Monday, November 25

Mini Reviews: November 25th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Black Future ‘88 - Roguelike shooters have been a staple for me on the Switch, generally providing a great outlet for intense play for some period of time that will feel familiar to a degree but ever-changing. Typically these games tend to be top-down affairs but in the case of Black Future ‘88 you’ll be taking on a cyberpunk and pretty bleak world full of robots and inevitable death. There are undoubtedly elements that work very well here, the visual style and weapon variety are both exceptional, multiple base classes offer up pretty different feels to keep your runs fresh, and the fact that biologically you’re literally racing against the clock representing your demise will keep you moving. Where it falls down a bit is most often visual clarity. Between occasional elements moving in the foreground and just a lack of clarity in the action when a lot is going on at once it can be pretty easy to lose a truckload of health or even die without really knowing what the cause was. That’s not to say it isn’t hella fun,it just adds to a general frustration factor due to death often being quick and perhaps the reason behind it being a bit too ambiguous.

Squidgies Takeover - Billed as a mix between Lemmings and some physics Squidgies Takeover is a smart and pretty entertaining puzzler that’s also a nice change of pace from the norm for the genre on the system. While you can play it in docked mode with the pointer controls I’d very much recommend against it as the persistent hardware issues causing the need to recalibrate often are present as always and since this title is concerned with precision it isn’t a good match. The great news is that in handheld mode using the touchscreen is a breeze and allows you to enjoy the game as it is meant to be. Initially levels are focused on walking you through the concepts of how you’re able to utilize each power and when, helping you hone your timing and understanding of what will need to be done later. From there it’s all about timing, some planning, and then plain old execution to make effective use of the commands you have to work with to get you on the path to sustained success.

Biolab Wars - When considering ultra-low budget titles it’s hard not to grade a bit on a sliding scale as impulse buys are often what they are to people, there’s a hope it works out but if not there wasn’t much lost to get it. With a look and feel reminiscent of the old NES days, Biolab Wars is an old school side-scrolling shooter with sensibilities that often feel more representative of that era than the current one. You’ll run, gun, collect power-ups, try to avoid enemy fire, and can expect to die relatively often. Not much here is what I’d consider inspired or even polished but that isn’t to say if you’re in the right mindset you can’t have a pretty good time with it. If you’ve been itching for a variation on classic shooting themes and are willing to part with a few paltry bucks this may be enough to entertain you for a little while.

Contraptions - With a hook that appears to have been inspired by a combination of Rube Goldberg machines and the classic Incredible Machine franchise we now have Contraptions for puzzle fans to enjoy. Using a slowly growing collection of gadgets in conjunction with the level environment your goal will be to string together a series of events that will trigger the completion of the level, which can take a few different forms. Placement, direction, and proper timing will all play a crucial role in your ability to size up the challenge in front of you, conceive what solutions there may be, and then work it out through trial and error. The lack of general visual polish and the sometimes wonky behaviors of element in the game can be a frustration, but in general it gets the creative juices flowing and will let you practice building hypothesis and then testing them out until you find the solution.

Mars Power Industries - Given the sheer number of great puzzle titles of all shapes and sizes as well as asking prices in order to make a real impression in genre on Switch you have to be swinging for the fences and either doing something new or doing it in a way that stands out. Unfortunately in the case of the pretty humble and even basic Mars Power Industries they’re not doing much of either. Tasked with powering up stations on the planet’s surface using the surrounding resources you’ll have only so many turns to deploy equipment shaped in specific configurations. Your job is to figure out what to put when so you can rest assured that the colonists will be safe and happy, then move on to the next puzzle. On a general level it’s not bad, it’s just hard not to note how generally simplistic it all is, making it likely a poor choice for genre die hards on the Switch.

