Thursday, January 13

Top 40 / Best Indie Casual Games on Nintendo Switch


Last Updated: 1/13/22!

Spiritfarer [Thunder Lotus Games] - While many gamers enjoy blowing away enemies, racing through hairpin turns, or guiding their team to victory there’s a growing contingent of gamers who either prefer or enjoy more soothing experiences. While there are a few notable titles in this space already on Switch none are quite like Spiritfarer, which combines exploration at sea with a variety of building and cultivation elements, a wide assortment of charming characters, and a generally gentle hand providing direction but placing no urgent demands on how you wish to play. You’ve been tasked with taking the responsibility of ferrying the dead to the afterlife from Charon himself, and most of your adventure will involve you putting together a ship worthy of the important task of making the final journey of the souls you help as pleasant as possible. Doing that will require quite an investment in crafting, cultivation, trading, and building relationships with the people you meet. It’s interesting how many of your activities are turned into sort of mini games, helping to at least give some of your repetitive tasks a little flavor and keeping you engaged throughout. While over the course of the pretty long journey there’s a tendency to fall into quite a bit of repetition if you’ve been looking for a meaningful journey without the pressures of your typical title this is likely an ideal fit.


Unpacking [Witch Beam] - Usually when you think of casual games puzzles and the like are usually what comes to mind, or perhaps something akin to a visual novel. With Unpacking it’s clear there are other avenues to tap though, at least when the game is laser-focused on a very specific objective… in this case something as simple as unpacking some boxes and carefully organizing their contents. These activity-based games tied to tasks most people abhor doing in the real world are a bit of a mystery. What makes it so satisfying to organize and perfect a virtual world while more often than not the mess you’re sitting within playing it remains untouched? I don’t think this game has the answers to that conundrum but there’s no mistaking the sense of satisfaction in devising the perfect drawer for putting your socks in, perhaps taking the extra step to also organize them by type or color as you go… just to make them perfect. As you progress through the game the scale of your effort continues to grow to multiple rooms as your character’s life progresses to new stages. That’s where the other magic in the title lies, the reflection on how we grow and change, and to see what special items continue to endure while so many others prove to be disposable. The result is absolutely wonderful if you’re looking to calm your mind and simply take joy in a productive task.


TOEM [Something We Made] - I don’t know whether it was triggered by a pandemic that had everyone stuck in their houses and wishing for a chance to appreciate the world around us but this year has produced a string of pretty amazing exploratory adventures, with TOEM being the latest to join the club. Formerly featured in one of Nintendo’s Indie World Directs, this somewhat quirky and very calming title sports a distinctive black and white hand-drawn art style and encourages you to see everything in the world around you, down to the little things like hidden bugs or the occasional shy monster. It will likely only take most people around 4 hours to finish, a little more or less depending on how determined you are to work out every quest available to you, but if you’re looking to enjoy a consistent stream of odd surprises and interactions mixed with what are generally pretty sensible puzzles it really scratches that itch well. Among its recent brethren it’s perhaps a little longer and more varied in where you’ll go and what you’ll do, but with the photo taking there can be times where you’ll know what you need to do, but doing it in a way that the game recognizes can be tricky too. While it isn’t perfect, and may well be too sedate for some folks, I found it to be an enjoyable journey that helped me relax and feel great for a few engaging hours.


Labyrinth City: Pierre the Maze Detective [Darjeeling] - As much as I've tended to see people bemoan the ""kiddie"" nature of Nintendo systems over the years, it can actually be a challenge to find games on Switch that are easy to recommend for green, younger gamers who may not have their coordination together yet. Fittingly based on a best-selling children's book, Labyrinth City has so much going for it for the young, or at least the young at heart. Each new location is jam-packed with visual details, corners to explore, secrets to find, and what I'd simply call magical moments as different elements from the page come to life. Though it unfortunately won't take long to get through all the game has to offer, I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of discovery I had with it, rekindling those feelings of being a wide-eyed kid looking over pages ripe with detail from my childhood.


