Friday, November 29

Top 20 Indie Story-Driven Games on Nintendo Switch


Last Updated: 10/27/2020 - While gameplay should always reign supreme in great games there’s certainly a valid place for a compelling narrative to back it up. These games are the ones that I’ve been the most interested in or even moved by over the course of playing through my catalog on Switch. Not all will be tear-jerkers (some definitely are), but all of them have some element in their narrative that’s unique, interesting, and worth checking out if you’re up for something deeper than the surface level. As always the goal is to get broad representation of taste and style here so the list has been curated with diversity in mind.

The Gardens Between - When we first saw footage of this title in one of the Nindie Directs it was already clear that the game was brilliant visually. What's great is that those amazing visuals then paired with a touching story about friendship told without words and some of the most unusual and fascinating puzzle designs I've seen in quite some time. The time shifting mechanic is put to great use throughout, and by the end you'll really need to pay close attention to every detail to figure out how to make it work to proceed. Among many great stories told this year it's one of the most relatable of the bunch and is paired with a creative puzzle style.


GRIS - A tricky thing with story-driven and emotional games is that typically the more powerful they are the more their gameplay mechanics tend to suffer. That's very much not the case for GRIS, another terrific story told without words, outstanding visual design, and surprisingly satisfying puzzle platforming as well. I always enjoy puzzles that push you but don't break you and make you feel smart when you figure them out and this is something it manages effortlessly for the most part. It's a feast for the senses that is highly recommended.


Spiritfarer - While many gamers enjoy blowing away enemies, racing through hairpin turns, or guiding their team to victory there’s a growing contingent of gamers who either prefer or enjoy more soothing experiences. While there are a few notable titles in this space already on Switch none are quite like Spiritfarer, which combines exploration at sea with a variety of building and cultivation elements, a wide assortment of charming characters, and a generally gentle hand providing direction but placing no urgent demands on how you wish to play. You’ve been tasked with taking the responsibility of ferrying the dead to the afterlife from Charon himself, and most of your adventure will involve you putting together a ship worthy of the important task of making the final journey of the souls you help as pleasant as possible. Doing that will require quite an investment in crafting, cultivation, trading, and building relationships with the people you meet. It’s interesting how many of your activities are turned into sort of mini games, helping to at least give some of your repetitive tasks a little flavor and keeping you engaged throughout. While over the course of the pretty long journey there’s a tendency to fall into quite a bit of repetition if you’ve been looking for a meaningful journey without the pressures of your typical title this is likely an ideal fit.


Last Day of June - While it has play elements that make it feel like an adventure what makes Last Day of June most compelling is the roller coaster of emotions it takes you through as you play it. Given the opportunity to try to alter the events that lead to your wife's untimely death you'll work to save her, finding that fate can be extremely difficult to avoid. Ending with an emotional punch, this is a game well worth experiencing.


Figment - While a pretty solid action puzzler with strange characters and some great original music it’s the game’s somewhat sad family-oriented story and small moments that touched me as a parent. Trapped in the subconscious and trying to repair the damage done by a horrible accident, Figment will make you think more than fight and is full of wonder and terrific hand drawn art at every turn.


Night in the Woods - Returning from a failed attempt at going to college you'll play the part of Mae, a young woman with a checkered past who returns to her home town to live with her parents. Though in terms of pure gameplay it's all pretty basic, consisting of exploring and small mini games for the most part, what's compelling here are the characters. Exploring depression, the plight of small towns in decay, and a variety of other themes Night in the Woods is a pretty unique experience with interesting characters and stories to tell.


Bastion - While people with access to other systems may well have played Bastion before since it's been around for a number of years, it still is absolutely a great title that doesn't feel at all dated on the Switch. Very much an action-oriented RPG similar to a classic like Secret of Mana, in Bastion you'll slowly accumulate a variety of weapons that you can then upgrade and customize your combat with as they each make the game play pretty differently. While the art is fantastic its the solid gameplay and the ever-present narrator, telling the game's story in real time, that make it a memorable title.


Knights and Bikes - Memories from my childhood, while often involving playing games on a variety of systems or in arcades, involve a pretty heavy dose of riding my bike and trying to find ways to make exploring fun. Knights and Bikes absolutely taps into that idea, pairing the somewhat unlikely friends Demelza and Nessa on the somewhat secluded island of Penfurzy. Aside from being a bit of an odd bird you’ll find that Demelza is struggling with being raised by only her father after the death of her mother. To help cope with that the answer is a grand adventure in the spirit of the likes of The Goonies, searching for a fabled treasure while trying to thwart an ancient threat possessing the people of the island. What the game does well is blend together some novel and fun combat with a hefty dose of exploration, as well as move effectively between lighthearted silliness and more reflective emotional moments. The result is an experience that sticks with you, which with so many titles out there vying for your attention can be tough to accomplish. While it’s playable as a solo experience it really does shine in co-op, though I’ll admit a few of the puzzles can require tricky leaps of faith that can be a challenge either way. That minor gripe aside this is a game with a load of laughs, childlike wonder, and heartfelt moments that’s absolutely worth your time.


Along the Edge - On a general level interactive fiction titles haven’t been my cup of tea. It isn’t that I don’t appreciate that such an experience could be game-like, having grown up reading Choose Your Own Adventure titles I appreciate a smart branching narrative, I’ve just not found that the level of quality in the writing and total package has been enough to get me fully engaged. With its story involving the mysterious legacy of your family that you’ve never really known, inheriting a small estate in a small town in the country, Along the Edge very much breaks that mold for me and did a phenomenal job of sucking me in. With high quality writing, characters that read as being complex and nuanced in their motivations and interactions, and terrific artwork that changes almost constantly it’s very visibly a project built with love and care. Sure, perhaps the generalized storyline isn’t so unique, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be effective and with many decisions that feel like they carry consequences there’s plenty of motivation to go back and try things out differently once you’re done. While it won’t deliver a shot of excitement you’d find with an action-oriented game if you’re a fan of smart fiction this should be well worth spending some time with.


Horace - Horace is an odd title in that much like the title character robot of the same name it is quite unassuming and humble but there’s so much more to it. In terms of the gameplay it’s mostly a smart puzzle platformer that puts up some challenge but is never too over-the-top taxing either. What makes it special though is the story of Horace and his “family”, which evolves from him being a curious sort of family “pet” to a meaningful and important member of it. There are so many magical moments of joy and sadness that feel unusual paired with the gameplay and yet given the quality of both there’s no room for complaint. Top that all off with mini games and a wide variety of surprises and though there’s not much outwardly sexy about the game’s name or main character to pull you in, rest assured it’s a real gem of an experience if you give it a shot. 
 

