Wednesday, July 22

Mini Reviews: July 22nd Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Panzer Paladin [Nindie Choice!] - While I have a great deal of nostalgia for the 8-bit era since I played a ton of games back in those days, going back can be a bit rough. While there’s an undeniable essence to many classics of that generation their gameplay typically hasn’t aged well. Indie titles looking to recapture that time often seem to struggle to find the balance, working to incorporate many vintage elements while marrying them with modern sensibilities… and the results have varied pretty wildly in all directions. Panzer Paladin, for me, stands out from this crowd quite a bit, not even loosely based on any firm precedent from the era I can think of and thus unburdened by expectations. The result is a game that absolutely respects the looks, sound, and many staples of 8-bit gaming and yet feels contemporary most critically in terms of its weapon variety and challenges. One element retro fans of the likes of the Blaster Master series will recognize is the smart inclusion of an ability to jump out of your mech and work on foot, leaving you vulnerable but still very capable (as I learned completing some boss fights with my mech ruined but determined with my whip to finish the job). The hunt for secret areas, weapons, and boosts is rewarded with a fair degree of consistency and in some stages you’ll find you may need the help, especially in terms of being geared up for the game’s generally tough boss battles. In terms of games celebrating the 8-bit era I’m quite confident in declaring Panzer Paladin the king of the retro hill as it somehow feels both old school and modern in the same breath, coming up with a mix of elements that keep the action consistently engaging with no real fat to be trimmed. It’s a high-quality effort from top to bottom.

Rainswept - If you’re looking for something with a slower pace and a story with some somber notes and rough spots a good murder mystery may be your jam. Set in a bit of an odd small town where everyone seems to have an eye on each other’s business, Rainswept digs a bit deeper than just the mystery at hand. You’ll be digging around in the closets of quite a few of the townsfolk who have a variety of skeletons and bits of trauma to uncover along the way, giving the experience some real flavor. Outside of the storytelling, which is compelling, the gameplay itself is a bit on the minimalist and lacking side, sprinkling in some verbal jousting and a few puzzles but mostly involving a fair amount of wandering around in search of your next encounter. If you keep your expectations in check and are looking for something a bit more mentally stimulating than exciting this gloomy murder mystery may be a good match.

Goosebumps Dead of Night - This one is a challenge for me to review as there’s good news and bad news. On the one hand I truly appreciate the effort being put in here, providing a family-friendly and sometimes entertaining spin on the survival horror genre featuring a cavalcade of characters from the pages of R.L. Stine’s body of books geared to provide age-appropriate chills. On the other hand, though there’s nothing else quite like it in the Switch eShop there’s no denying that the license (and no doubt the great voice work) has come with a price tag attached that feels steep for the relatively short overall adventure. Though you could say that the game mechanics aren’t the greatest in reality they’re as good as or in some cases better than many comparable genre titles in the space. Being honest, there are a lot of plain walking simulator horror games that may have a more mature edge visually but that lack this game’s charm, various monsters, and polish. If you or your kids are big fans there’s no doubt you’ll likely enjoy seeing many of his most notable members of his menagerie running about (mostly consistent with the movies in terms of their selection), just bear in mind that the asking price is a bit steep for the core experience if you removed the license from the mix.

Ultra Hat Dimension - Finding a puzzle game in the Switch eShop is about as easy as hitting a fish in a barrel exclusively filled with fish… they’re everywhere and at all price points. Ultra Hat Dimension at least tries to do a decent job of selling itself with a weirdo introduction involving weird globby characters being influenced by an evil hat-wielding member of their species, and your job is to progress through a long series of rooms, progressively using more complex puzzle-solving skills to grab a key and get to the exit. The result is somewhere between a box pusher and being able to visually work out how to move to where you need to go based on the creatures in your way, what means you have to move or distract them, or simply how to use the ways they may push you to your advantage. It at least can make you feel smart, but the overall experience is a lot more of the same. At least it is relatively inexpensive.

SpyHack - When I see gameplay that takes a different approach and offers a different sort of experience it immediately appeals to me, and that’s an essential part of the indie spirit. That said, taking the road not yet travelled also obviously carries some risks with mechanics that and play tuning that need to be worked out to come up with an engaging and enjoyable experience. While SpyHack has the somewhat futuristic cyberpunk hacker aesthetics, some lingo, and elements that work, the problem is that there’s no question the experience is on the clunky side. You’re really working as spy support for the likes of characters you’re used to playing the active role for, hacking doors and systems to help clear the way for your agent’s success. While in theory this could be exciting it’s unfortunately quite a bit more redundant than you’d likely hope and just honestly too much of a struggle to enjoy. New and different can be good, but this feels a few iterations away from being ready for prime time.