Badland: Game of the Year Edition [Frogmind] - While this is a title that has been around for quite some time at this point, I’m surprised by how well it has held up both in terms of its great funky art style and its simple-but-challenging play. For the most part this is a one-button game, which you’ll use to control the flapping of your little furry creature(s) to keep as many as you can alive through all sorts of obstacles and death traps, remembering that in the end you only need one to survive to move in. It’s worth noting that you’ll just want to hold down the button for the amount of oomph you need, tapping the button will end up being a dead end for you quickly. The real price here, though, is just the sheer amount of levels and content that come along for the ride for the budget price, even including local co-op and competitive multiplayer levels as well. If you’ve never picked this up, and your down for a deceptively-tricky action game that has much more polish than its budget price would imply, it’s definitely worth the plunge.


Cozy Grove [Spry Fox] - While bludgeoning or blowing away bad guys can always be good fun, everyone should have some time in their lives to slow things down. With a laid back tone, cute and friendly characters, and a small variety of activities to complete Cozy Grove seems great for settling in with on a daily basis to help bring the positive feels. While not as full-featured as Nintendo’s own Animal Crossing the price tag here is also far more budget-friendly and the characters you’ll meet and stories they’ll share are also much more fulfilling for the most part. If you’ve been looking for an experience that will help wash your cares away as you tend to the needs of some souls in need of help, and who will be grateful for it, Cozy Grove is a warm fuzzy of an experience that will gladly help you in that goal.


Lost Words: Beyond the Page [Sketchbook Games] - I’ll admit that this is a title that got off to a bit of a rocky start for me, with me essentially wondering what to do at first. The distraction of the pointer that you do end up using for some tasks kept me from realizing I was also sometimes supposed to move my character independently as well. Once that was understood though what followed was unique and extremely worthwhile. Not quite a game in any normal sense, Lost Words is more of a creative interactive bit of storytelling with plenty of varied and beautiful forms. From page to page what you’ll need to do may vary, sometimes consisting of some simple platforming and other times feeling like a bit of a mild puzzle. The attraction though is a heartfelt and sometimes sad story that really manages to grab you, a bit moreso as you’re heavily involved in helping it unfold visually. It won’t be for anyone looking for a challenge or even puzzle fans, this is really for people looking for something unique and beautiful to touch their hearts, and the level of quality with which it is executed I can get behind.


Picross S6 [Jupiter Corporation] - The Picross series has been around for so long at some point that it has become a sort of puzzle game staple, but that can also make people a bit numb to it. While it is true that S6 is more along the lines of a new set of levels released on the same engine that isn’t to say the experience is in any way disappointing. On top of traditional Picross, doing it’s 2-color pixel art thing you have the more challenging (and possibly divisive) Mega Picross which does add a new layer of consideration to up the difficulty. Color Picross, added to the series a few iterations ago, is also a great challenge, though I’d still say I’ve seen multi-color interfaces implemented in a slightly better way overall. For me the real meat is in Clip Picross and the Bonus puzzles though, as they get quite a bit tougher still, and appropriately you’ll need to do the work cutting your teeth on the easier stuff to then unlock the bigger and more complex challenges. If you’re a big puzzle fan, and particularly if you’ve taken a break from the Picross series for a little while, this is a rock solid place to pick it back up and enjoy its polished play and steadily-increasing challenge level.


Along the Edge [Nova-box] - On a general level interactive fiction titles haven’t been my cup of tea. It isn’t that I don’t appreciate that such an experience could be game-like, having grown up reading Choose Your Own Adventure titles I appreciate a smart branching narrative, I’ve just not found that the level of quality in the writing and total package has been enough to get me fully engaged. With its story involving the mysterious legacy of your family that you’ve never really known, inheriting a small estate in a small town in the country, Along the Edge very much breaks that mold for me and did a phenomenal job of sucking me in. With high quality writing, characters that read as being complex and nuanced in their motivations and interactions, and terrific artwork that changes almost constantly it’s very visibly a project built with love and care. Sure, perhaps the generalized storyline isn’t so unique, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be effective and with many decisions that feel like they carry consequences there’s plenty of motivation to go back and try things out differently once you’re done. While it won’t deliver a shot of excitement you’d find with an action-oriented game if you’re a fan of smart fiction this should be well worth spending some time with.


