Friday, March 13

Mini Reviews: March 13th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Hidden Through Time [Nindie Choice!] - If you’ve ever had kids or were a kid at some point you may recall the Where’s Waldo books. Given a densely drawn page full of detail your challenge was to spot the striped hat and shirt of the bespectacled nerd who seemed to have a talent for seeking out other people or places that would distract your eyes from finding him. Taking that same sort of idea visually and running with a more general hidden object theme we now have Hidden Through Time, a puzzler full of charm and personality that will consistently make you feel like a fool for missing an object after repeatedly checking the same area and swearing it isn’t there. What really helps the game stand out is the quality, charm, and entertaining small details hidden everywhere in the large scenes you have to look over. It may be simple conceptually but it’s the care put into the endeavor that really sold me on this one. If you’re looking for a great title to casually kick back and enjoy this comes highly recommended.

inbento - With so many reasonably good puzzle titles on the Switch, and with many of them being budget-friendly to boot, it can take some effort to make a splash in the space. With copious amounts of cuteness, charm, simplicity, and variety I have to admit that inbento still managed to make a jaded reviewer smile. Though it has over 100 puzzles if you’re a puzzle vet you’ll still likely work your way through them with some speed, even if to its credit it continues to layer on new elements of complexity to help slow you down the further you get. While perhaps the nature of the puzzles, needing to layer or manipulate pieces in a certain order or way to match your target bento box design, can feel familiar I credit a low asking price and effective presentation with still making it a title worth picking up for either fans of puzzle or just casual games in general.

Stela - There’s no doubt that among the many influential indie games made over time Limbo is pretty high up there. With a very attractive art style, some solid puzzle and action platforming mechanics, and a dark and pretty compelling story there was a lot to like and it was pretty unique. Since that time there have been quite a few attempts to replicate that sort of formula but aside from Inside, another title made by the same team, there hasn’t been anything else to capture all of the same elements in such a compelling way. There’s no doubt that Stela has a fair number of the pieces of that puzzle in its favor: it’s visually appealing, is mostly mechanically sound, and it has some smart action puzzles, but it’s also lacking in a compelling narrative to really bring it all together. If you don’t mind that component missing there’s enough here to keep you busy for a few hours and aside from some spots where it can be hard to tell where you’re able to go or what you can interact with and how aside from through trial and error it is generally an enjoyable time.

Half Past Fate - Titles with a focus on story-telling first have become quite popular in recent years and the Switch has amassed quite a library of differently-styled adventures to explore in that vein. The newest onto the scene plays out a bit like a rom-com movie, though not necessarily told in order, as you explore the lives of several characters in search of love across 12 chapters. For the most part mechanically this is a typical adventure, with you needing to explore, talk to people, and then work out puzzles in order to progress. While not always the case what struck me as odd in the case of Half Past Fate is that moreso than usual its puzzles feel focused on the minutia of life, with its puzzles not dealing directly with the game’s story or themes, instead concerned with arbitrary obstacles you need to overcome to proceed. I don’t know that it heavily detracts from an overall lovely set of stories but for me those tasks could sometimes take me out of the game a bit too much since they could feel tedious and without narrative consequence.

Overpass - When you think of a racing game, thoughts normally center on head-to-head contests between multiple contestants, but there are other styles and Overpass slots into one of those alternate categories. With a focus on extreme off-roading this is a title focused on time and execution as you push your 4-wheeled vehicles to perform over a wide variety of terrain and obstacles. There is a fair degree of nuance and difficulty to this since the focus is on you tackling the course by yourself and you’ll need to hone your techniques for specific sections if you want to get the best times. Already occupying a more niche corner of the racing genre the overall experience has performance hitches and issues with pop-in or weird geometry in places that can be a distraction, but given the lack of many alternatives on the system if you love the challenge of off-roading it’s still a decent choice.