Tuesday, June 2

Mini Reviews: June 2nd Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Undead & Beyond - If there’s one thing I love about checking out indie games it’s the out-of-the-blue surprises, games I’ve never heard of that look unassuming but deliver far more than I’d ever expect. Though it’s hardly perfect that’s very much the case with Undead & Beyond, a budget title whose looks may be a bit on the clunky side, but whose style of play is just unique (and maybe a bit twisted) enough to make for a good time. You play the part of a mad scientist who has concocted a formula to essentially create zombies. Perhaps understandably the powers that be aren’t amused so they’re coming for you. Your goal? Escape each level you find yourself in by turning anyone you encounter, giving events a nudge when you can with some gear you’ll find, and generally trying to promote chaos and carnage to allow you to escape. It may not be terribly complex or varied as you go along, but I’ll admit that watching my zombie horde meander into a room and kill a unit of soldiers in a flurry of explosions and pixelated bloodshed at least would give me a giggle. Sometimes it just feels good to be evil.

Cannibal Cuisine - With the astounding success of the Overcooked series it was inevitable that a bunch of other teams would take on culinary local co-op, and one result of those efforts is Cannibal Cuisine. With a bit more of a twisted bent you’ll play as islanders who, in order to appease their angry gods, must chop tourists into steaks and ribs to cook up in tasty dishes. This is all very silly in nature, so there’s no real need to take offense, it’s just a way to differentiate the game by theme. The other big difference it offers is a small number of power-ups you can choose from for your native. Using these what you’re really doing is locking each member of your team into their role, whether the person who is on the attack wanting extra damage or healing, the runner getting a dash, or the cook getting handy fire breath for speeding things up. That aspect of the game is pretty smart and an appreciated enhancement. Where things can go wrong is that even early on the experience can be frustratingly picky. Relatively small barrels you’ll need to walk over to cross the water result in too many instances of people falling in the water, often with meals or materials now lost. Cooking stations are just close enough together that it can be annoyingly easy to accidentally put a banana or pepper on the wrong spit, ruining that meal. The experience can be sort of goofy fun, and leaning into people being role players is smart, but trying to minimize the frustration factor for a group of people of varying levels of gamer savvy may be a real challenge with this one.

The Copper Canyon Dixie Dash - Somewhat blending the feel of an old arcade-style gun game with some elements that are a bit more like an FPS Dixie Dash is an odd bird. You’ll be able to maneuver around a pretty limited environment at every stage, sort of able to take cover from enemies who’ll spawn in and who are trying to take you down. Equipped with a few different guns, the first thing that jumped out at me was that switching between them generally felt like a waste. I could pretty effectively use my pistol at range, nullifying the somewhat slow-to-use sniper rifle, and it was lethal enough that when an enemy was getting in close the time to switch to the shotgun and shoot wasn’t worth the risk when I could just unload with the pistol. Admittedly, there aren’t too many games out there in this style, so depending on what you’re hoping for it could work out, but be warned the experience is pretty bare bones overall.

Castle Pals - I can appreciate pretty simplistic budget platformers that have a more classic retro feel but to be competitive in the Switch eShop you really need to throw people a bone, some glimmer of inspiration that helps make the experience at least a little bit special. On pretty well all fronts Castle Pals, featuring two characters you’ll alternate playing as who each have their own style of play, can’t muster up any real fun or excitement. The controls are on the “touchy” side, the level design is pretty uninspired all around, and in general there just wasn’t a lot of joy to be found working through it. With so many decent to pretty great budget options out there Castle Pals struggles to justify a purchase.

Hill Climbing Mania - There are mobile genres and conversions that come to Switch and redeem themselves and then there are those that fall pretty flat. Unfortunately, Hill Climbing Mania is definitely in the second category, delivering an experience I’d say even comes up short against other mobile games of its type even. Control is bare bones and basic, lacking in nuance, and perhaps worst of all there has been no real effort to remove or even de-emphasize the mobile grind model that may be OK in a “freemium” game but really isn’t acceptable in a title people are paying for. If you must play a hill climber, randomly choose one for your phone and you’ll likely be unable to do worse.