Wednesday, February 12

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

Glass Masquerade 2: Illusions [Nindie Choice] - While there are a pretty impressive number of puzzle games in the Switch eShop, including many that are worth your time, I can say with confidence that none of them is quite like the Glass Masquerade series. The hook is that you’re essentially reconstructing a typically beautiful piece of stained glass artwork and given the unusual shapes and patterns you’ll usually be dealing with this can be challenging. Once you get used to things I’d suggest amping up the difficulty which will require that you rotate the pieces rather than just figuring out where to place them but the option to choose is a plus. About my only qualm is that due to the scaling of your active piece versus the puzzle it can sometimes appear that your piece won’t have room to fit in a given spot but once you’re used to this it isn’t generally a big problem. With its great artwork, seriously chilled out soundtrack, and unique challenges this sequel doesn’t deviate much from the first entry in the series but once again should prove to be compelling for puzzle fans.

Psikyo Shooting Stars Bravo - Pretty hot on the heels of Shooting Stars Alpha, Psikyo has another release full of classic shmup goodness for you… plus one notable (and IMHO pretty awesome exception). Starting with the shooters there are 3 titles from the Samurai Aces series and from game to game these show pretty surprising variety in their unusual cast of characters (each with their own shot patterns), moving between vertical and horizontal shooting, and simply changing up their feel each time. Whether or not those alterations are ultimately successful is a fair question but I appreciate their not settling on repeatedly offering more of the same. The other franchise in this collection, Gunbird, is more traditional with its first two titles featuring very classic vertically-scrolling play but I’ll admit the oddball characters and some of their attacks crack me up. That brings us to the collection’s final title, the surprise that is Gunbarich which plays more like the classic brick breaker Arkanoid, but that has a style all its own. As with Alpha be warned that this collection delivers on pretty solid content but it’s a no-frills experience with nothing like rewind or save states to sweeten the pot. Still, if you’re a shmup fan there’s some real quirky fun to be had here.

Code Shifter - With an overall story setup that is similar to my beloved TRON Code Shifter got off to a good start for me, featuring a young programmer who has written a security routine named Sera who you’ll play as to actively destroy bugs and viruses in the system. To sweeten the pot the side-scrolling action features a pretty wide variety of characters from other Arc System Works titles that you’ll be able to change into, whether just for whooping some ass or in order to use their special abilities to advance or get hidden areas. Where the issues unfortunately mount is in the game’s core control mechanics, with a generally floaty and imprecise feel that’s hard to ever fully shake. Too often you’ll miss a jump or landing or end up taking a hit because everything is just a bit too loose, something you really don’t want to see in any sort of platforming experience. Throw in that perhaps the story elements are a bit too drawn out and do more to detract from the fun rather than enhance the experience and Code Shifter has its positives but it’s hard to overlook its problems nonetheless.

EQQO - With reasonably good overall production values that include a serene soundtrack and great voice acting, EQQO has some positives. Unfortunately, the game was obviously created for play in VR and that can make the experience clunky on the Switch. Fixed camera positions that often put the action farther away than you’d likely prefer are among the frustrations that get in the way of enjoyment. If the camera were capable of following your character life would have been far simpler and better, but that wasn’t how it was designed so you’ll instead need to learn to live within the game’s limitations. If you’re willing to work within the awkward control and view constraints there’s some great storytelling paired with a nice point-and-click adventure here, just be aware of the limits that its VR implementation put on the overall experience.

Help Me Doctor - While there’s room on the Switch eShop for games of all types, meant to appeal to players across a broad spectrum, there are sometimes ones that really aren’t putting in a remotely fair effort. Help Me Doctor falls into that category and my diagnosis is sadly that it’s a terminal problem. It’s sense of humor that I appreciate, seemingly inspired by the classic Theme Hospital, is about its only positive but the odd conditions people have are extremely limited and truthfully not even terribly clever. Its gameplay, which isn’t explained in the least so it will take you a few minutes to piece together precisely what you’re supposed to be doing, only consists of looking at the few symptoms people report and matching it to a diagnosis… and sometimes there are discrepancies you’re expected to catch. That’s it. There’s nothing else. While a title like Papers Please or the recent Not Tonight can make this sort of formula work with a sense of urgency and importance based on context Help Me Doctor just blandly shambles on and gets tiresome quickly.