Katana Zero - Katana ZERO was absolutely one of the best games of 2019 and I’d be shocked it if didn’t end up in my Top 10 (and those of many others as well) for the year. While it is perhaps a bit too heavy to be a wide mainstream title, its constant focus on changing up the formula and never letting you get very comfortable is quite an accomplishment. Throw on a narrative begging to be revisited in search of greater understanding of all of the story beats and it also has a surprising degree of replayability on that front as well. As a whole it is an experience without a peer on the system and serves up a handful of intense and creative insanity well worth experiencing.


198X - As a child of the 70s and 80s who spent an enormous amount of time in the arcades there’s no doubt 198X was made for me. I’m just getting my bias out of the way so you can take into account how it may color my generally positive perception of the game. In essence the game is a blend of the beginnings of the story (it is meant to be the first chapter in a bigger narrative) of Kid, a teenager approaching life’s crossroads and feeling the limits of the town they’re living in. With the discovery of a local arcade, and through the exploration of 5 different retro-styled games, that perspective begins to shift, providing confidence and vision of new possibilities. While perhaps it’s a bit frustrating how briefly you’ll be able to enjoy the title’s loving recreation of multiple classics and genres there are moments I had playing through them that helped me reconnect with the wonder of the experience of the arcade, not just as a collection of games to play but as a physical place that was somehow special. I’m absolutely looking forward to what is yet to come in future chapters and I would imagine anyone with a long-standing connection and affection for games will enjoy this celebration of arcade culture.


Joe Dever’s Lone Wolf - Very much the dark horse on this list Joe Dever's Lone Wolf is just a thoroughly different kind of experience. Playing out like a mix of a Choose Your Own Adventure story and mixing choices you make in the story with action sequences you'll then fight out connected to the story beats it's thoroughly unique. The combat itself also takes some getting used to but once it clicks I also found it to be pretty engaging. While it won't be for everyone I appreciate its attempt to strike out on a path of its own and would be thrilled to see a sequel with some refinements.


Transistor - As the follow-up to Bastion, Transistor has some of the same base elements as an action-oriented RPG but they're very different games with very different play styles. In Transistor you'll gain enhancements you can then manage and combine in a variety of ways to produce very different effects. The ability to stop time and plot out the attacks that you'll then execute also gives the game a far more tactical feel to help differentiate it. Also featuring terrific art, it is this time paired with some exceptional music to complement the on-screen action.


Embracelet - This, for me, is one of those titles where it’s hard to articulate why I’m so taken in by it. With its low-poly look, its somewhat sparse landscapes (though perhaps such an island would be roughly that way, granted), and its riff on traditional point-and-click adventuring on paper it could just seem nice, but perhaps not great either. However, throw in a story that I found unusual and engaging, and it works better than the sum of those parts may imply. Early on you inherit a relic from your grandfather with the power to control objects, and learn that there was an accident at his hands when he was younger using it, causing him a degree of pain and regret. Your journey ends up being to go back to the island he grew up on, learn more about him and his past, and perhaps to understand where the relic came from and what should be done with it. There are quite a number of deeply emotional adventures on the Switch already, many of which are excellent in their own right, but there’s a different tugging I found this journey to have on me with different themes and a different approach. Mix in the fact that many of the puzzles felt pretty natural and yet unusual in some cases and I enjoyed this unassuming adventure title thoroughly.


Cinders - Pretty well instantly upon finishing my initial version of this story I was compelled to start up and try another path as there are quite a number of key decisions I can imagine would greatly affect the outcome. While my choices lead to Cinders becoming Queen, and very much the equal of her husband, they also made her a bit cold and loveless, which given some choices I’d made ended up being a realistic end. That ended up being the kicker for my enjoyment I think, the element of finding success but at what cost that permeated parts of the game. Overall, if you’re a fan of interactive fiction, strong characters, and choices that carry consequence I’d say this one is well worth checking out.


The World Next Door - As the final credits rolled The World Next Door felt like a satisfying experience on the whole but I was also left with questions. I suppose that could be the goal, to encourage people to play through again making different decisions and see what would happen, but given minimal feedback from the game on the effect of what you chose to do or say it’s hard to be confident enough would change to make it worthwhile. I thoroughly enjoyed the adventure the game took me on, and the characters I got to interact with along the way, I just wish the story’s conclusion was more clearly a culmination of my choices, good and bad, somehow.


The Complex - Having played “interactive movie” style games since way back when CD-ROMs first allowed them to exist with the likes of classics like The 7th Guest and Phantasmagoria (among others) it has been interesting to see the genre progress. While it feels like it nearly died a few years ago, with modern systems and hardware it has become quite astonishing how seamlessly they’re now able to string everything together. Having effectively removed any pauses or distortions as your choices alter the flow of the story it feels like the promise of the genre has finally been realized. That’s even more the case with a title like The Complex, effectively putting you into the middle of a sci-fi thriller, forced to make tough decisions with some significant consequences that will likely prompt you to play through again to improve the ultimate outcome you reach. Keeping in mind this is essentially a “Choose Your Own Adventure” experience the level of interactivity is limited but the quality of the production, acting, and writing in general make this about as compelling an example of the genre as you could hope for.


Afterparty - The indie scene, in general, has seemed to fully embrace the concept of a “story-driven adventure”, less focused on action and more interested in interaction. Whether this takes the form of a visual novel or something that’s at least a little more game-like in presentation varies but for people on the outside looking in the genre may have a lack of appeal. Moreso than many of its contemporaries Afterparty attempts to use an unusual plot involving two friends who’ve crossed into Hell, copious amounts of hilarious dialogue choices, and what ends up being a surprising number of potential paths to go down narratively to suck you in and even encourage further playthroughs. While those looking for a bit more action in their gaming may find the sparse mini games and focus on conversation a deterrent if you’re down for being entertained by being able to indulge your worst impulses to see where things go Afterparty can be a ton of surprising fun.


Old Man’s Journey - I’d say the moral of Old Man’s Journey relates well in a somewhat tangential way to my thoughts on reviewing games. Your time is precious, so be sure to make the most of it and try not to give yourself things to regret. The further along in your own life and experiences you are the easier it is to recommend it wholeheartedly as its story will likely hit you quite a few ways right in the feels. The younger you are it is probably harder to justify since that shifts more responsibility to the adequate-but-not-incredble puzzle aspects of it. Old Man’s Journey fits well into the Switch library with its own distinct story to tell complemented by outstanding art and satisfying puzzles.


