Thursday, March 12

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

Afterparty [Nindie Choice!] - The indie scene, in general, has seemed to fully embrace the concept of a “story-driven adventure”, less focused on action and more interested in interaction. Whether this takes the form of a visual novel or something that’s at least a little more game-like in presentation varies but for people on the outside looking in the genre may have a lack of appeal. Moreso than many of its contemporaries Afterparty attempts to use an unusual plot involving two friends who’ve crossed into Hell, copious amounts of hilarious dialogue choices, and what ends up being a surprising number of potential paths to go down narratively to suck you in and even encourage further playthroughs. While those looking for a bit more action in their gaming may find the sparse mini games and focus on conversation a deterrent if you’re down for being entertained by being able to indulge your worst impulses to see where things go Afterparty can be a ton of surprising fun.

Alder’s Blood - Though it can be a bit reductionist, sometimes the easiest way to convey the essence of a game is to give you an elevator pitch to help out. In the case of Alder’s Blood the best I can come up with is that it’s the love child of X-Com style tactical combat and the grim sensibilities and challenge of Darkest Dungeon. If that gives you the idea that it can be a serious challenge and carries some dire consequences for failure to keep your priorities in balance you’d be right. Battle is enhanced through its focus on stealth and even, at times, avoidance of enemies but the added concern of the scent of your party members being carried in the winds which may allow beasties to sniff them out layers on even more tension and sometimes frustration than usual. While it may not appeal to a wider audience because of its pretty serious degree of challenge, strategy fans who’ve been looking for something to dig into may find it’s just what they’ve been looking for.

MX Nitro: Unleashed - With a somewhat limited repertoire of racing/sports games on Switch when a new one comes to the scene there can be some pretty intense interest in how well it performs. In the case of MX Nitro: Unleashed there’s good news and bad news. If you’re down for an experience that combines pulling stunts as you go, building up a nitro boost gauge that you can use to jump higher and further (either to clear obstacles or pull off crazier stunts) or simply blaze ahead of your rivals it does a fair job of that. The list of tricks you can pull off may be pretty standard but their execution is generally smooth and accessible. In general the difficulty is middle of the road, generally forgiving but weirdly hard at times as your AI opponents will blow you out of the water on occasion. Still, if you’ve been looking for a motocross stunting fix this is a decent arcade-style implementation of that.

Rack n’ Ruin - Blending styles and doing something a bit different than the norm is common in the indie space and it’s a calculated risk. The desire is no doubt to deliver an experience that feels fresh and new, but then there are times when the effort falls flat. At least for me that’s where Rack n’ Ruin falls, with an action RPG kind of vibe but what felt like some roguelike shooter sensibilities thrown in as well. What is disappointing is that as crucial as accuracy can be when facing down a ton of enemies I found myself opting for a melee weapon whenever possible since I found the shooting is aggravatingly imprecise. Couple that with items and other elements you acquire not being explained well in any way and requiring experimentation to try to understand and the experience loses some of its luster as you periodically flounder. The elements of a solid game are all here with a reasonably funky story and lead character plus a solid art style but I just couldn’t get fully behind the experience.

Syrup and the Ultimate Sweet - OK, so maybe visual novels in general aren’t my type of game but there have been cases where the strength of the story and characters have still managed to suck me in. By contrast, Syrup and the Ultimate Sweet leans too heavily on creepiness and attempted innuendo right out of the gate, making understanding or caring about the characters pretty well impossible. The result is a pretty brisk playthrough where you’ll have a few branching choices to make without really understanding enough about the players involved beyond superficial dialogue to do more than follow your hunches. I suppose people may enjoy the art style or attempts at humor but because of brevity and the shallowness of the characters I consider it one to pass over as there are games in this style out there with far more creativity and substance.