Kingdom Rush Origins [Ironhide Game Studio] - Finally the last unreleased version of the Kingdom Rush franchise is on the Switch, and Origins also happens to be my personal favorite of the bunch. While you could argue that there aren’t too many major differences in the core play between each entry there are enough elements that were introduced with the more fantasy-focused Origins that it stands apart from its peers with differences deeper than mere aesthetics. The big difference is the much more active environments you’ll find yourself in, featuring details that range from mere distractions in the background to flowers you’re able to activate to do a little extra damage to enemies, to your foes being able to surprise you by either creating or finding alternative paths mid-stage to throw off your plans a bit and perhaps require regrouping. As always once you get into the groove with a few heroes to choose from and the ability to max out your upgrades for each element of defense you construct you can really come up with an interesting variety of strategies for surviving the onslaught of your enemies. Since the game has such a wide menagerie of creatures to work with from stage to stage you’ll find the same strategy that got you through a few levels before won’t necessarily work once the enemy turns the screws on a later one. This mix of planning, careful use of your adhoc abilities, and figuring out when and how to adapt to the varied waves the game will throw at you is a consistent challenge and almost always satisfying when you’re able to pull it off. Highly approachable, best played with the touchscreen but workable with a controller, and full of small touches that show a genuine care in engaging your attention fully through some tough stages I’d say any of the games in this trilogy are worthwhile, which one you prefer will likely just be a matter of taste.


80 Days [inkle] - Though the act of traversing the world is no longer such a grand feat in the time of Jules Verne, when he wrote Around the World in 80 Days, it was by no means a simple feat. 80 Days puts you in the driver’s seat (well, not literally, you’re generally a passenger) and tasks you with pulling off the title feat, using a mix of smarts, luck, and careful management of your time and money to pull it off yourself. If you’re not a fan of reading a lot of text this won’t be the game for you, but it is essential to fleshing out your adventure, winding in some intrigue and plenty of details to mine for hints on your best bets for getting around quickly and minding your budget. With so many potential routes to choose from there’s actually ample room for replay as well, by making a few different choices early on you can embark on very different journeys to not only try to do better but simply enjoy more of this richly written world.


Reigns: Kings and Queens [Nerial] - Borrowing its left/right swiping interface from the likes of apps like Tinder, Reigns is all about making choices and then living (though more accurately in this case, dying) with the consequences. While it's been said ""It's good to be the King"" you'll also find that trying to keep everyone happy amidst the everyday chaos of royal life is enormously difficult. As you get further and further in you'll gain new cards to help manage the madness (and sometimes add to it as well), providing this game with a fair amount of longevity and variety as well.


True Fear: Forsaken Souls Part 1 [Goblinz] - Who knew that having played a number of horror-esque games on the Switch that the one that would be the most consistent and compelling to play would really be a casual title. Another elevated hidden object game, True Fear managed to be a bit creepy and weird throughout but never lost focus on providing great gameplay first and foremost. I'm hoping to see Part 2 come to Switch as well to see where things go as this puzzler didn't disappoint.


Beyond Blue [E-Line Media] - Perhaps it’s the pandemic or the challenges of parenthood talking, but as much as I enjoy blowing things up or slashing them to pieces there’s real power in games that help you calm things down and find some inner peace. There’s no doubt that the ocean is a great environment for inspiring a sense of calm, and Beyond Blue makes pretty effective use of it. You’ll always tend to have an objective to complete but while the environment is hardly limitless, some curiosity and a willingness to explore often yields satisfying results, encouraging you to frequently pause for a moment to take the wonder around you in as fully as possible. All manner of sea life, great and small, surrounds you, and you’ll be encouraged to scan them all to collect and review data about a pretty wide array of creatures. Granted, perhaps what story there is may not necessarily inspire you, but for me the effort went into the right direction, emphasizing the beauty and wonder of the seas. If you’re just looking for a great way to appreciate the natural world and unwind this is a terrific option for doing just that.