This list will continue to grow and be maintained as time goes on, as well as numerous other lists that try to keep track of all of the best titles the Nintendo Switch has to offer in the Indie space!

Tuesday, November 26

Top 20 Indie Competitive Games on Nintendo Switch


[Last Updated: 11/11/20] While it can be a lot of fun to join up with friends, family, or even strangers in cooperative games locally or online sometimes there’s nothing you want more than to knock someone around and show them you’re the best. The goal with this list isn’t necessarily to provide the top scoring games in this category but to also try to emphasize the diversity of titles available on the system in order to try to satisfy tastes of all types. Keeping that in mind these are the best indie titles for getting some competition going with.

Killer Queen Black - After having heard so much about this killer multiplayer arcade title I was interested to see what the fuss was all about. While the core of the game is ultimately reliant on playing with as many as 7 other people (4 to a side) in this case the developers have gone the extra mile to ensure it can be played across platforms so availability shouldn’t be as much of an issue as we sometimes see with Switch-exclusive multiplayer titles. One note is that there’s definitely a learning curve, and thankfully there are a multitude of offline tutorials that try to break everything down from the multiple paths to victory, to what roles people can play, to simply learning how to follow what’s going on since things tend to get hectic. While it may feel a bit on the simpler side, depending on your taste, this is a game that just about anyone should be able to pick up and get in to and it absolutely offers up a both a co-op and competitive multiplayer experience that nothing out there can rival.


Super Mega Baseball 3 - Getting right down to it there’s just something about the Super Mega Baseball series that taps into what love and nostalgia I have for baseball as a sport, particularly in video game form. While I could see where some sports fans could be irritated by the lack of MLB teams and players for me it takes me back to the days of playing games on the NES or in the arcade against friends, though obviously the degree of complexity on all levels has appropriately increased. What then seals the deal, and what impressed me so much about this title, is how scalable the experience is in terms of depth and difficulty. If you just want to just kick around in some exhibition games, great. A whole season? Sure. Manage a franchise including all of the trades, potentials for injury hardships, and customizing just about anything you can think of? Without the worries of a license it’s all available to you. Throw in the ego system which will allow you to tune the difficulty up or down incrementally as your skills grow and it can remain as easy or tough as you choose. The statement that this is the best baseball title without question on Switch may be easy for lack of any legitimate competition whatsoever but more than that it is one of the best baseball games I’ve ever played, period.


Spellbreak - Have you been feeling like Fortnite has become a bit played out? I have… though I think I felt that way pretty early since I always considered the quick-build types complete BS but I digress. Spellbreak is hoping that whatever your grievances may be with that mega-successful free-to-play juggernaut that you’ll give it a look, and considering the price of admission being nothing I think they’ve put together a total package that justifies taking the time. There are absolutely elements in the match structure and gameplay that are the same, dropped onto a large island, there’s a storm that will continue to encroach in order to force players to fight each other within a reasonable time frame, and options to run solo or with others. Where the game veers off into its own territory is where I really appreciate the differences though. In place of weapons everyone is desperate to grab to have any shot of survival Spellbreak instead goes with a magical base, with you choosing which element you want as your core and then allowing you to pick up a secondary gauntlet for another elemental power to compliment. Where the creativity comes in is how you can make combined use of these powers in some situations, opening the door to some more interesting tactical choices when you’re attacking or even evading enemies. Fortnite veterans who aren’t put off by the differences should quickly feel right at home, but even people new to these sorts of games should find the learning curve reasonably accessible. Since it’s cross-platform in theory there shouldn’t be an issue in finding opponents, so get out there and get some spellcasting on!


Skullgirls 2nd Encore - 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.


Rocket League - As a game that I've already spent well over 800 hours playing on the PC I'm thrilled that Nintendo fans finally have their opportunity to play this excellent title. While the concept of rocket-powered cars roughly playing soccer may seem ridiculous, once you get your first taste of airtime and scoring crazy goals or making last-second saves you may well get hooked as so many others have already. While getting started isn't too hard even hundreds of hours in there will always be new skills and tricks for you to master. While compromises on the visuals had to be made to get it on the console the focus on the buttery frame rate was the proper choice in priorities. If you've never given it a try it is well worth checking out.


Duck Game - As long as you’re able to find people to play with whether locally or online Duck Game one of the best multiplayer experiences you’ll find on the system. It’s diverse, deep, has many times the volume of content you’ll find in any of its competitors, and it maintains a brisk pace whether in the match or loading the next stage. While some AI ducks to fill in gaps or quack against would help provide a little extra longevity or fun when you’re on the go, there’s still no denying that Duck Game is at the top of the Switch multiplayer food chain.


Worms W.M.D. - While some of the installments of the Worms franchise haven't always delivered fresh changes WMD both looks incredible and adds a number of elements that make it stand out. Crafting adds a strategic component to matches and generally allows the early phase to remain more traditional before the more lethal and ridiculous weapons begin to come into use. Vehicles like the tank, helicopter, and mech suit provide temptation as well as they can change the match quickly if used well. Finally, there are some bonus single-player campaigns that are legitimately difficult and worthwhile in their own right. Even if you've been away from the franchise for some time, or you've never given it a try, this is an installment worth giving a shot.


Crystal Crisis - All in all Crystal Crisis is a game laser-focused on a specific style of play that absolutely delivers a great value with various modes, characters, and quite a bit of personality as well. While it is always more fun to match up against human competitors the mode variants at least make playing solo feel a bit different as you work to unlock everything. Online play is exciting and works well enough, the question is always sustained support but the inclusion of it is welcome. If you’re looking to get your puzzle on in style Crystal Crisis serves up an eclectic group of characters to choose from, plenty of visual flair, and all for a reasonable price. Puzzle fans should definitely give it a look.


Flat Heroes - While it may look visually pretty simple, featuring geometric shapes for the most part and a very clean design, the gameplay is surprisingly versatile and challenging. You'll quickly find your little cube has a nimbleness and flow akin to Super Meat Boy and all of those moves will get put to the test over the lengthy campaign. You can then take those skills to Survival mode to put them to the ultimate test or take on your friends in some surprisingly varied local multiplayer modes as well.


