Thursday, December 12

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

Shovel Knight - King of Cards [Nindie Choice!] - While I haven’t formally reviewed any of the previous Shovel Knight games I’ve been a quiet fan of the series since it started. Between its lovingly retro look, the team’s ability to infuse new life into mostly established elements and enemies by changing the protagonist’s abilities up each time, and overall smart design the franchise is a master class in great game design and execution. With this last chapter in the series they’ve managed to one-up themselves further by introducing not just the fresh (and somewhat challenging at times) mechanics of the boisterously silly King Knight, but also a full-fledged deck battling card game in the form of Joustus. While there’s, no doubt, some risk in having attention shift between two radically different styles of play since people may strongly prefer one to the other, given the quality of both I think the final product proves to be superior in the end because of the combination. If you’re late to the Shovel Knight party there’s a real feast to be had with the Treasure Trove collecting them all together, but if you’re looking for a stand-alone retro game with variety King of Cards is an excellent choice.

Riverbond - For whatever reason I have a bit of a soft spot for voxel-based graphics so when I saw a dungeon-crawler boasting those aesthetics when Riverbond was announced I was easily on board. Now having played it my feelings are mixed. As someone who has entered many a brutally challenging dungeon and faced down all sorts of craziness Riverbond is a decidedly tame and easygoing affair, but at the same time for the right audience I think it may be outright perfect. With its strange and steady stream of unlockable (and often silly) weapons and characters, ability to have up to 4 people play together cooperatively, and very approachable overall style I think this is perfectly suited to either families looking for a fun-for-all-ages or skills experience, so while the hardcore set may find it too basic for their tastes it may be an ideal stepping stone for the next generation of explorers out there.

Shovel Knight Showdown - So you know and love the Shovel Knight crew and their overall aesthetics, and you’ve been with them through a variety of adventures. But, have you and your friends chosen your favorite characters and thrown down in a hacking and slashing brawl to see who is the true champion? That’s the essence of Shovel Knight Showdown, a local multiplayer game that makes full use of the Shovel Knight elements and assets in a very different way. There are some varying strategies that are possible: looking to quickly grab gems versus slugging it out, versus being sly and waiting for other people to fight and pouncing on the weakened winners… but that’s generally true for any games of this kind. Given the volume of games on Switch that offer up some variation on this same theme it’s hard to declare it a standout in the space, aside from it making use of this well-regarded franchise, but if you’re looking for some fun it should entertain you and your friends for a while nonetheless.

Where The Water Tastes Like Wine - One of the things I love the most about indie games and devs are the risks you see being taken in the form of new experiences that challenge the status quo and expectations of what a game can be. Where The Water Tastes Like Wine is very much a game in that lane, with a deep focus on storytelling, and in a way that feels very bound to the classic oral traditions of the past. You’ll meander around the country and encounter events which you have a limited ability to affect and then periodically meet up with fellow travellers who are looking for a good yarn. As you progress and continue to encounter new people (or sometimes people you’ve met before) you’ll begin to appreciate how what starts as simple tales will often morph into new and often more interesting variations with time and more people embellishing them. That the majority of this is done with terrific voice work and complimentary music really makes the game stand out, but there’s also no getting around the needlessly slow pacing and sparse map as you continue to explore the country. For the right crowd it will no doubt be fascinating, but for anyone looking for even a hint of excitement you’ll probably want to give it a pass.

Tick Tock: A Tale For Two - With a preponderance of puzzlers populating the Switch, it can take some ingenuity to come up with something new and different. With a smart take on cooperative gaming Tick Tock: A Tale For Two isn’t something you can (well, you could, but it would be awkward and weird) tackle solo, you’ll need to work with a friend since each of you can see different clues and elements essential to making progress. The fact that it is played on two screens also ends up being a bit of a risk, as you’ll absolutely need to purchase two copies of the game to play, but it is at least a daring attempt at standing out from the pack. You’re also able to play it across platforms if that would help, the smart way it works is that the games aren’t connected in any way, you’ll just move through the experience together since at each step collaboration is required for progress. Interesting and different but not everyone may like what’s needed to get rolling with it.