Tuesday, November 19

Mini Reviews: November 19th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

REKT! High Octane Stunts - When you’re dealing with budget titles the bar for evaluation is a tricky thing to evaluate. For me the focus ultimately revolves around identifying whether the game’s goal had some ambition and then how well the overall vision seems to have been executed. In the case of REKT its goal is pretty plainly in its name, to deliver a somewhat crazy stunt driving experience. While there’s not much more to it than that I’ll give it credit for putting together elements that work pretty well. The controls aren’t over-complicated, there are multiple arenas to explore and have fun with, there are plenty of cars to unlock, and for the price if you’re seeking something to kick around for some short play sessions to stunt and have some fun it delivers. It won’t take the eShop by storm but its asking price is reasonable for what it delivers.

Draw Chilly - OK, so I dig weird games, I’ve even made a list of my favorites on the system. I’m a fan. That said, from its title to its “plot” to its execution I think in the case of Draw Chilly I’ve met my match. If you go in with the goal of simply being entertained with bizarre arcade-like action and no other expectations this strange trip of a game may work. It’s sort of a mix of beat-em-up and strategy at its core, as you’ll need to collect baby chicks to build your meter, get odd power-ups from crates, and battle weird bosses… all set to a backdrop of Purgatory while working at the bidding of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Confused? Playing the game in search of making sense of it won’t likely help, but the experience of it has its moments as you chuckle at just how bonkers it all can be.

Robert Kirkman’s Thief of Thieves: Season One - When it comes to visual flair this title has things on lockdown. Unfortunately, when it comes to compelling gameplay and a bug-free experience it’s hardly the master thief and more often feels like a bumbling trainwreck of a sidekick. Based on the comic series, as it opens you can feel the swagger of the game’s potential, walking through the highly stylized credits. Hitting the tutorial you’ll begin to wonder if the gameplay is really as limited as it seems. Then as you get into the meat of the game unfortunately the various bugs and shortcomings tend to come into view. Wonky AI, your ability to outright get stuck in the environment at times, and a general lack of gameplay polish mean that no matter how great this title looks it may struggle to keep your interest over its modest play time.

Ships - There’s something to be said for truth in advertising and if you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to control large commercial shipping vessels this may be the simulator for you. Simulations are always a slow burn experience and have a tendency to favor mundane reality over excitement but in the case of Ships right out of the gate it almost actively seems to be making you wonder if you’re going to stick with it. Loading multiple cargo containers onto a ship may have a certain claw game element of fun to it for a moment but the fact that you can’t settle for stopping with 1 bodes poorly for the pacing of the experience. If you’re willing to give the game time and have an honest interest in the sea and different challenges you may face there from construction to rescue to even dealing with pirates you may be in luck, but overall unfortunately for almost all scenarios it plays out like the most dull version of those events mechanically, making it hard to show any enthusiasm over.

The Mims Beginning - In terms of vintage PC genres that have been out of fashion and not made a real appearance on the Switch yet the strategic “god game” genre is one I appreciate and am glad to see finally making an appearance. That said, while the fundamentals of the genre are represented by The Mims Beginning I wouldn’t say there’s much inspiring meat on its bones that helps to capture the best elements of what it has to offer. You’ll need to help your odd alien minions by dictating placement of buildings and crops, fend off threats both natural and creature-based, and tend to the well-being of your people. The game’s clunky looks and pretty bare bones implementation will make it hard to really give it your all though as there’s no key hook that connects you to those you care for or to give them enough personality to be interesting.

Friday, November 15

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

Monkey Barrels - While run and gun shooters tend to be a side-scrolling affair Monkey Barrels proves it’s a formula that works well from a top-down perspective with twin-stick controls as well. Whereas most games with this scheme on Switch have been arcade or roguelike in nature in this case you’re on a mission to save your friend, making a bit more of an adventure. You’ll move along shooting up enemies, dealing with bosses, and powering up your armaments to ensure you’re able to keep pace with your enemies. Just to add to the fun you can take on the game solo or with some friends as well.