Swords & Soldiers 2: Shawarmageddon - All in all Sword & Soldiers 2 is a clear step up from its predecessor in pretty well every way. Artistically it is far more elaborate and full of character, the campaign storyline is as odd and silly as ever, the units are far more diverse and interesting, and the inclusion of online multiplayer is a cherry on top. While it may err a bit on catering to the lighter side of strategy make no mistake, the game is capable of being as complex as you can handle if you’re playing against another human, even if the solo challenge may not be as impressive. It’s well worth adding to your library if you’re in search of something fun but still satisfying in between bigger titles.


Tumblestone - All said Tumblestone is a very strong contender in the action puzzler space and sets itself apart by not trying to imitate what is successful and instead finds its own way, and it does so quite successfully. The emphasis moreso on puzzle solving is an engaging twist but that’s not to say that the game slows down or is meditative. In mutli-player mode I can assure you it is quite the opposite as the sounds of everyone in my family very rapidly pressing buttons to set up matches was very audible and other than that people generally made no sounds as they were that intensely concentrating on trying to win. As I said the need for precision and seeing patterns so that you don’t trap yourself are both absolutely vital and it makes for compelling gaming sessions. If you really love great puzzle titles Tumblestone is a title you won’t want to miss!


BlazBlue: Central Fiction - If you’re looking for a rock solid fighting game experience that’s quite approachable and has a large roster of characters that isn’t Smash, BlazBlue is very much worth checking out. The more you’d appreciate the various storylines and narrative silliness the more the package has to offer, but the best case scenario would obviously be having someone local to play with to get the most out of it. If you have last year’s Cross Tag Battle it’s a tougher call. There are some nice new characters and nuances to the fighting but I’d say unless you’re interested in the narrative content it may be a stretch. Regardless, it’s a high quality and approachable fighting game that’s a great alternative to the more well-known series out there.


Rocket Fist - Delivering fast and pretty hectic action Rocket Fist reminds me most of playing Super Bomberman on the SNES and having a great time with my friends. Playing out like a fast-paced arena-based game of dodgeball you'll try to control fists and ricochet them off the walls to hit your opponents while you try to keep out of trouble yourself. Add on a pretty terrific single-player campaign, complete with the incredibly cool and fun Uncle Knuckle, and Rocket Fist has a lot to offer for an affordable price.


Meow Motors - Though there’s no question that this is a “budget racer” that can’t compete with a premium genre-defining title, Meow Motors holds its own very respectably. In pretty well every area it addresses the failings of its competition, providing racing that’s varied, nuanced, and satisfying. It looks very respectable, runs smoothly, and sucked me in pretty easily with engaging play I’ve been missing in this space for quite some time. If you’ve been itching for a viable alternative to Mario Kart for a price that won’t hurt your wallet, Meow Motors is absolutely the indie racer to go with.


Crawl - Probably one of the most balanced and creative local multiplayer competitive games I've played Crawl does a whole lot right, setting the stage for frantic fun with you and up to 3 friends. Each of you is trying to play as the hero, set on reaching Level 10, facing the final boss, and escaping the dungeons. The trick is that everyone else will play as spirits, capable of triggering traps or summoning monsters to try to bring the hero down. As the hero levels up to maintain balance the spirits are given wrath points that they can use to upgrade their monsters to make them decidedly more lethal. What's fun is how the dynamic among the spirit players quickly shifts from being cooperative at first to a free-for-all as the heroes health wanes, with each wanting to strike the killing blow to take over and have their shot at glory. Inventive and intense fun for a group of competitive friends!


Party Golf - In truth the name Party Golf is deceiving, while there are modes that play a lot like a simple golf game the true fun in this title is switching up the rules to play a number of pretty unusual variants. Control generally couldn't be easier, you pick your angle and power with the analog stick and then fire. Rules will generally dictate that the first person to get to the hole gets the most points but if you keep exploring the game options you'll find all sorts of ways to have fun with some friends.


Roof Rage - OK, Smash fans, hear me out. When it comes to fast-paced and somewhat crazy fighting Smash tends to be in a class all its own. That said, I’m here to tell you that someone has managed to capture a fair amount of that energy and surprising depth and put it into a budget pixel fighter. Roof Rage may just have a stable of pretty familiar and generic fighters overall by appearance but its fighting action is a pleasant surprise, especially when combining the pretty diverse combatants with the numerous stage layouts you’ll contend with. In general fighters feel responsive, their individual attacks have enough variety to encourage experimentation, and for the most part the game exceeds what I would have expected from a title at this pretty humble price point. If you’ve been looking for something with the spirit of Smash to enjoy with some friends and can live without the wild and wacky power-ups Roof Rage may be a great choice for your next throwdown.


Runbow - While this is a hold-over from the previous generation this multiplayer runner is a lot of fun. Though in principle it's a pretty simple affair the color-changing platforms and power-ups more often than not result in the winner simply being the lone, or at least the longest-lasting, survivor of the race. Its single-player mode is also challenging fun but whether locally or online this is a terrific party game pretty much anyone can understand pretty quickly.


Varion - While there are quite a lot of multiplayer arena shooters to choose from they're often hard to tell apart from one another. Varion smartly adds a wrinkle to the formula that changes things up significantly, you'll only be able to destroy your opponents with shots that have ricocheted off a wall first. Match this up with some minorly maze-like arenas and you have the makings of a multiplayer game that requires a bit more skill, or at least a healthy dose of luck, and that easily stands out from the more run-of-the-mill competition on the eShop.


Tricky Towers - Offering up a mix of iconic tetronimoes with a tower-building mechanic and some real concerns with gravity and your creation topping over this title can make for a lot of fun with friends. You'll get to choose between helping yourself or hurting your opponents when you get power-ups and certainly sending a massive version of one of the pieces to an opponent's screen can make for a bit of evil fun if it catches them by surprise. A very different kind of fun with a more cerebral edge to it.


This list will continue to grow and be pruned as time goes on, as well as numerous other lists that try to keep track of all of the best titles the Nintendo Switch has to offer in the Indie space!

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.

Friday, November 22

Top 20 Indie Cooperative Games on Nintendo Switch


[Last Updated: 4/30/20]: While there are plenty of games of all stripes that are best suited to playing solo it's important to take a moment to acknowledge those titles that are best enjoyed with some friends, family, or maybe in some cases strangers online. These are the best titles on Switch to play with others, typically locally.

