Tuesday, June 16

Mini Reviews: June 16th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Rigid Force Redux [Nindie Choice!] - When it comes to shmups on Switch the tendency is to see either games that tap firmly into nostalgia, adopting classic looks and play styles, or those that innovate and do things their own way. What I think makes Rigid Force Redux notable is that moreso than any other shooter I’ve played on Switch it feels like it manages to carefully walk the tightrope smack dab in the middle of those concepts. While it has primary and secondary weapon pick-ups as well as a general structure with elements reminiscent of the classics, the ability to reconfigure the position of your drones tightly forward, in a wider spread, or then behind you opens up new challenges and some surprises to help make things feel fresh. Granted, though not unusual for shooters of these types, when it comes to overall length the campaign is over faster than you’ll want it to be, and while you can then chase high scores afterwards it’s the breaking of new ground and the unexpected that provides more of the thrills, the rest can be fun but lacks that same spark. If you’re a fan of the genre you should find this to be a smart and fun experience, and more importantly for more casual fans who find the likes of bullet hells to be too intimidating the degree of challenge here is more mild and accessible, making it an appealing all-around package for just about anyone.

Pixboy [Nindie Choice!] - As I saw someone note on Twitter the other day, responding to my post about this game: It seems almost impossible to believe that, on a far more powerful modern console, there are people thirsting to return to a game that looks and plays like it is from the original Gameboy hardware. Perhaps it seems like an unusual thought, and yet here we are. But hey, if the games can all be so easy on your bank account, convey a classic sense of gameplay the likes of Super Mario Land and some others, and also throw in a fairly high degree of challenge in places that will make you grit your teeth a bit... bring it on. Pixboy may not have the novelty of various means of getting around in order to vary the style of play, but what it does have are some fun and tricky stages with plenty of jumping, hidden areas, and some real nuance as you master not just your jumps but the art of falling, compliments of your parachute. What it lacks in overall length it makes up for in pretty rock solid stage design, crisp controls, secret nooks and crannies aplenty, and authentic old-school platforming play.

Outbuddies DX - Metroidvania games have really been in style for a while now, and their representation on Switch, which was once a bit scarce, has now filled in nicely. Of course, with more competition the bar is raised, and especially when considering the variety of flavors we’ve had on Switch (many pushing the genre in their own new directions) it can be tough to break through with something truly new. Rather than going for innovation, OutBuddies DX opts pretty heavily for familiar and comfortable but that’s a mixed bag. Aside from that making it a tougher road for the game to firmly establish its own style and personality, it unfortunately then further opens the food to comparisons with the likes of the Metroid series itself, obviously one of the gold standards for the genre. Perhaps the game’s worse problem, though, is that there’s no getting around the cumbersome nature of the controls. While some games just feel a bit off, in the case of OutBuddies DX they’re notably awkward and can then foul you up when the action amps up, leaving you a bit frustrated to find your traditional muscle memory failing you because the buttons just aren’t mapped very well. The most telling thing to consider here is Metroid itself, a game that managed a lot of variety and versatility with a simple, stock, 2-button NES controller. That the Switch uses a modern controller, complete with many times more buttons, but somehow manages to feel more held back than that classic unfortunately helps to illustrate the shortcomings pretty thoroughly and the overall game experience suffers because of it.

Spacejacked - In the mobile space especially one of the most played out subgenres out there is tower defense. That is in no way to imply that there aren’t some great titles out there, just with so many unless they’re top-notch they tend to blend together in your mind. To its credit, Spacejacked at least manages to avoid that trap, using a space / anti-gravity mechanic as well as a few surprises with traversal and enemy movement to force you to do some adapting. Unfortunately, a general lack of weaponry for you to work with, especially when contrasted with the best the genre has to offer, does some real harm and limits the breadth of strategic options you have. More often than not there tends to feel like a very linear way to address most defenses here, and that limits your feeling of creativity and excitement as you make things work out to a positive outcome on your own terms, using your own personally-preferred strategy. Regardless, for a budget price fans of this subgenre will probably find its originality endearing.

Pack Master - There’s something refreshing about a title summarizing what it is succinctly in its’ name, though perhaps it would be better if there were more meat on its bones. As it implies, this is a game revolving around packing various objects, and to succeed you’ll need to do so with a modest amount of speed and efficiency. Considering your package shapes will vary, and so will the items you’re trying to put in, the challenge tends to go up and down as you go, with some feeling like a complete snooze and others at least making you pause for a moment. It may be that my spatial concepts are above average somehow but I’d say my biggest concern with the game is simply that it isn’t terribly hard. Yes, as you go the demands do go up just a bit, and there can be bonus surprises to throw you an extra challenge, but this is a very casual puzzle game so you should take that into consideration if you’re giving it a look. Puzzle vets may simply blow right through it.