Wednesday, June 10

Mini Reviews: June 10th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

The Outer Worlds [Nindie Choice] - Before fully getting into why I think this is an excellent title, and a breath of fresh air I’ve been needing on Switch, we’ll get to the elephant in the room. I have no doubts that like many titles at this degree of polish and high quality that playing it on Switch is the least optimum experience, and perhaps if you have the opportunity to play it elsewhere (assuming portability isn’t primarily what you’re looking for), that would be a better bet. There are absolutely signs of visual quirks and stutters you’ll run into but they didn’t make me enjoy the game less so we’re moving on. One of the series I’ve been aching for on Switch is Fallout. Both 3 and New Vegas are some of my favorite games from PC and after seeing Skyrim work so admirably on Switch it seemed like it would have happened. In lieu of them coming to the platform my desire for their experience has been quite fully sated by The Outer Worlds though. Better yet, while the gameplay is very reminiscent of that series (explore, build your stats in whatever direction you like, slow the action down to maximize your effectiveness) what then sets The Outer World Apart is its tone, world, and writing. Certainly removing the post-Apocalyptic world from the formula makes things a bit lighter but there’s genuine humor and a well-formed set of characters to interact with here that feel special and a bit next-level over what Bethesda has typically delivered. The Switch is by no means the ideal way to experience this title, and though convenient handheld play makes further compromises, but to ignore how well-made and enjoyable this title is through only that lens does this title a great disservice.

Knight Squad [Nindie Choice] - I’ll just put it right out there, while I love the spirit of the movement to bring back local co-op games and the part the Switch has to play in it reviewing the average title in the space can be brutal. With a spotty history of some really lackluster titles that start to feel the same my family has become skeptical at best when I tell them we have a game to play together. That said, when I hit ones that offer up something better-than-average it makes me appreciate them all the more. Where Knight Squad succeeds isn’t necessarily through originality or innovation, though some of its modes are clever in how they’re set up, it instead takes a very kitchen sink approach… and on the whole it works more than it doesn’t. With support for up to 8 players, and with the ability to make as many or few of those bots as you’d like, you’ll have your pick of a surprising number of modes that include playing solo or as teams, a surprising number of power-ups that can quickly turn the tides if used well, and plenty of fun top-down chaos. Given its pretty reasonable price and overall variety I walked away impressed, and given how jaded I can tend to be with this sort of title that’s a bit of an achievement in itself.

Depth of Extinction - Given that I’m a fan of X-Com-style tactical strategy and the variety that making things into roguelikes tends to bring I was excited to check this title out. The good news is that for the pretty low price point it succeeds pretty well at having the right overall feel in combat, proper opportunities to customize your squad in their skills and equipment, and overall have elements of both risk and surprise as you try to progress. That said, while at their core while roguelikes tend to re-use the same base enemies or looks and reconfigure them to not play the same way every time if you’re starved for variety in that base things start to feel repetitive all the same. There’s a trap here that you’re going through the same types of areas and facing the same types of enemies too often and with too little distinction from one another so the overall experience starts to feel redundant somehow. If you love this style of play and are looking for a fix on the cheap this may scratch that itch, just walk in aware that in terms of variety the game is lacking more than I’d usually expect in even budget roguelike titles.

Potata: Fairy Flower - In terms of its characters and overall construction there are some things to appreciate with Potata. While perhaps not terribly inspired or original its periodic puzzles and platforming are at least enjoyable. What really holds it back for me though is the sluggishness of the controls and jumping specifically. Whether by choice, tied to animations in some way, or whatever if I’m playing a platforming game at the core I want precise and crisp action with the jumps or my enjoyment goes down in a hurry. While you can undoubtedly get over it and find success regardless since there are so many platforming titles out there, including those that are budget-friendly, that get it more right than this I’m not going to ignore that fact. While I like its overall look and spunky spirit the action itself just doesn’t quite get up to the right standard for me.

Jump King - OK, so here we get down to the bare bones basics. Your job is to “save the babe” and to do that you’ll need to conquer a long series of platforms that stand between you. The only tool in your arsenal is jumping, and your only foe is the pull of gravity that at any point may have you plummeting back down to the beginning if you’re unlucky enough to fall in the worst possible way. Single-gimmick and simplistic games aren’t inherently bad, and I’ve played a few that were implemented in a way that made them engaging and charming. For me though, in this case, while I get that the intent is to make something difficult to challenge yourself to overcome I don’t find the carrot to be anywhere near appealing enough to consume time on it. The biggest issue I have is that your jumping is touchy and timing-based, the longer you hold on the higher your jump, but the timing is very quick so even with practice being 100% when you see the gap you want to cover and try your best to nail the right amount of time it takes to jump there isn’t likely to happen. So the result is a lot of trail with even more error to slowly develop a muscle memory for each jump along the way, allowing you eventual success if you stick with it. When there are so many great titles on Switch to play, sticking with this for a few hours just feels like wasted time given the paltry reward unless you’re a gamer who just likes to beat things that are tough for the sake of doing it.