PAKO Caravan [Tree Men Games] - Taking something old and juicing it up to help make it feel new again can be tricky business. Having seen quite a few indie titles tackle the challenge of improving on the simple-but-addictive play of the classic Snake without an obvious success, that fact has been thoroughly proven. PAKO Caravan, thankfully, manages to pull off the magic trick with a simple-but-effective visual style, some key enhancements to make things a little more interesting and challenging, and forcing you to continue to adapt to slightly different vehicular behaviors as you progress to keep you from feeling too comfortable. There are no brakes, you’re trying to avoid obstacles and your own caravan as you continuously add to it, and additional objectives like knocking down cones or collecting letters incentivize some risk-taking to claim stars that will continue to unlock new scenarios. I do wish the turning controls weren’t quite so consistently on the loose side, as your momentum can be hard to counteract when you often are spending time along an edge or dodging obstructions, but as a refined version of a classic it does its legacy proud.


Regency Solitaire [Grey Alien Games] - You’ve got to respect a development team that takes on a well-known casual card game and decides to swing for the fences to make as feature-rich a version of it as possible. That’s very much the case for Regency Solitaire, which likely won’t be able to suddenly win over hardcore types with its Jane Austen trappings and story of a young woman getting pressured by her family to go for money rather than love, but absolutely sets itself apart from most anything else in the same space. While all of the special cards, rules, and how best to utilize things like your wild cards or perks to maximize your points may take some time and trial and error, the almost roguelike progression where you’ll be able to unlock improvements or rechargeable abilities (which you’ll need to strategically manage) absolutely adds flavor and some appreciated personalization to the mix. All then set against the literary backdrop, this is a casual game that screams maximum effort and is worthy of a look if you’re hoping to unwind a bit with something more relaxing but still well-made.


A Fold Apart [Lightning Rod Games] - When looking at an eShop full of puzzlers and story-based experiences it can be difficult to separate the merely average from the exceptional. Smart puzzles are great, if they can have unique mechanics that’s always a plus, and in terms of story there’s the question of whether it is relatable and told with care. What’s great about A Fold Apart is that it not only checks all of those boxes but it does so in a way that seems pretty effortless. The base mechanics revolve around the environments your characters are in being able to be manipulated like paper, with the puzzle being how to fold, bend, flip, or mutilate the environment to allow you to either proceed or grab a star. This, in itself, is a great base as it feels original and well-implemented (though at times there can be a hitch in performance… but really, this is a puzzle game, is that a major concern?). What seals the deal, at least for me, is that on top of that is the story of a couple (in a nod to people of all persuasions you get to choose their respective genders, a nice touch) trying to manage the emotional strain of a long-distance relationship, making it all come together symbolically with a great emotional core. While it’s not a long experience I still found it to be an impactful one and it should be perfect for people looking for a touching story mixed with clever puzzling.


Cook, Serve, Delicious 3 [Vertigo Games] - Following up the previous delectable outing on Switch, CSD3 is back with a new somewhat silly story with your empire having been reduced to rubble and starting over in a food truck. Aside from that, and how it has some influence on the presentation and how you’re able to customize it’s more of the same tense and quick action, new recipes, and more fun. As was the case before, this is a title I’d hesitate to say is great in docked mode because using a controller for the action is workable but can leave your fingers in knots whenever things get a bit crazy (which happens often). Playing using the touchscreen is far easier, though sometimes the on-screen buttons you’ll need to press can feel a bit small I’ll admit when you’re trying to be precise. Regardless, for fans of food prepping games I’d consider this series one of the best I’ve played, offering a fair challenge but also to a degree letting you pick your poison since you control your menu and the meals you’re looking to repeatedly prepare quickly. It’s a challenging food-frenzied blast if you can keep up.


Embracelet [machineboy] - This, for me, is one of those titles where it’s hard to articulate why I’m so taken in by it. With its low-poly look, its somewhat sparse landscapes (though perhaps such an island would be roughly that way, granted), and its riff on traditional point-and-click adventuring on paper it could just seem nice, but perhaps not great either. However, throw in a story that I found unusual and engaging, and it works better than the sum of those parts may imply. Early on you inherit a relic from your grandfather with the power to control objects, and learn that there was an accident at his hands when he was younger using it, causing him a degree of pain and regret. Your journey ends up being to go back to the island he grew up on, learn more about him and his past, and perhaps to understand where the relic came from and what should be done with it. There are quite a number of deeply emotional adventures on the Switch already, many of which are excellent in their own right, but there’s a different tugging I found this journey to have on me with different themes and a different approach. Mix in the fact that many of the puzzles felt pretty natural and yet unusual in some cases and I enjoyed this unassuming adventure title thoroughly.


