Tuesday, December 10

Mini Reviews: December 10th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Dead End Job [Nindie Choice!] - As a huge fan of twin-stick roguelike shooters, and with plenty of excellent ones already on the Switch, my interest is always piqued by a new contender in this space. Coming to the table with an art style and sense of humor that reminds me of classic Ren & Stimpy was a strong opener, but if it didn’t have solid gameplay to back it up I was ready to drop the hammer. The result is a surprising one, and even with what I’d consider a crowded space of solid roguelike shooters on Switch I’ll argue Dead End Job has managed to carve out a space somewhat of its own. Progression is a bit different here, working almost like a roguelike RPG, as you’ll accumulate experience when you collect ghosts (you can even get perks where you’ll get bonus experience for capturing them quickly together, highly recommended) which will level you up and give you access to 3 random (and thus the roguelike element) perks. Until you die you’ll continue to hold on to every perk you’ve accumulated, which first places a heavy incentive on staying alive but also making the experience more accessible than the competition. If you’re looking for a lighter and more friendly shooter that’s a bit silly, weird, and ultimately quite approachable even for less experienced gamers, Dead End Job is a good time with a style all its own.

SuperEpic: The Entertainment War - A somewhat cute and funky visual style? Check. Some silly commentary on the general games and entertainment industry? Check. Metroidvania-like exploration and progression? Check. Compelling and fresh gameplay to challenge you? Eh, so maybe that’s where it’s a bit more on the weak side. SuperEpic should absolutely delight the proper audience who is looking for some meta-level entertainment to go with their action. That said, on the gameplay front the overall experience is more of a generic one when compared to the standard-bearers on the platform. That makes the value proposition it offers a bit of a wild card and highly dependent on what you’re looking for.

Big Pharma - These management simulation style games certainly have their place, and since they aren’t well-represented on the Switch I have no doubts Big Pharma will be enticing to the right crowd that has been starved for this sort of experience. That said, as is what I’d consider typical for the genre, console controls simply aren’t ideal for quickly moving through multiple screens of details and if you like to play on the go you’re going to likely have some issues with scaling as well. Your goal here is to understand the market, research new chemicals and elements that in the proper combinations will satisfy the needs of your consumers, and optimize your production lines in the space you have to work with to produce the right drugs. The challenge is in getting your arms around it all, contending with windows of information sometimes getting in your way, and living with some quirkiness like equipment being inconsistently named and using a controller to take the place of a mouse and keyboard. If you’re starved for this sort of play and are determined to enjoy it on the Switch Big Pharma should satisfy, you’ll just need to clear some hurdles to get there.

Defenders of Ekron - This is one of those titles where I’m torn on how to feel about it. On the one hand I like and tend to champion games that dare to do things differently, but on the other defying expectations makes for a tough road and not all new ideas work out. Conceptually Ekron is a bit all over the place, with one part arcade shooter with unique mechanics, one part puzzle solving dungeon exploration, and a story that I don’t think really does well in tying it all together. The result is kind of odd and I’m not really sure what audience the game is for. If you’re a shooter fan you’ll likely find it too slow and dull in the early going, probably giving up before even gets interesting. However, if you’re not a shooter fan as the game progresses and the challenge ramps up you may easily find it overwhelming. If you’re patient and give it time there’s a pretty different experience awaiting you, just the road to it clicking and feeling worthwhile is too slow for its own good.

Breathing Fear - It seems like minimalist adventures with limited mechanics and not much in the way of narrative substance, relying on a mix of trial and error, some limited creepiness, and abundant patience on the part of the player are a thing. It’s hard to ignore the bare bones nature of Breathing Fear, the lack of much narrative or direction, wondering how things like your stress level work, and then getting irritated with the somewhat cheap way you’ll likely die as you stumble through discovering the necessary sequence of events for success. The thing is there’s just no real reward for your accomplishment, making it a pretty hollow exercise.