Streets of Rage 4 - Right out of the gate I had an admission to make, when it comes to the beat-em-up genre I’m firmly a Final Fight guy, always have been. With that out of the way I’ll quickly make a bold (but having played the game quite a bit, very simple) declaration… even with no allegiance to the Streets of Rage franchise this is hands down the best overall beat-em-up I’ve ever had the pleasure to play. It looks amazing, each of the characters have similar but distinctive moves you’ll need to really dial into to be effective, it supports both local and online multiplayer, it’s tough but not often cheap, and it has a truckload of content to explore and unlock. Not only does it manage this laundry list all in the same package, in pretty well every area I’d say it outclasses the competition (sometimes handily) across the board as well. For fans of the genre this is your Holy Grail, and for anyone who has ever wondered why people enjoy beat-em-ups this is the best example of what it has to offer, though it may spoil you if you decide you like what you see since it stands a fair distance above its competition. If ever there was a brawler that could justify a perfect score it’s this one.


Heave Ho - While having played so many indie games on the Switch is interesting and exposes you to all sorts of takes on multiple genres one admitted downside is that it can also make you a bit jaded. When it comes to my family, who are often asked to partake in helping me evaluate multiplayer games, I’d say the rate of that happening is far more accelerated. Conceptually Heave Ho may be simple, working solo or with up to 3 friends to simply grab and swing your way from the start to the finish line without falling, hitting spikes, or meeting your splattery demise in some other way. However, there’s a certain charm to it that pretty well immediately made everyone laugh and have a good time. Even after repeatedly getting frustrated in certain spots, especially when trying to keep from dropping costume-unlocking coins that can up the challenge significantly at times, the fun cut through the difficulties for everyone. Solo does work, and is great for honing your skills, but the game is absolutely meant to be played with friends, the more the better. Overall, this may be the best and most accessible multiplayer co-op game on the system.


Moving Out - While the Overcooked series is famously (or is it infamously?) known to many fans of local multiplayer I’ll admit that I consider one of its weaknesses to be broad approachability. There are just enough mechanics and features in it that manage to frustrate more than they generally entertain that after the first few levels I struggled to keep my family and friends on board. Working with some ideas roughly in the same vein, and certainly sharing some aesthetic qualities on a general level, Moving Out can be challenging but I also consider it to be more fair and thus more likely to be fun with a larger audience. In it you and your friends will play as movers who must get all manner of furniture and knick knacks out of a house and onto your truck. No surprise, it quickly can get more complicated as you’ll need to work together to get larger and more awkward pieces out. The good news is that if you’re willing to perhaps forgo a bonus and offend your customers you can also have a ton of fun busting up the place in the process, breaking windows and disregarding best practices in the name of shaving off seconds. Throw in bonus objectives that range from mildly challenging to silly that vary from stage to stage, and while people could get a little more tense early on as everyone learned the ropes for the most part it was a room full of smiles as everyone locked into their niches and got things done. Highly recommended for approachable family fun!


Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime - While it is certainly playable, enjoyable, and challenging as a single-player game where Lovers really shines is in playing with friends and family. You'll each need to move around your ship to control the various stations whether the engines, shields, guns, or bigger cannon to defeat bad guys and save cute bunnies from their cages. Extra exploration and time taken increases your risk of failure but will also have you on the path to upgrading faster and as you progress you may find every extra bit of help you can have necessary. Colorful, fun, and sure to encourage a lot of yelling (hopefully mostly positive), it's a good time.


Overcooked 2 - The sequel to this frantic cooking hit managed to amp up the insanity a bit while toning down a few of the rougher edges from the original. If you don't have people to play with locally online is now an option, though that can make effective coordination quite a bit trickier. While the game is playable solo, taking on a more puzzle-like feel at times, it shines the brightest and most fun when played locally with some friends, just be ready to coordinate, communicate, and keep your cool as the game throws your well-made plans into the crapper as stages play out in unexpected ways.


Assault Android Cactus+ - Absolutely one of the games I had wished for the most to come to Switch since the system launched, Assault Android Cactus is a next to perfect arcade-style twin-stick shooter. Complete with intense action, big and challenging boss fights, and 9 distinct characters who each have their own primary and secondary weapons the game is full of opportunities to go back and have some more fun. The Switch version even added an additional Campaign+ mode that further ups the ante for challenge, also making it the best edition of the game out there!


Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince - A quick admission, while I’ve always appreciated the beauty of the Trine series overall I was just never much of a fan of the overall experience. Through some alchemy, or maybe my tastes as a gamer have evolved, that makes my experience with Trine 4 a wonderful surprise. Smart, absolutely stacked with puzzles, and though somewhat repetitive continually changing things up in small ways I appreciate it is an action puzzling dream, and all the better if you can enjoy it with a friend. As always, each of your 3 core characters have specific abilities that you’ll need to use in concert with one another to chip away at obstacles and discover hidden goodies that seem to be present every few steps. Though I’ll admit the combat, when it happens, is clunky, this is a game first and foremost about challenging your mind and it absolutely manages to do that on a pretty well continuous basis throughout. Far more than just resting on being a pretty game (my typical feeling about the rest of the series), this is one of the most satisfying titles I’ve played this year.


Just Shapes and Beats - Possibly one of the more bizarre titles I played in 2018, Just Shapes and Beats pretty well gives away its secret in the title. While that may sound very simple and it's gameplay mostly emphasizes merely trying to avoid getting hit, there's no denying that doing it all with so much style makes for a lot of fun. Playable with friends locally or others online there's also an element of teamwork you'll find as players are able to save each other when someone gets knocked out. Full of some great tracks, colorful designs, and a ton of personality this is an outstanding title deserving of attention.


Cuphead - With a mix of brutal boss battles and challenging run and gun sections Cuphead is notorious for being a tough game. While the degree of difficulty is well-known for a reason, that isn’t to say that the majority of the game is impossible by any means. Much like certain classic games like Punch-Out in particular, the key to success is careful observation, learning the enemy patterns and then getting a comfort level for executing what needs to get done. The fact that it will additionally be remembered as one of the most visually fascinating games of the generation is just icing on the cake, no matter how incredible it looks it wouldn’t be well-regarded if the gameplay wasn’t there to match.


The Adventure Pals - With a look and quirky sense of humor that feels like it came from a Cartoon Network show, The Adventure Pals is a silly platforming adventure full of surprises and some smart gameplay. The fact that the challenge generally remains pretty modest and the abundance of weird characters and situations consistently brought a smile to my face made it an easy game to consider for this category.


