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.