Wednesday, December 4

Mini Reviews: December 4th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

EarthNight [Nindie Choice!] - When you see or hear the words endless runner the typical reaction is to go straight into eye-rolling mode. More often than not the genre’s staple status on mobile phones has earned that reaction but every once in a while you’ll see an exception to the typical rules and get a game that manages to stand out from the crowd as something more. With a great look, engaging roguelike elements that keep runs a bit more fresh, steady unlocks that slowly give you additional abilities and longevity, and simple but surprisingly deep play EarthNight is one such anomaly. Make no mistake, in terms of overall complexity while there’s certainly nuance to everything I wouldn’t quite say there’s real depth here, but if the arcade-like experience of trying your best, failing, and then taking it all on again hoping to improve on your last run has some appeal for you this is probably one of the best options within the genre.

Simulacra - Mixing what has become its own subgenre of puzzle games in the form of the “found a lost phone” experience with some FMV and voice acting that attempt to raise the dramatic bar with some elements of horror and mystery Simulacra demonstrates some ambition. That said, mechanically these games have become a bit predictable as you’ll move between apps mining for data, talk to people in the hopes for clues and insights, and then slowly try to peel away the layers of security and confusion to uncover what exactly is going on. Whether you consider this the best example of a title in this subgenre will likely hinge on whether you find the acting to be an improvement over simply reading texts and emails from people but the attempt to raise the bar of expectation for this sort of experience is at least appreciated.

Monster Jam: Steel Titans - The overall representation of the racing genre on the Switch outside of the likes of Mario Kart and its clones remains poor, but at least for the sake of variety games like Monster Jam are at least making an appearance. Granted, with this game being all about trying to drive a monster truck the concepts of precision steering and control are completely out the window. To the game’s credit I found it more consistently enjoyable than its predecessor, though it does at least somewhat share some of its faults. One pity is that the phenomenon of kicking off a monster truck breakdance of sorts is still present, but I will note that the tendency for the game’s physics to plain give up and allow you to be launched into the stratosphere after hitting some bump or ramp the wrong way has been dealt with well, though on occasion I’d get an incident involving that issue. This will in no way make up for the lack of Gran Turismo or Need for Speed but I can understand the thrill the right audience may have getting into the cab of one of these behemoths. Just keep your expectations in check and it should be good for some fun, though you should probably wait for a sale first.

Pine - There’s no doubt that when it was shown briefly in an Indie-focused Direct Pine got the attention of a ton of people. With its unique look and what appeared to be perhaps some Zelda-ish adventure DNA, what wasn’t there to like? Unfortunately, somewhat like trailers that do a good job of teasing interest while omitting the landmines in the actual movie, the finished (that may be too strong a word) product here just doesn’t work so well. The most glaring issues are technical and general user experience ones. I’ll give credit, a Day 1 patch helped to sand down some rough visual edges and improve things but load times are still pretty miserable and the pop-in of in-game objects is impossible to miss… and at times it happens practically right in front of you. Even getting away from the technical side though elements like the many factions you’ll need to contend with often feel like length extenders to impede progress more than meaningful additions that make for a better experience. Whether you can choose to overlook its problems or if a later patch tightens things up there’s an adventure here that does things differently, no doubt, but with so many better experiences out there it’s hard to get behind this one.

Story of a Gladiator - With visions of controlling a video game form of Russell Crowe and slashing my way through arenas full of enemies, dispatching my foes in creative ways, I embarked on this game’s journey. Unfortunately, what I didn’t anticipate is that it would feel a bit more like a mobile grind-fest where little by little I’d hack through some enemies in order to slowly accumulate even basic attack and defense moves… eventually perhaps getting to the point where it would be compelling. With so many great beat-em-ups on the Switch, and even ones with slashing elements that blow this away (cough, Wulverblade), the unfortunate story of this gladiator is one you shouldn’t feel bad for missing.