Woven - Most modern games tend to feature protagonists who are ready for action and tough as nails. Moving in precisely the opposite direction we have Woven, and it’s plush main character Stuffy who ambles along with a consistently innocent and pleasant demeanor. Pairing up with a mechanical friend they set out to discover what has happened to their land and to turn things back around. The game is mostly about exploration, with some relatively simple puzzle solving and hidden textures all about to update Stuffy’s look with. While this won’t be a title that will appeal to hardcore gamers in the least with its cute characters, colorful scenery, and generally slow-paced adventure, Woven is a kid-friendly treat.

Mad Games Tycoon - Have you ever wondered what it would be like to start a game company and work your way from your garage to the top of the industry? Mad Games Tycoon will provide a simplified and sometimes silly view of that process, with you working to manage your personnel, workspace, and critical decisions like research to ensure your company not only keeps up with the competition but is able to blaze a path to dominance. While it plays well enough I’ll note that aside from its sense of humor and general approach in minor areas there are other options out there, including on mobile, that are roughly similar. Just something to consider if you’re looking for your game company management fix.

Vektor Wars - Looking at times like a neon-lit fever dream after playing too many hours of the classic arcade title Battlezone, Vektor Wars delivers intensity. You’re sort of dropped into things without much direction but in general there’s not much to know. Movement is pretty straight-forward, you’ll want to shoot just about anything that’s coming at you, and you’ll need to learn what small objects and icons strewn around represent, whether power-ups or humans to save. While there’s some fun to be had here it somehow has too much going on to enjoy as a pure arcade game but lacks enough depth to be much more. Either way, I can’t say that I was hooked by anything enough to keep me wanting to return to it for long.

Blindy - This is the kind of game, characterizing itself as challenging or souls-like in some way, that gets a bit under my skin. Very simply the core of the game is a platformer where your goal is to survive an assortment of lethal traps on your way to the goal. The trick though, one I’ll note has been done before (and IMHO better), is that you can’t see very far around your character so you’ll be doing a lot of random trying and failing to figure out where the gaps and traps are. While your blood will temporarily give you an idea of where things are the fact that it goes away really leads to the experience being even less fun in the end. If you like the idea, more power to you, but it leaning hard on a gimmick to cover for just so-so level designs you’ve likely seen many times before makes it tough to recommend.

Thursday, November 14

Mini Reviews: November 14th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Sparklite [Nindie Choice!] - Since I’m a huge fan of roguelikes and their ability to revitalize and alter how you play more classic genres I’ve always wondered how it would pair with the Legend of Zelda series. One successful crack at it was Swords of Ditto, which featured of classic elements and smart ideas but to me was a little more long form and determined to be a bit weird in how it implemented some elements like combat. Sparklite takes a far more traditional track, working with weapons and mechanics much more directly reminiscent of the Zelda series and keeping the world a bit more compact, generally making for quicker runs if nothing else. Once you get your bearings and understand how elements like badges work (letting you dictate which tweaks and enhancements you want to use to help you out, they’re varied and extremely vital to your success) you’ll be off to face a pretty stiff challenge, especially in the early going.

Exploration and getting into a groove for understanding what you should prioritize on your runs is crucial to cutting down on time wasted. Mini dungeons where you’re assured a new badge or a fair reward of Sparklite should take priority, you should develop a sixth sense for which boulders may have a cave hidden under them, and acquiring new blueprints to craft new gadgets should always take priority. From there it will be a matter of your tastes and your level of skill. Just be ready, until you’re sufficiently geared up to take on the bosses (especially early on), you’re likely to get a bit frustrated. Some quibbles over the somewhat clunky menu, no provision for a more easily available mini map, and other nuisances can creep in at times but there’s no doubt that this is a high-quality adventure that’s challenging, inventive, and rewarding.