River City Girls - While the beat-em-up genre was absolutely a staple of both the arcades and the early console days more recently titles have been few and far between. The great news is that if you’ve been aching for a new excuse to dust off your brawler skills and smack some bad guys around River City Girls is easily among the best offerings available on the Switch. In general reminding me of the excellent Scott Pilgrim beat-em-up from a number of years ago there’s a quality to the presentation, action, and obvious love for the genre here that’s unmistakable and it’s a blast to play solo or with a friend. Of course if you’re someone who’ll simply settle into what combos work and fail to make full use of your attacks the that continue to unlock as you progress it will probably feel repetitive but that’s simply the nature of the beast and it won’t have been for the game’s lack of trying to give you new moves to work with as you level up.


Knights and Bikes - Memories from my childhood, while often involving playing games on a variety of systems or in arcades, involve a pretty heavy dose of riding my bike and trying to find ways to make exploring fun. Knights and Bikes absolutely taps into that idea, pairing the somewhat unlikely friends Demelza and Nessa on the somewhat secluded island of Penfurzy. Aside from being a bit of an odd bird you’ll find that Demelza is struggling with being raised by only her father after the death of her mother. To help cope with that the answer is a grand adventure in the spirit of the likes of The Goonies, searching for a fabled treasure while trying to thwart an ancient threat possessing the people of the island. What the game does well is blend together some novel and fun combat with a hefty dose of exploration, as well as move effectively between lighthearted silliness and more reflective emotional moments. The result is an experience that sticks with you, which with so many titles out there vying for your attention can be tough to accomplish. While it’s playable as a solo experience it really does shine in co-op, though I’ll admit a few of the puzzles can require tricky leaps of faith that can be a challenge either way. That minor gripe aside this is a game with a load of laughs, childlike wonder, and heartfelt moments that’s absolutely worth your time.



Death Squared - If you've felt like puzzle games have become a bit stale and predictable over the years, with many of them using well-known mechanics to simply create variations on a known theme, you'll want to check out Death Squared. It's amazing how first adding a second person (or pitting you against yourself) to the mix and forcing careful coordination and teamwork can really liven things up. Add in some clever and sometimes diabolical leaps of faith that are necessary to discover the game's secrets and progress and it makes for one of the best puzzle games I've played in years. If you really want to push the limits of your sanity try the collection of 4 player puzzles as well, it makes for a lot of laughing, yelling, and fun.


Earthfall: Alien Horde - 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.  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.


Aegis Defenders - Mixing together action platforming with tower defense, Aegis Defenders has a style all its own. While the game works well as a single-player experience sharing the responsibilities with a friend ends up making things much more manageable and fun. Work together to set up a sturdy defense and conquer the game's challenges together.


Victor Vran - While it’s inevitable for Victor Vran to be compared to the series that obviously inspired it presuming that it is merely a clone or some lesser attempt would be a mistake. It may borrow elements, but aside from having great core gameplay it also does some things very differently, and even as someone who had invested hundreds of hours into the Diablo series I appreciate there being a strong competitor out there that has dared to be different. If you’re seeking some challenging and satisfying action RPG gameplay on the Switch, Victor Vran absolutely delivers.



Guns, Gore and Cannoli 2 - Another sequel that took what worked in the original and then made it better on all levels, this side-scrolling zombie-blaster is terrific fun whether you're solo or playing with friends. The 360 degree aiming feels great, the level design and progression are creative and often unpredictable, and the violence makes for a bloody good time.



Sky Racket - This is one of those games where with the elevator pitch alone I was revved up and ready to go. A retro-styled mash up of shmup bullet dodging and breakout? Where do I sign up? Fortunately, though granted the experience isn’t necessarily a long one (and I’d say it’s a mistake not to have online leaderboards to encourage people to replay stages to compete on scores), Sky Racket’s execution justifies the excitement. Not only does it look like a long lost title from the 16-bit era, there’s just a whimsical quality to it that lines up with that time as well, making it feel like a bit of a lost classic. I’d say the experience is equally good solo or with a friend, though paired you’ll probably want to be sure your skills are at least comparable to keep some frustrations at bay. If you’ve been bemoaning there simply not being enough innovation in the market you owe it to yourself to partake of this great and unique indie gem.


Pikuniku - Pikuniku is generally over too quickly, both solo and in co-op, and it may be too simplistic or silly for some folks but for me it was a joy pretty well the entire time. Focused on discovery, some creativity, and filled with strange surprises and quirks, it absolutely feels at home on the Switch and would probably work for people of any age or skill level if they simply have some patience. I’d love to see a sequel with even more funky fun, and am hoping to see more easygoing titles like it on Switch in the coming year.



Joggernauts - Joggernauts can be viewed a couple of different ways, with its best side being the party multiplayer. It’s deliriously silly in a way that matches Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime in tone and style. This is built for four friends messing around and trolling each other trying to progress through difficult platforming challenges together. It falters a little bit in longevity and as a solo experience, but those elements are more secondary to the raucous fun in multiplayer.



This list will continue to grow and be pruned as time goes on, as well as numerous other lists that try to keep track of all of the best titles the Nintendo Switch has to offer in the Indie space!

Tuesday, November 19

Top 20 Indie Challenging Games on Nintendo Switch


Last Updated: 10/24/20 - If you’re up for intensity and likely some frustration these are the indie games on Switch most likely to make you want to throw something, just don’t make it your controller. As always the goal here isn’t necessarily to feature only the very best, there’s a goal to focus on variety and represent as many genres as possible so this isn’t to say there aren’t plenty more to choose from as well. Cheating a little I’ll throw a shout out to both Celeste and Hollow Knight here, both are excellent and challenging indie titles I just didn’t happen to get them for review… so they are honorable mentions though technically I’m not listing them.

Dead Cells - This was probably my favorite game of 2018, though since it's also a very challenging title it won't be for everyone. I played a ton of it on PC in Early Access but in its final form on the Switch everything I liked about it solidified completely with rock-solid and satisfying gameplay. The fact that you can be effective with a variety of builds, its multiple paths you can follow, and satisfying progression as you make repeated attempts make this the gold standard in roguelikes for me, and it proves out what they're capable of.


The Messenger - Possibly one of the best retro console titles I've ever played, The Messenger actually feels like a collection of multiple terrific and challenging titles. Starting out as a more straight-up action platformer after many levels and challenging bosses you'll feel like you're done but then, BAM, the game expands into an epic and even more challenging Metroidvania. It blends classic sensibilities with outstanding level designs, a Shopkeeper who absolutely cracks me up throughout the game, and some of the most satisfying action I enjoyed all year.


