Thursday, June 18

Mini Reviews: June 18th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Ruiner [Nindie Choice!] - With its visual flair, dystopian world, and what appeared to be a penchant for tense and violent action, Ruiner has been on my radar for quite some time. When it was released on other platforms my heart sunk a bit though, as it seemed to be pretty widely criticized for cranking up the difficulty too far and coming up short on fun. Count this as an instance where the delay in the game coming to Switch was absolutely a blessing. You’re a man on a mission, though revelations over the course of the story continue to make you question who you’re working for and whether everyone may simply be out to manipulate you for their own bloody purposes. The good news is that towards those bloody ends you’ll have access to quite a diverse arsenal of both projectile and melee weapons, though in general you won’t be able to use any of them for very long before needing to pick up another. This dynamic, mixed with a diverse perk system, makes every battle improvisational, requiring you to keep on the move and on the lookout for any opportunities that may present themselves. The most useful (and fun) thing to keep track of are enemies who are on the edge of death that you can dispatch with a finisher, with the incentive not just being a cool kill but often some crucial health or energy that can help keep you from being overwhelmed. Sure, there can be skirmishes that seem less well-balanced than others, and in the end I found the time wandering around town to be wasted effort, but overall these are small criticisms. While Ruiner may not be perfect, it was a title I couldn’t stop playing until the credits rolled. Intense, violent, surprisingly varied, and I’d argue quite replayable due to the wide variety of perks you can invest skill points in, its mix of shooting and slashing feels quite distinct and it’s one of the most satisfying games I’ve played this year.

Destrobots [Nindie Choice!] - With loads of local multiplayer titles out there on Switch it’s a tough business to find a way to stand out in the crowd. In the case of Destrobots, for me, the fact that it feels like it takes a page from the Bomberman series, while playing in a completely different way, helps it pretty effectively towards that goal. Taking control of your bot you’ll have the ability to shoot twin-stick style (though not with precise analog aiming, instead with strictly 8 directions possible) or use a spin move to try to deflect incoming fire or at a melee attack. A variety of offensive and defensive power-ups will continue to appear around the arena, helping to incentivize everyone to stay on the move rather than trying to hold any given position for long. Aside from the power-ups it’s the game’s stages, with many featuring special elements that make play both more strategic and unpredictable, that give me some Bomberman vibes and help to give the game more longevity than its average competing title. Add in the fact that it sports a very fair budget price makes it worthwhile for anyone looking for a game to enjoy with some friends.

Summer in Mara - This is one of those titles that can be frustrating as it has so many pieces of the puzzle that work towards it being a great experience, but it can’t quite put them together in the right way. Mixing cultivation, crafting, and some exploration there’s a nucleus here reminiscent of the likes of something like the Harvest Moon or Stardew Valley, but with a greater degree of adventure as you journey out into a greater world. The issue, unfortunately, first is that no aspect of the game feels fully fleshed out. Farming is peculiar and a bit clumsy in its implementation, with there not being much room for growing things so more often than not you’ll use it as an element in some fetch quest. Fishing is present as an option but since it requires supplies you may need for other purposes generally isn’t practical to do much. If exploring the world wasn’t such an on-rails experience, and you weren’t having to spend much of your time going back and forth to grow or craft something to then come back again to progress things perhaps that aspect could have made up for those noted weaknesses but it can also be more of a chore than a joy. Throw in elements like your hunger and need to sleep that are present as concerns but serve more as an inconvenience than anything and a cohesive picture never quite comes together, even if there are many elements of the game that are charming enough that it may earn an audience.

Masky - The more indie titles I play and review for Switch the more I find it requires some effort to throw something at me I don’t feel I’ve seen in some way before. When it comes to Masky I’ll tip my hat to the developer for at least managing that accomplishment, though with the game’s simplicity and often over-sensitive controls that accomplishment doesn’t necessarily elevate its staying power much. This is a game all about balance, with your character dancing by themselves initially, but who’ll get anyone they bump into to join them. As your group grows the specifics of who you’ve acquired and in what combination will begin to come into play more and more. If you’ve loaded up on only the right or left, or if on one side you’ve picked up larger dancers but on the other side they’re all smaller, you’ll find the group will have a tendency to pull harder and harder to the heavier side. Adding to the other side to even things out will help but that’s where the perils of power-ups come into play. These can range from mildly helpful to pretty catastrophically bad and often manage to make a challenging situation even more tense. While this formula can be mildly fun with its simplicity the fact that there are times where the analog controls just seem a bit too sensitive, resulting in you seemingly doing fine but then suddenly falling over… and this can be aggravating. If you’re looking for something pretty simple that can be fun in handheld mode as you use the accelerometer to maintain balance Masky is at least its own experience, just not necessarily a terribly deep one.

Polandball: Can Into Space - An essential part of reviewing games in the indie space is trying to take a step back to see who a given title was made for and understanding it through that lens. In the case of Polandball I’ll admit that’s a bit of a challenge, as its simplicity and we’ll say quirk launch it into the territory of the unknown, though with a grindy mobile sort of feel. Your goal is to propel your initially pretty sad-looking rocket into space, getting as far as you can. Considering there are enemies around up there, as well as things like extra fuel or money, you’ll find that altering your trajectory a bit as you go will be necessary, though care will need to be taken to not deviate too much from course and ruining your overall progress. Between runs upgrades of various types will improve key stats and help you get further but there’s not enough meat here to warrant spending too much time with it before it runs out of fuel.