Dead By Daylight - Conceptually I’m a big fan of asymmetric multiplayer, and am always eager to see how another team has tried to tackle this tricky formula. Taking on the role of either the killer or one of the “potential survivors” in a horror movie-like setting is a smart twist and obviously one everyone can already relate to. In the case of Dead By Daylight the execution is a bit on the simpler side that the previously released Friday the 13th which operated similarly but locked into using Jason Voorhees in his many incarnations as the killer. Here instead you’ll have an assortment of killer templates to choose from as well as some licensed options if you’re willing to pay for them like Ghostface or Michael Myers as examples. As the killer you’ll be looking to leverage your core and special skills (which vary) to help find and dispatch wayward teens. As one of the pursued your focus will be on evasion, trying to keep each other alive, and fixing generators that will eventually provide for an exit to your torment. To throw in a little extra challenge there can be timed button press skill tests to keep it from being just a matter of waiting but once you’re used to them they don’t add too much to the mix. Since this game is 100% reliant on the online Switch community to keep alive you’ll need to carefully consider whether it is likely to sustain itself unless you have a group of reliable friends to play with though.

Planescape: Torment / Icewind Dale - Much like the pairing of Baldur’s Gate and Baldur’s Gate II, released at the same time as this pack, the most likely audience for these titles will be veteran gamers who remember playing these on PC back in the day. In the case of Planescape: Torment the format is quite different, with everything happening in a much different place and the action being more character-centric rather than party. Icewind Dale, on the other hand, is far more similar to the likes of Baldur’s Gate in its execution and play. While the attempt to adapt these titles for play on the consoles is admirable there’s no missing the clunkiness of the control systems and some of the graphics. Scaling can be odd, text in particular isn’t very crisp (I wouldn’t recommend it played in handheld mode unless your lighting and eyesight are pretty great), and there are obviously more smooth modern experiences. That said, if you’re itching to revisit these classics or are curious to see why they’re so revered the content is still there to make them worthwhile.

Haunted Halloween 86 - This title and Creepy Brawlers are interesting, games made now for the NES directly that are playable on the Switch. Working within the constraints of what is possible we now have games that are throwbacks both technologically and in terms of style but that have a few modern sensibilities thrown in. That modern twist, in the case of Haunted Halloween 86, is a more elaborate move set that you have available, with you additionally being able to dictate which moves you want to make available to yourself to help you in your side-scrolling adventure. From there this is a pretty straight up old school platformer, offering up a variety of creepy environments and an assortment of challenges. If you’re a huge fan of that era in many regards this feels like it fits right in and should be a treat.

Football Game - Being honest I’m starting to tire of games like Football Game that try to gloss over being designed in a very limited and linear fashion with some anticipated promise of a payoff down the line. Very quickly it’s clear that things aren’t quite right with your character’s mental state and that things have happened. That thread is supposed to entice you to continue to pull and unravel the full story. Unfortunately, the point and click adventure elements to get you there are so dull and by the numbers you’ll need to carefully consider whether any payoff will really be worth your wasted time with subpar play.

Tuesday, November 12

Mini Reviews: November 12th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Ritual: Crown of Horns - When it comes to shooters of all varieties the Switch has an abundance of riches. So when something comes along that plays a bit differently that tends to make me take some extra notice. Rather than going down a quick and intense arcade path Ritual is more slow and deliberate, though that isn’t to say you won’t quickly get overwhelmed by your enemies. While the level layouts and specifics of each stage vary ultimately the action tends to boil down to you needing to defend the witch you’ve aligned with as she tries to cast her spell. Sometimes you’ll have a building with windows and doors that need to be beaten down before the horde can get to her but sometimes the layout is more open. In each case you’ll need to make the rounds quickly and efficiently, taking down enemies with carefully placed and timed shots to maximize damage. The action tends to be somehow both methodical and intense, and there’s a fair amount of challenge to be had. Unfortunately sometimes the challenge is more aggravating than others as some structures and elements have a tendency to obstruct your way and there are times when the pacing seems wildly inconsistent from level to level. Still, if you’re up for a different take on a shooter that slows things down a little it’s a nice option to have on the console.