Fledgling Heroes [Subtle Boom] - There’s no doubt a good reason for people to debate whether games like Fledgling Heroes “need” to be on Switch. With a one-button mechanic for play, controlling when your various bird characters flap their wings, yes this is a game that you could enjoy on a mobile device without the need for physical controls even. That said, the colorful and appealing art style, variety of ways the different birds you’ll unlock play through their levels, customization options (if you’re into them they’re a plus, if you’re not I’m not considering them essential to positive feelings though), and even reasonable challenges you’ll hit in order to get through the loads of stages impressed me. With different objectives and critical skills required in many cases I often found myself adjusting in my seat, digging in, and forcing myself to take it seriously to get to the next level. Even with quite a number of other titles to get to last week I also found it easy to return to this title because it was challenging but not necessarily taxing, and so easy to just pick up for a few minutes and put down. It may not be pushing the hardware to its limits by any means but if you enjoy playing something lighter and more relaxing that will still make you work this definitely fits the bill.


Build a Bridge! [BoomBit Games] - While Build a Bridge doesn’t manage to match the more inventive and silly fun of something like Bridge Constructor Portal, among the more traditional bridge builders on the system I’d say it’s probably the one I’ve enjoyed the most. Granted, a lot of that boils down to having the controls working well and without kinks, something the other titles have hopefully patched by now, but first impressions can be vital. I wouldn’t say that Build a Bridge breaks any major ground in evolving the genre but if you’re a fan of physics-based titles and are trying to make a decision I can’t find any reason not to recommend it.


Clouds & Sheep 2 [HandyGames] - While I never got to partake of the original Clouds & Sheep, thankfully the complexities of the storyline didn't hinder my enjoyment of the sequel. Just kidding, this is just a straight-up cute resource management-type game where you'll need to care for your sheep, provide them with water, food, and perhaps an opportunity to find love as well. While it looks simple you'll quickly find yourself sucked in to a greater challenge than you'd expect, combining clouds to cast lightning down to kill poisonous plants and trying to tend to the wishes to your flock to keep them happy and yourself flush with stars that you'll use as currency.


Enigmatis 2: The Mists Of Ravenwood [Artifex Mundi] - The classic hidden item puzzle game genre has made some real strides over the past few years. Throwing in a story, some cinematics (though a bit dated), and a pretty wide variety of puzzles it's far more than just looking for small baubles hiding in what appears to be a hoarder's stash at every turn. Enigmatis 2 impressed me with its puzzles, its ease of play, and its smart help system that focuses on keeping you making progress over doing the work for you.


Piczle Lines DX [Score Studios] - In the end Piczle Lines DX is one of those games where, with the nature of its puzzle challenge, you’re either already interested in it or likely haven’t even bothered to read this far into a review because it doesn’t seem appealing. For puzzle fans there’s very little I can cite as a downside, the challenge ramps up pretty quickly, and you’ll have to use your deductive reasoning to come up with strategies to attack puzzles efficiently and with a solid plan to be successful. Add in the sheer volume of content and you’ll be able to enjoy it for quite some time.


Faircroft's Antiques: Home For Christmas [Ocean Media Games] - When you play multiple titles in the same casual series there’s no doubt that there’s often a baked-in consistency that’s both good and bad. On the one hand consistent quality and a guaranteed degree of satisfaction if you enjoy their play is reassuring, but you then do risk it becoming more dull even if the content is changed up. In the case of this Christmas edition hidden object game there’s no doubt that everything about it is consistent with the other release in the series, however in this particular case there’s something about the “home for the holidays” vibe and interactions with family that gives it the edge for me. If I’m going to dip my toe in the casual pool a little family happiness and positivity of the season are a plus. It won’t offer much if you’re not a fan of hidden objects and mild puzzles but if you want to relax and enjoy family interactions ala The Hallmark Channel it’s a feel-good package.


