Wednesday, June 3

Mini Reviews: June 3rd Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Liberated [Nindie Choice] - This is a title that easily caught my eye the first time I saw footage of it, the black-and-white comic book style and cinematic qualities of its action are absolutely eye-catching. Getting time to check out only some of the gameplay at PAX East I was a bit concerned that in terms of play it could be a mixed bag. The result is somewhat consistent with that worry, the puzzling and shooting over the four issues and approximately as many hours of play are decent but wouldn’t justify a purchase on their own. Put plainly at times there are just some really funky and awkward animations as well as what feels like initial ideas like quicktime-esque early on that get abandoned as the game progresses, making the action get quite repetitive unfortunately. In theory you have the option to try to go with being stealthy but honestly it’s simply not very effective, once you’re able to aim your gun consistently at head level you’ll find that works far too well to abandon. What redeems those shortcomings and brings the experience together though is the story, which features a dystopian society in the midst of an upheaval, with you spending time in each Issue seeing things through a different set of eyes. If you’re seeking great action you’ll likely be disappointed, but if you’re willing to let a great story with some twists pull you through a reasonably good experience you should find it quite satisfying.

The Takeover [Nindie Choice] - Up until this year while the beat-em-up was pretty well-represented on Switch there wasn’t a clear front-runner in the genre. That really all changed with the release of Streets of Rage 4, and now that really is the bar any other genre title must be measured against. With that in mind The Takeover certainly has a distinctive look, some flair, and some mechanics that set it apart… but it isn’t without its issues. There’s just something in the movement and flow that feels a bit stilted, holding back the action a bit. The somewhat shiny rendered look I think likely fares better on the PC or more powerful consoles, on the Switch it just can have a somewhat odd quality. At the end of the day it is a satisfying brawler and worth your time if you’re a genre fan, competing well against the second-tier titles available, just in the competition to be the best it doesn’t hold up so well.

Super Holobunnies: Pause CafĂ© - While indie devs may think that releasing a game with some variety can broaden the appeal and return on the gamer’s investment it can be a problem when things don’t come together well. Unfortunately, in my eyes, that’s the problem for Super Holobunnies, a mix of a pretty ho-hum multiplayer brawler mode, a boss rush mode that lacks context or opportunity to familiarize yourself with the rules of engagement, and a somewhat cumbersome endless runner. With so many multiplayer experiences on Switch it’s hard to get enthusiastic about this one, so the other modes are at least an admirable attempt to provide more content, but they’re difficult to really enjoy as both feel quite picky with their controls. If you’re game for some variety perhaps you’ll find it worthwhile, but the scattershot collection doesn’t really come together.

Strawberry Vinegar - OK, so I’m still not quite sure how I feel about visual novel experiences on dedicated gaming hardware and Strawberry Vinegar, though certainly having a novel premise, is further down that path than most. Lacking much opportunity to make choices or interact you’re really just going to sit through a lot of text, and much of it doesn’t even pair with unique art to help make it feel like there was a real effort behind it. Weird demon here to collect your young girl character’s soul, you’ll need to appease her hunger, your parents are obtuse and clueless… if that really sounds great then more power to you but the lack of player agency and consistent solid visuals to complement the story make it a bit of a bummer even against its visual novel brethren.

WildTrax Racing - So, yeah, when it comes to racing titles the Switch is definitely hurting. Between disappointing mobile conversions and not-so-hot Mario Kart clone attempts there are a few solid indie racers but there’s definitely room for a real contender to come in and shake things up. Unfortunately, with its wildly funky physics, off-road style feeling like an excuse to not really put together tracks and driver AI so much as general environments and driver meandering, and simply a lack of much content WildTrax Racing isn’t that title. Being brutal, it isn’t that title at all. I can work with funky and fun physics and don’t mind there being far more arcade than sim to a game but above all the races in this title are just pretty boring, and without power-ups or anything to liven things up you’re just trying not to slow yourself down in any way or you risk missing the checkpoint. Just it’s a bit of a mess.