Door Kickers: Action Squad - Normally when I think about tactical shooters I’m thinking they’re either isometric like in the X-Com vein or top-down like some more classic titles. Heck, earlier this year with RICO we even had a first-person version. Taking things from yet another perspective we have Door Kickers: Action Squad which will have you taking on bad guys side-scrolling style. While you can tackle the game solo it seems like a title mostly geared for pairing up with some friends locally or taking your chances (keeping in mind the fickle nature of Switch indie online communities) with online matchmaking. There are a few classes to choose from, each with their own pros and cons, and the perps’ behaviors aren’t always a sure thing so there are always opportunities for a surprise. While it won’t be for everyone its mix of more arcade-like action with tactical considerations taken into account help it to stand out as a bit different in the Switch lineup.

The Park - While we’re now a little past the formal Halloween season there’s always time for a good scare. Well, maybe not so much a scare in the case of The Park as a slowly-bubbling sense of dread and unease. You play the part of a younger woman who starts out by going into an amusement park in pursuit of her young boy, but it doesn’t take long before things start to unravel a bit and it turns out the place has been abandoned, making you start to wonder if your character may be a few cans short of a six pack perhaps. As you discover bits and pieces of notes and articles a picture of what put the park into its current state begins to form and as you explore you continue to have episodes that make you question what’s real. While it’s more of a walking simulator-esque experience that only lasts a few hours there’s just enough content to suck you in if you’re game for this sort of experience.

House of Golf - Miniature golf is a fun casual staple for families everywhere, so it’s no surprise someone is trying to mine that core experience on Switch… in this case in the form of House of Golf. In this case the name is a bit literal, as you’ll play courses that have been set up in different rooms of the house, with the presentation taking the approach of you playing through with smaller than average people it seems. While the game gets nothing particularly wrong the experience is also pretty simple and even dull in some cases, your planning and executing your shots is uncomplicated for the most part but that also ends up begging the question of “Why?” While not a bad idea for families with less experienced players the less likely you are to play with other people and the more game-savvy you are the more unlikely it is that House of Golf will keep your attention for very long.

Mononoke Slashdown - Games that are on the lighter end of the spectrum in terms of scope and price can be tough to evaluate. If you’re dealing with a budget title just how much variety and depth should you expect? Mononoke Slashdown is a title where that question comes pretty heavily to the front. In terms of its look and base mechanics it’s got some things on its side and plays pretty well in terms of fluidity. That said, though some new elements and enemies are introduced and there are some nuances to combat you can start to pick up on there’s also just not a lot of meat on the bones. For a low price if you want to get your slash on it may not be a bad choice but just because it’s cheap doesn’t redeem it not being terribly engaging for long.

Friday, November 8

Mini Reviews: November 8th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

New Super Lucky’s Tale [Nindie Choice!] - For me New Super Lucky’s Tale marks a bit of an exciting time on the Switch, and as a fan of classic platforming. While there are many games that have aimed for hitting the mark of the likes of the classic Mario franchises like Super Mario 64 nothing has really proven up to the task. While some may consider it blasphemous I’m here to say this title has absolutely hit the mark, and done so with its own sense of humor and style rather than being derivative. Smart and varied level design, a mix of 2D and 3D platforming which are both very successful, and some nods that absolutely put a smile on my make for more than a handful of hours of family-friendly enjoyment.

There’s a completionist bent to things, with plenty to collect, but it is in no way oppressive and most of the time it’s just about being thorough. What you need to be able to get to the final boss and win is only a portion of what’s out there so the degree of difficulty is lenient in the fact that you can outright avoid what you struggle with. Even better, once you beat the game there’s an entire additional area full of some varied and outright brutal levels that will absolutely test your skills and patience. The team at Playful absolutely deserve credit and praise for setting an aggressive goal and then knocking it out of the park, this is Indie of the Year material through and through.