Cuphead - With a mix of brutal boss battles and challenging run and gun sections Cuphead is notorious for being a tough game. While the degree of difficulty is well-known for a reason, that isn’t to say that the majority of the game is impossible by any means. Much like certain classic games like Punch-Out in particular, the key to success is careful observation, learning the enemy patterns and then getting a comfort level for executing what needs to get done. The fact that it will additionally be remembered as one of the most visually fascinating games of the generation is just icing on the cake, no matter how incredible it looks it wouldn’t be well-regarded if the gameplay wasn’t there to match.


Wulverblade - Full of technique, nuance, and some very challenging boss fights Wulverblade has established a new gold standard in what beat-em-ups should aspire to both in terms of story and general gameplay. A patch to pull back the challenge and make it more accessible to less skilled players was welcome and there's one particular surprise as you near the game's conclusion that you absolutely won't want to miss! The end is only the beginning!


A Robot Named Fight - If Nintendo were to decide to turn the Metroid series into a roguelike it would likely end up looking quite a bit like A Robot Named Fight, though probably a lot more polished. Your goal is to survive and that can be quite a challenge. On each run you'll encounter new ship layouts, make use of different weapons and power-ups, and likely have very different experiences, some good and some more brutal. It adds up to a compelling challenge that continues to stay fresh for quite some time as long as you don't decide to give up in frustration too quickly.


Hyper Light Drifter - The indie darling from the PC space has finally come to Switch full of its challenging dashing and slashing. You'll need to carefully choose where you decide to go, and if things don't seem to be panning out too well in one direction you should try another, as some paths are more challenging than others. Filled out with some difficult boss fights and ability upgrades that require making some tough choices of what you'll want to invest in it's an engaging experience all around.


Neon Abyss - While it’s still what I’d consider a niche genre overall roguelike shooters are one of those that I practically consider sacred. While I’ve played and enjoyed a great number of them there are probably only 3 I’d say are pillars of sorts in the genre: The Binding of Isaac, Nuclear Throne, and Enter the Gungeon. While all of them play differently the one thing they have in common is their top-down perspective. I’ve seen attempts at side-scrolling roguelikes before, but none of them has really stepped up to the level of the greats… until now. Neon Abyss is the game-changing and genre-defining side-scrolling roguelike shooter you’ve been waiting for, it’s simple as that. For comparison purposes I’d say the game it shares the most with conceptually would be Isaac, and that’s because it pushes much more heavily into the potential for craziness and diversity in every single run. Rather than the focus being on weapons, though it certainly has some very creative ones, Abyss is much more about the absolutely dizzying number of items and how putting them together in different combinations can produce some radically-different results. While there are opportunities to make some choices, for the most part every time you enter the Abyss you’re on a runaway train of craziness and your only choice is to try to make the most of it. One run may be pet-heavy, in another you’ll be able to fly, some will give you devastating firepower, but no matter how geared up you may feel the fickle RNG gods can still take it away.

Moreso than any game in the genre outside of Isaac risk versus reward is a constant battle here. You’ll generally have a limited number of coins, grenades, keys, eggs, pets, hearts, and shields and depending on your run any of them could be more scarce or vital to your success. All of these variables can certainly make for some frustration, but the great news is that aside from there being an ability to go with Easy, Normal, or Hard difficulty as you play more and have more successes you’ll also be able to unlock even more gear, characters, special rooms, and even more that will help to keep the experience evolving and getting even more unpredictable. Now, at least for launch I would be remiss not to mention the game can have problems with some bosses and circumstances with slowdown, and when it kicks in it can be a slideshow. The good news is that even with as much insanity on the screen as there can be on an ongoing basis these stutters are only temporary in nature, so hopefully a patch will help clean them up. Even with these issues though, Neon Abyss is an absolute blast to play. You’ll have ups, you’ll have downs, you’ll cackle with glee as you put together an arsenal that melts an entire room of enemies in seconds. If you’re a fan of shooters I consider this an absolute must-play (and hey, there’s a demo too), but even for more mainstream gamers if you’ve ever considered trying out a roguelike shooter this is absolutely one of the best options out there.


Ms. Splosion Man - I'd heard of this title before but nothing could prepare me for just how weirdly, brilliantly silly it all is. While in principle the controls are simple, limited to moving back and forth and blowing yourself up, its the interaction with other elements in the levels to solve action puzzles and proceed that make it a load of fun. While her almost non-stop chattering of weird (and often dated) pop culture references and commentary may not be for everyone to me they just added flavor to the game's core manic energy.


Aces of the Luftwaffe Squadron - The classic arcade shooter 1943 and its many variants are among my favorites of all time and Aces does an incredible job of capturing what works in those games and then modernizing it. Hardly just a stock bullet hell shooter the variety of side missions you'll look to complete along the campaign will require you to use some strategy as well as technique. A per-pilot upgrade system that will give you a variety of new buffs and power-ups will help you shore up your weak points or simply make you more lethal, and down the stretch the bosses will test your skills sorely so you'll want and need any help you can get. Probably the best overall modern arcade shooter I've played on any platform.


West of Dead - While there are many roguelike shooters on the Switch (and quite a few of them are absolutely terrific) none of them plays quite like West of Dead. The biggest change is in the pacing, switching out arcade-style intensity with the more careful action befitting your undead gunslinger. Make no mistake, this game is absolutely a challenge, and in true roguelike fashion it’s not going to compromise it’s level of difficulty for the benefit of your ego in the early going especially. The thing is, once you get over the substantial hump of Chapter 1 (pro hint: unless you like dying don’t take on the Wendigo in the second level, he’s optional) and get your bearings, as well as a few new weapons and items for your arsenal selection, it does let up. Many mechanics for progression and flow take a page from the Dead Cells handbook, a smart move, though unfortunately the build variety and choice in that title isn’t as present here. Though I love the Mignola-esque art style the darkness mixed with funky geometry can sometimes be annoying as you'll get stuck, and the camera that tries to keep a bead on the action can contribute to occasional issues further. Though perhaps this is a title best reserved for the hardcore roguelike fans who know what they’re getting into, the game’s sense of style matched with the voice of Ron Perlman may compel some new blood to the genre as well. Just don’t say you weren’t warned. 
 

