped up. What’s a bit shocking though is that in general for someone like me who has played a fair number of fighters for the most part the moves that trigger the on-screen chaos feel natural and mostly intuitive. Simply experimenting on the fly moves and even combos seemed to come to me pretty easily. From there it’s all about the flow of gameplay and the best word to describe it is intense. Solo players should appreciate the story mode that provides some background for the very odd menagerie of fighters, but everyone should appreciate the choice to go 1-on-1 or up to 3-on-3, providing for plenty of opportunities for changing tactics and generally catering the matches to your liking. Available online play is definitely appreciated, though it’s important to note that even great indie titles on Switch don’t tend to have online communities that survive for long. While there have been very good indie fighters on the Switch I actually think this one is the best.

Tangle Tower [Nindie Choice!] - When there are so many point-and-click style adventures available on the Switch it pays to try to stand out. Smart puzzles, some quirky characters, and a sense of humor have pretty well become standard features so the bar has become pretty high if you want to stand out from the generally very enjoyable pack. Where Tangle Tower manages to get an edge is with well-delivered voice acting, some particularly weird characters you’ll interact with, and even some surprises in terms of puzzle variety and creativity. Throw this all together with a compelling mystery and the average puzzle fan should find plenty to enjoy over the course of a handful of hours with this one.

Vortex Attack EX - As a huge fan of arcade classics from many genres I’ve played more than my share of space shooters. As such, Vortex Attack EX very much feels targeted at someone like me specifically who can not only take on the challenge but appreciate the pretty wide variety of influences on its play mechanics. Your goal is simple, shoot enemies, avoid being hit, collect power-ups and gems that fall, and try to survive. As you progress and get more effective the game rewards you with each new mothership you defeat with a new ship variant to choose from as you start each game. These are really the game’s overall saving grace as each of them plays quite differently and provide both an incentive to play another run to try them out and new styles of play to master as you work to discover which works best for you. While it may not quite reach the heights of some of the other retro shooters on the system its budget price and variety in play styles still make it worthwhile for classic arcade shooter fans.

Dark Devotion - Take a somewhat gothic setting with various lethal monsters, traps, and perils, then add in a variety of weapons and power-ups you can slowly grind to acquire and you have Dark Devotion. In a vacuum while this wouldn’t necessarily be considered a great title overall it would likely garner some attention. The challenge, though, is the availability of titles that are very similar but have an overall edge in terms of depth and quality. On the one hand the grinding and weapons have a fair amount in common with Dead Cells, on the other the setting, style, and difficulty are reminiscent of Blasphemous. While I think Dark Devotion works and is worthwhile for the proper audience the comparisons are impossible not to make, and unfortunately in those match-ups I’d consider this title to be lacking by comparison. Still, if you want to get your gothic grind on it’s challenging and has its moments.

Ultra Off-Road 2019: Alaska - Having never gone off-roading, let alone been to Alaska, I’m unable to comment on the authenticity of the experience offered by this title. In my mind, however, I’ll assume the experience is less like trying to maneuver a brick on wheels through an odd mess of a landscape then this. The challenge with a title like this is trying to figure out who it is ultimately for, and what the target experience is supposed to be. I suppose it was shooting for a simulation akin to a game like Spintires, but if so the lack of any real depth or a sense of quality make it come up far short of that mark. From the unusual need to pick up and eat food to there seeming to only be one standard clunk sound no matter what you make contact with this off-road experience stalls out before it even gets started.