Juicy Realm [Nindie Choice!] - When it comes to roguelike shooters I’m both a tremendous fan and often a picky critic. We’ve been absolutely spoiled on this system with some incredibly varied top-tier titles that range from having a quick hit arcade feel to ones that are a slower burn and almost adventure-like. That makes it tough for new titles to break in, needing to throw down something pretty impressive to crack through and compete. Juicy Realm is absolutely a game that does just that, using its somewhat unusual art style and characters to suck you in, but then making you work hard to survive while working with some bizarre weapons and a fair amount of risk and reward as you try to go the distance. Varied initial characters are complemented by even more that can be unlocked, and while the random nature of the weapons you may encounter tends to make them a little more alike each person’s special skills can make a massive difference depending on how you prefer to play. Small complaints like the exits sometimes being far harder to spot than they should be are there but the core gameplay makes it easy to ignore completely so you can just keep playing. Throw in progressive powering up, new weapon unlocks, and ways to increase your burden for more rewards and this could easily become your go-to shooter on the system for quite some time.

Incredible Mandy - While a glance at the screenshots for Incredible Mndy can give you some Zelda vibes and thoughts of adventure, in practice it’s really a game sporting a sword-wielding hero who then mostly uses it to solve environmental puzzles of various kinds. The good news is that the mechanics used are quite different from the norm and can be clever, the bad news is that outside of that unless you’re dialed into the game’s story there isn’t ultimately very much to offer that elicits excitement. If you’re looking for a new take on environmental puzzles and can put up with some quirks, Mandy may not be quite Incredible but at least thoroughly adequate for the right audience.

Construction Simulator 2 - Simulations like this one are generally a “love them or leave” them affair, offering up a window into what some would say is the excitement of operating big equipment but also sometimes getting mired in the minutiae of reality. Sure, operating a backhoe, building things up, and tearing things down can have its moments… but you can expect quite a load of minutia involving moving things around and buying supplies and equipment periodically. If you’re hoping for something to enhance your calm as you methodically complete your tasks on jobs, often being told what to do at every step, that’s great.

Agony - Survival horror to date has mostly been a true horror show on the Switch, and not in a good way. Unfortunately, Agony continues the trend, delivering what mostly amounts to a tedious walking simulator through hell as you try to not to get creeped out by an almost numbing amount of generally unappealing nudity. Would it hurt the people in hell to put something light on? Even if the gameplay wasn’t so thoroughly “Meh” the game’s performance problems almost certainly be a killer. Stutters, pauses, and a general degree of wonkiness will plague you throughout, and considering the payoff is generally so weak it’s very hard to recommend this to anyone, even if you’re hard up for a decent scare… especially since the game really doesn’t deliver on much more than being weird and creepy in general.

Tuesday, November 5

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

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 [AAA Choice!] - Going way back to the days of playing games with friends on my Commodore 64 I’ve always enjoyed Olympic-style multi-event games. Back then it was the Summer/Winter/World Games series by Epyx at home complemented by arcade hits like Track & Field or HyperSports. The variety of play, the element of mastery to getting the timing and technique down for every event, and the outright competitive spirit when playing against friends or trying to beat high scores was always a blast. Now, when it comes to modern versions of these titles, even the Mario & Sonic series to date, things have been hit and miss. Sure, for the die hards these mini game collections are a staple for local multiplayer bragging rights, but for me there’s just been something lacking at times that sapped my enthusiasm.

That all changes with this year’s incarnation inspired by the upcoming Tokyo 2020 games. Sega has come at this title with guns blazing and checks a ton of boxes successfully. Great and diverse Olympic events, a pretty lengthy and terrific single-player Story mode (which includes additional mini games), retro-styled 2D events that emulate the classics, sometimes off-the-wall Dream Events that demonstrate even more creativity… this is a maximum effort title that offers so much sheer variety that just about anyone should be able to have some fun. While there’s no doubt not all events will appeal to everyone, which any collection of mini games suffers from, the typical support for multiple control schemes and different approaches to how events work in general signify Sega’s commitment to doing everything they could to do right by its fans. In a category where over the years I’ve become pretty jaded this title has absolutely restored my enthusiasm for the genre, and I’m looking forward to the same team attacking the Winter Games in 2 years.