Lonely Mountains: Downhill - If there was a major genre on Switch to argue may be the worst represented, whether AAA titles or indies, it could be sports. Given how much diversity that’s possible in the category this is a bit of a surprise but it’s where we find ourselves. When a genre title does then show up there can be a concern that fans on the platform are so starved for a new experience that they’ll jump on anything. In the case of Lonely Mountains: Downhill you shouldn’t have such a concern, at least depending on the type of experience you’re looking for. Part discovery and exploration, part precision, certainly part frustration, and I’ll gladly throw a bit of luck onto the pile as well, it’s an experience not quite like anything I’ve played before. Your goal is pretty simple at first, simply survive the tough ride from the top of the mountain to the bottom. Along that ride, though, you’ll see the hints of what’s in store for you as you then try to shave seconds off your time. You’ll swear you see what could be a trail off to the side, you’ll hit an intersection with a path coming from a completely different direction, or you’ll even see a spot you’re certain must be a jump. What follows is usually a grueling run or two where you’ll basically try to map out what’s possible, typically learning the hard way how not to execute certain sections as your rider plunges to a bloody (and often undoubtedly lethal) fall. No problem, you’ll pop right back to your last checkpoint and try again… and again. As a warning I’ve seen the game stutter at times as it scales in and out of the action, and there are angles where the brilliant tilt shift perspective look works against you with elements blocking your view from the foreground but the unique experience, the open-ended nature of how you tackle your run, and the sheer beauty of the different trails and mountains you’ll encounter make this an outstanding game like no other that’s absolutely worth a look if you don’t mind the challenge.


Don't Starve - Don't Starve is a roguelike take on survival with a heap of unpredictable situations that will kill you. In order to help compensate you're actually able to tune your game world quite a bit, so at least you can tone things down while you get to understand what you need to do in which order and where in order best to survive. It has plenty of content for those daring enough to stick with it, just expect a challenge.


Into the Breach - Coming from the people behind the infamous FTL (which somehow still isn't on Switch), this bite-sized strategy title works in pretty quick and concise rounds that will demand your careful attention. Progress will come slowly at first and you'll likely need to make some sacrifices in order to ultimately succeed but this is a well-designed strategy title that will make you work for your success.


Super Meat Boy - One of the original poster children of brutally challenging platforming is now on the Switch and he's as tough as ever. While simply surviving and getting through the levels can be tricky, overachievers will no doubt want to find and unlock all of the game's secret characters which often even require you to play with distinct mechanics to find success with. While it's super-challenging it's also typically not cruel, and its controls are super-tight, putting the pressure on you to execute with precision.


Bloodroots - This is a title that got me excited the first time I saw it in a Nindie Direct and that I was even more thrilled with when I got to play it some last year at PAX. The silly and almost arcade-like kinetic action as you sweep through levels like a tornado of destruction, using whatever implements are available, to dispatch your numerous enemies is a thrill. I was concerned that it would somehow burn itself out, running out of ideas and somehow losing its edge but those worries were unfounded. New challenges, weapons, and scenarios continue to challenge you throughout, moving between more free-form destruction levels and those that require precision and smart use of what’s made available to you. If there’s one concern I have with the game I’d say that it may be a bit tougher than the average person would like, and one of the reasons for that is that there are times it feels overly picky. Sometimes this is a simpler thing like you being close but apparently not just close enough to grab a weapon as you blow by but then there are stages where you’ll need to jump from a moving barrel to another but nuance isn’t one of the game’s strengths and without nailing the jump you’ll repeatedly die. If the game were only slightly more forgiving, leaning further into the fun energy and high-score-chasing chaos than being so picky about precision I’d consider it just about perfect for anyone. As it is, everything is still a load of fun, just be ready for some rough spots where you may need to walk away for a bit to let your rage subside.


Has-Been Heroes - It seems appropriate to start the list with the first game I reviewed for the system and prepared a pretty extensive tips and tricks guide for. Dismissed by much of the games press for its substantial level of challenge before its Day 1 Patch looking through many of the complaints about it I think the biggest issue was too many people didn’t understand its mechanics and were trying to smash their way through. This is a deep strategy roguelike and once you understand its systems defeating its bosses is a supremely satisfying feeling. Pair that with post-launch patches that have refined the difficulty and added additional content there's a staggering amount of terrific content in this game!


Hotline Miami Collection - Shadow dropped as a surprise this year, 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.


Darkest Dungeon - Fans of tough games have no doubt already heard plenty about this dark and difficult RPG experience with a roguelike unpredictable twist. In Darkest Dungeon the act of completing the dungeon doesn't simply return everyone in your party to normal, the toll of the adventure can have serious and debilitating effects on the people you're trying to work with. Try not to get too attached to anyone, while you can invest in keeping them sane you won't be able to save them all. Managing your party's sanity here can be just as challenging as the monsters in the dungeons themselves.


Creature in the Well - With Creature in the Well there’s just so much to like and appreciate. The art style is distinct and interesting, the mix of slashing and pinball elements are unique and make for fascinating puzzles and action, and there’s no doubt that I’ve never played any game like it. Once you get a fair distance into the game and begin facing more situations that center around timers though there’s no denying that it’s probably tuned a little too far towards being challenging for the average gamer. The frustration in some of these circumstances actually would often make me feel like there’s some technique or trick to things that I missed at some point, and that I’ve made it harder than it is meant to be. However, even with a fair amount of experimenting I’ve not found a way to do better than what feels like a mix of the planets aligning and outright luck to just barely satisfy a specific module with enough power before its timer goes to zero. This leaves me a bit torn on a recommendation as I absolutely think this is a game worth playing, but whether it would be toned down a bit in general or have a more lenient difficulty setting added I do think it’s in need of some tuning to be more accessible.


Blasphemous - From first glance during a Direct there was no question that Blasphemous, visually, was something pretty special. With a dark and gothic tone all its own, this is certainly a stand-out in the Switch library. What may be divisive for the average gamer will be the degree of difficulty that comes along for the ride. Owing much to the likes of Castlevania in its overall style and feel, with you slashing your way through enemies, finding power-ups and secrets all about in a non-linear way, the old school sensibilities of those original games is also in full effect here. This is an unforgivingly tough game, one that will prompt controllers leaving peoples’ hands, whether being put down or even thrown. If that sounds like your jam I’d say the experience is pretty easy to recommend, though perhaps it doesn’t do a great deal to stand out from its inspirations in terms of innovative gameplay. If you’re not a seasoned gamer and aren’t looking for a title to kick you down and coldly tell you to “git gud” repeatedly you’ll likely be better off taking on something a bit less ambitious though.


This list will continue to grow and be pruned as time goes on, as well as numerous other lists that try to keep track of all of the best titles the Nintendo Switch has to offer in the Indie space!

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.