Last Stop [Variable State] - With visual novel-type titles that limit your interactivity and the ability to greatly alter the outcome of the story I think people are always going to have differences of opinion. On a general level I’ve tended to be pretty tough on these sorts of games, as player agency is quite important to me… but then there are sometimes games with characters that feel so rich that, for whatever reason, that concern sort of goes out the window. That’s what happened to me with Last Stop. With its mix of quite ordinary characters, in some cases leading pretty mundane lives, and the unexpected it managed to capture me on both ends of the spectrum. There’s just something genuine about these people and their interactions more often than not that entertained me, and the choices you are able to make, even if perhaps superficial, often felt authentic to me. That each of the game’s stories bends to match up in unexpected ways was a treat, and while not everyone may enjoy the ride this is a rare primarily story-driven game that managed to get me fully engaged in the characters and what is happening with them.


The Game Of Life 2 [Marmalade Game Studio] - OK, so The Game of Life… you know, that board game probably everyone has played a bunch. Do you really need an electronic version of it to enjoy on the TV? Well, that would depend on what you’re looking for. In terms of gameplay it’s a streamlined and generally quick version of the classic, though it doesn’t skimp on any critical areas you’ve come to expect… just some of the rules have been played with a bit in the interests of having more modern sensibilities. While the pricing on things like the Season Pass you can get to go with it feel a bit steep I was still pleased that the base package includes more than just the plain vanilla skin and characters so at least you can appreciate what different themes can bring to the table to help keep things feeling fresh. While I don’t think my family will stop periodically playing on our Haunted Mansion edition board that we love when we’re on the road or don’t feel like getting everything out or fighting over who’ll be the banker this is a great alternative option that captures the essence of the classic game in a way that people of any age can enjoy locally or even online.


The Procession to Calvary [Joe Richardson] - As a connoisseur of weirdo games I’ve seen a whole lot of different approaches to taking the ordinary and going in a completely different direction then normal but nothing quite like Procession to Calvary. Mechanically playing as a relatively simple point-and-click adventure, what absolutely sets it apart is its bizarre and somewhat Monty Python-esque visual style and sense of humor. Tapping into the world of public domain to use classic paintings and stock music is a smart move, and doing things with that art that are completely unexpected and silly actually ends up being quite a bit of fun, even though undoubtedly it won’t suit everyones’ tastes. While it may not be a perfect experience, and only clocks in with a few hours of play time, Procession to Calvary is a sweet and weird treat that people who seek out unusual tastes should take the time to savor.


Townscaper [Oskar Stalberg] - Not so much a game as an interactive toy, Townscaper is just a different sort of experience that people will likely either adore or hate. Your tools to work with are pretty minimalistic, able to lay down small building blocks in the color you choose or remove them, but as you continue to combine more and more together your creation continues to react and change in what are often small but pleasing ways. It’s really all about trying new things and the discovery of the results, driving you to experiment further as you slowly fill up the space with your distinct creation. While I do wish there was a way to step back and see some virtual people interact with the labyrinthian 3D towns in some way, there’s still something soothing and satisfying in taking the time to build both precise and uniform (to a degree, the grid’s tendency to bend in places will thwart you at some point) as well as unorthodox and perhaps completely impractical structures. It’s absolutely unique, and in its own way satisfying, but also clearly not for everyone.


Werewolf: The Apocalypse - Heart of the Forest [Different Tales] - Heavily text-based games are actually pretty well-represented on Switch, though in general I’ll say I’m not typically a fan. While Heart of the Forest keeps its presentation relatively simple, though undoubtedly artistic, it’s of the type of text-based adventure I at least greatly appreciate for investing effort in making the story engaging through providing plenty of options that help to alter the story (making more than one playthrough appealing). Throw in a more somber tone given the dark franchise it has been spawned from (though hardly being held back to merely horror-based fare), and it’s a standout interactive novel experience for fans of interesting characters finding themselves in more unusual circumstances on Switch.