Sydney Hunter and the Curse of the Mayan [Nindie Choice!] - Going old school can be a risky proposition at times, but when it is done right the results can be rewarding as well as nostalgic (at least for people like me). Sydney Hunter is an action platformer with a retro 8-bit look and at times a degree of challenge also reminiscent of days gone by. Your job is to explore, avoid traps and creatures who’ll do you harm, and pretty well to always be on the lookout for cracked blocks that you can swipe to reveal hidden collectibles. If you’re not good at spotting such blocks the game unfortunately gets significantly more frustrating as it will make you backtrack far more, and that’s not so fun. However, if you’ve got the itch to grab your whip and tackle thirteen stages of ancient temples in search of fortune and glory it’s a retro romp well worth checking out.

Disney Classic Games: Aladdin and The Lion King - An opening admission (and perhaps given my age this will be shocking), of all the SNES-era games I played in my college years I don’t believe these two were among them. That said, with so many contemporaries and fans out there who I know hold them in high regard I was very curious to check this collection out. Without the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia my impression of them is first and foremost that maybe even moreso than the typical re-released game these are products of their time. While you can quickly get the hang of the rules of play for both you’re really just dropped into playing, and in particular in the case of The Lion King I was a bit baffled at what I was even supposed to be doing at first. Not a big deal, just worth noting. The degree of what felt like cheap design, with the game whittling down your health at times using unfair means, was a bit more annoying but obviously with some repetition you’ll get through it. It’s just a classic tactic for artificially making the game longer I’ve never been a fan of. In the end, these are older games you’ll either embrace as is or find dated in their design and execution. If you hold nostalgia for them this is absolutely a terrific collection, packed with not just the base games but additional version from other platforms and other value added content I really appreciate from an archival standpoint. It’s a solid pair of titles, its ultimate value will very much differ from person to person though.

Creepy Brawlers - When you decide to set your sights on making a retro game in the vein of a classic like Punch-Out, even when we’re talking about a budget title, it’s a tricky proposition. Fans of the NES classic who enjoyed the mixture of action and ultimately puzzle-solving while engaging a variety of enemies in the ring will pretty well instantly understand what they’re looking at. In place of the strange array of international fighters though, in this case you’ll be dealing with an assortment of movie monsters of various kinds. The result does work, and can be fun, but there’s also no missing that it’s not a very polished experience. There’s just something with the responsiveness that feels just a hair slow and in places the game feels picky. That said, for the most part this is a style of play nobody else has dared to touch, so the mix of the horror movie theming and variations on a classic title may be just what you’re looking for when the price of admission is so humble.

Delta Squad - As a self-proclaimed super-fan of twin-stick shooters any title that looks like it could scratch that itch is immediately of interest. In the case of Delta Squad that enthusiasm unfortunately left pretty quickly. Your goal is to save the world, blah blah, and in order to do that you’ll need to work your way through meandering and non-descript levels shooting zombies, foot soldiers, heavy guns, and more. You’ll have the choice of which unit type you’ll be working with, though while they do differ none of them will help the game get any more exciting and rewarding. For a twin-stick shooter the enemies are not plentiful and the action is lacking. Your biggest challenges will often be to stationary guns that hit hard, and are often arranged near each other to complicate matters. The thing is, the experience is all stick and no carrot. If there were a clear gameplay pot of gold at the end of the somewhat clunky rainbow that is playing this game it could be worth sticking it out… but there just isn’t. Given the competition in this space at all price points this Delta Squad is only suitable for cannon fodder.

Friday, November 1

Mini Reviews: November 1st Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Earthfall: Alien Horde [Nindie Choice!] - When it comes to co-op PvE gameplay I don’t think any other title has managed to top the Left 4 Dead series, even though the last entry was released a solid decade ago. It’s plainly obvious that the makers of Earthfall are well aware who rules the genre roost as right out of the gate there are a staggering number of similarities in the structure and mechanics of this title. Once you get past the shock of what in many regards feels almost like a shameless rip-off of that title you’ll begin to notice some great additions though, particularly when it comes to strategic opportunities. Barricades and turrets are just two of the great additions Earthfall adds to the mix and they’re absolutely great ideas that are well-implemented and help it stand apart from its source of inspiration.

Online play is pretty decent, though it’s tough since everyone is obviously still getting their feet wet. I got kicked once or twice so stability may be a bit of a concern but whether there could be other complications at play would be a question. The great news is that solo or partial group play works well since the bots are pretty competent and can have their skill level adjusted as well to tweak their effectiveness. I wasn’t able to test local wireless play (no split-screen, sorry) but I’m a fan of it being an option. I think my only consistent concern was that it could be hard in some places to spot aliens, the vegetation and elements in some areas tended to obscure aliens so they could feel like they were popping up on you at times. Still, considering Valve is unlikely to port Left 4 Dead to Switch (or do anything other than make money on Steam anymore it seems) and there’s nothing else like it on Switch, Earthfall: Alien Horde is a great choice if you’ve been itching for some squad-based co-op FPS action.

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD - From the start I was always a fan of the Super Monkey Ball series. Between the cuteness of it all, the mix of puzzles and reflex action, and the ingenuity of some of the included multiplayer games they were a blast. That said, while normally series improve with age in the case of Monkey Ball subsequent versions somehow seemed to lose their luster. That’s where Banana Blitz HD is both a good and a bad thing. I’m thrilled to see Monkey Ball on the Switch, but of the versions Sega could have ported this is a weak entry. Single-player is solid, for sure, but the attempts at bosses are a bit all over the place and in some cases don’t even seem well-conceived. The multiplayer games may be the most disappointing for me though since many of them are rudimentary in nature and lack in staying power. Worse, one of the earlier versions of Monkey Target was far superior to the one included in this incarnation and I’m still jonesing for Monkey Bowling which was also in an earlier version and an absolute blast. I hope this version does well since the gameplay core is still there and fun, but mostly I’m wishing Sega will decide to go back and remaster some earlier versions to fully recapture the franchise’s magic.

Polyroll - If you’re a gamer who has been around a while, immediately at the point you get this game rolling you won’t be able to miss the fact that it’s based heavily on Sonic the Hedgehog. Running (obviously) through courses with an emphasis on jumping, collecting gems, bouncing on enemies, and getting hurled around. Is it as exciting and well-designed as your average classic Sonic game? No. Is it a reasonable facsimile that’s not terribly hard on your pocketbook? Yes. If you’re not a fan of the blue speedster you can probably pass but if you’re game for a variation on a classic theme Polyroll is a decent bet.

Spaceland - When it comes to tactical squad-based shooters simply nothing compares to the X-Com series. Spaceland isn’t trying to compete with it though, it’s instead offering up an experience that’s reminiscent of that style in terms of the combat, but with a budget price and more easy-going feel. Does it allow for creating a squad you’ll carefully cultivate with the perks that represent your strategic style? Not really. Does it have the research, the base, and all of the layers that make the strategy element so satisfying? Nah. However, considering the price point and the lack of stand-out strategy options on the Switch if you’re itching for something in that vein on a budget it may satisfy you for at least a little while.

Deep Space Rush - Grinding is one of those things that can grate on your nerves, though in the case of some games it can work. Unfortunately the number of titles where earned progression through repeatedly running up against a brick wall, with the plan being that you’ll slowly improve your core skills and get further the next time, is rewarding is incredibly short. You can easily count Deep Space Rush in the not-so-good pile, with one of its biggest problems being that even when you are able to afford upgrades they’re so lackluster that your time feels wasted. Bland and uninspired platform shooting awaits, with the highlight being weapon power-ups you can pick up along the way (which are generally what you’re upgrading) but those lack in diversity or interest. Jump, shoot, dodge, shoot, pick up power-up, shoot something slightly different for a short time, jump, and shoot some more. It’s all grind and really no reward, and it’s tough to recommend.