Five Dates [Good Gate Media] - With the global pandemic just now reaching a full year since it was first discovered Five Dates is a bit of a quick turnaround marvel, looking to capitalize on an opportunity to make a rom-com-styled game in the days of Covid. With you taking control of the decisions of Vinny, a somewhat everyman kind of person who is being egged on by his best friend to hit the virtual dating scene, you’ll get the chance to look for love in a very timely manner… 100% over video chat. Among the first 5 women you’re able to choose from you’ll pick 3 to go on dates with, then having a follow-up date with 2 that you choose, and then hopefully finding a match with one of them to close it out. The thing is, while most dating games like this tend to skeeve me out a bit or feel like my choices are only a bunch of predictable and unrealistic stereotypes, Five Dates really feels like you’re talking to normal people. You absolutely won’t connect with all of them but that’s OK, they’re generally all quirky enough with their eclectic likes and dislikes that you may not find any of them are a great match. The thing is, the conversations feel pretty honest, can be funny, and were generally quite engaging. Would I repeatedly go back and change my answers and choices to explore a relationship with everyone in the game? That’s unlikely, but I will say that this was a pleasant surprise filled with people who, for once, felt genuine… and that’s something in itself.


My Universe: Cooking Star Restaurant [Maximum Games] - Once again the My Universe series delivers a more casual and kid-friendly take on games, this time with a restaurant experience that falls somewhere between Diner Dash and Cooking Mama, though in general without the associated pressure. You’ve opened a new dining spot where, in order to get off to a great start, you’ll be doing most of the work. Whether getting people to their seat, taking their orders, cleaning up tables, or making each meal you’ll at least be kept busy and thankfully your customers are generally very patient and understanding compared to anything else in the genre. Initially you’ll be making American fare, but then with consistent success new chefs will arrive, each bringing new cuisine and variety to your food establishment. Food prep breaks down into multiple steps, each with a relatively simple task whether chopping veggies, mixing batters, or flipping burgers and pancakes. None of these steps are typically terribly challenging so veteran gamers will want to steer clear but novices and younger kids will likely find this to be a great beginner experience to enjoy.


My Universe: Fashion Boutique [Microids] - So going completely off the board and reaching out to an unusual demographic among my normal review fare we have My Universe: Fashion Boutique. Granted, it’s likely targeted to younger girls (or anyone who loves a fashion game I suppose) but even as an adult male who hasn’t exactly plumbed the depths of the fashion game genre I’ll say I walked away pleasantly surprised by the experience. What I like is the attempt to really get you a bit more involved in things, not merely trying to match people up with their ideal outfits but also designing and then doing some of the worth to bring new fashions to life. Mini games will have you tracing your patterns, cutting out your fabric, and then sewing it together, trying to be as accurate as possible to increase your score. In the beginning you’ll only have a few articles to work with helping out in your aunt’s store but as you find success you’ll be able to unlock new styles, patterns, and accessories that will really allow your creativity in creating a look to shine. Perhaps the pacing is a bit on the slow side in terms of advancing the story along but as games for the younger set go I was pretty impressed and I think my older daughter would have been thrilled with it a few years ago (she does like it now, just before it would have been her present, not a title she was consulting me on).


Roundguard [Wonderbelly Games] - When it comes to casual games from the previous generation or so that I remember with great fondness, the unique Peggle is one that easily stands out in my mind. Now imagine taking the base mechanics of carefully dropping your ball in the hopes that it will bounce in your favor and instead make that your character, adding a mix of roguelike and RPG elements on top of that for progression… and you’ll get Roundguard. While I wish there were more classes and spell diversity overall, what you’ll find here is a very clever title that packs a surprising degree of strategy and challenge. Randomly-dropped equipment in one run can match your preferred play style perfectly and give you the buffs you need to go deeper while on the next the RNG gods may forsake you, leaving you to bite it before you even get to the first boss. If you’re seeking something that’s sort of a casual plus experience, maintaining a base easygoing feel but with elements that spice things up quite a bit, you will definitely want to give Roundguard a hard look.


Seers Isle [Nova-box] - More often than not I find that I’m not much of a fan of “interactive novels” on the Switch. It’s not so much that they can’t be a valid entertainment as they’re too often lacking in quality. Whether it’s predictable stories, tepid writing, too few meaningful choices, or a lack of immersion they just don’t typically deliver on their promise. To its credit, Seers Isle pretty well addresses every complaint I have about the genre. Its art style is distinctive and new shots of characters and the current action are constantly showing up to pull you in. Its multiple characters have some mystery and intrigue about them, generally being drawn outside of traditional archetypes and more like real people, and wow are there a lot of choices to be had ranging from those that feel small to ones that obviously have great consequence. The result is a pretty engaging story that works, though perhaps the abundance of characters and options are its Achilles heel in this case since with so many branching paths the end tends to come a bit too quickly. That said, repeat runs for different outcomes are typically rewarding due to the quality of the writing and characters so I’d say if you’re a fan of the genre this is one worth checking out.


Woven [Alterego Games] - Most modern games tend to feature protagonists who are ready for action and tough as nails. Moving in precisely the opposite direction we have Woven, and it’s plush main character Stuffy who ambles along with a consistently innocent and pleasant demeanor. Pairing up with a mechanical friend they set out to discover what has happened to their land and to turn things back around. The game is mostly about exploration, with some relatively simple puzzle solving and hidden textures all about to update Stuffy’s look with. While this won’t be a title that will appeal to hardcore gamers in the least with its cute characters, colorful scenery, and generally slow-paced adventure, Woven is a kid-friendly treat.


1001 Ultimate Mahjong 2 [NAWIA GAMES] - If you haven’t been eager to play Mahjong on the Switch, I doubt a review that has positive things to say about it will likely change your mind (though that would beg the question of why you’re reading it). However, if you enjoy well-made casual gaming 1001 Ultimate Mahjong is a surprisingly strong choice. With its variety of looks and thoughtful features it may be the best title of its kind I’ve played, and I do enjoy a good game of Mahjong once in a while.


Puzzle Puppers [Cardboard Keep] - With a pretty disgusting level of cuteness Puzzle Puppers manages to make solving some clever puzzles a bit of fun. With a scalable degree of difficulty depending on how efficient you're insisting on being to maximize your score it can also be pretty accessible. Throw in a pretty reasonable price and it's a great casual challenge for all ages.


Doomsday Vault [Flightless] - Hopefully not accurately depicting our future, in Doomsday Vault you’re tasked with working to recover precious unique plants and their seeds in order to help preserve them and to hopefully turn things around. You’ll be dropped into a variety of environments, and will need to use care and some smarts to make your way through their various puzzling scenarios to recover the seeds themselves and then hidden nutrients as well along the way. You can tell that it has come over from the tablet space, as the console controls do work fine but also take getting used to with things being oriented more diagonally with the isometric view. In terms of the puzzles and experience overall I’d say it’s all pretty middle of the road, neither mind-blowingly creative nor mind-numbingly simple and if you dig the pro-environment vibe and a chance to help save the planet that’s likely a nice bonus as well.


Mom Hid My Game 2 [hap Inc] - Taking the baton directly from the original quirky point-and-click puzzler released some time ago, Mom Hid My Game 2 definitely adopts a policy of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and that’s both a good and bad thing. With its budget price and unique sense of humor you can, no doubt, play through it and simply enjoy yourself for a little while but if you load up too much expectation on it you may well be disappointed as well. Each scenario has you moving through the same few rooms and trying to find your handheld gaming console while avoiding your ever-disapproving mother or some other type of threat. If you’re caught it’s no big deal, you’ll just start over and know what to avoid the next time. The puzzles aren’t terribly complex for the most part, the joy is really just in the suspense of wondering where Mom could be (she’s very tricky and can be found in unlikely places, ready to pounce and catch you) and in working through what goofy thing you may need to grab, stack, or move in order to find and be reunited with your beloved GameBoy. For a few bucks, if you’re game, it can make you laugh, just keep in mind it’s a very bare bones experience.



This list will continue to grow and be pruned as time goes on, as well as numerous other lists that try to keep track of all of the best titles the Nintendo Switch has to offer in the Indie space!