Thursday, July 23

Mini Reviews: July 23rd Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Carrion [Nindie Choice!] - While it’s great to play games or watch movies cheering on the brave heroes who fight and persevere against horrible monstrosities, admit it: Given the chance it would be a ton of fun to spend some time on the other side of the equation. Carrion offers up just that, the opportunity to take control (well, with its swarming and morphing form perhaps it should be “control”) of a horrible mutation of a creature who enjoys chomping down on some human flesh and ragdolling them around the room for laughs… and if you have a twisted streak like I do you’ll likely do a bit of that yourself as you splatter blood all over the walls. That core bit of fun was very present at PAX, as were some puzzle-solving aspects, but in the demo you couldn’t get a solid look at how the game would challenge you. The good news is that there are some clever puzzle elements offered up that will force you to consider the situation in front of you and make smart decisions. Armed guards with a variety of weapons won’t get taken out so easily, so some degree of stealth and using alternative paths may be in order, or perhaps throwing a crate (or better yet, a body) to distract them and allow you to strike from behind. Since the experience is so unique and quite engrossing it feels like it is over a bit too quickly, but I suppose I’d rather that happen than it wearing out its welcome. This is absolutely one of the most unique games I’ve played in quite some time and is highly recommended if you’ve ever dreamed of fully unleashing your dark side.

Starlit Adventures: Golden Stars [Nindie Choice!] - I love it when indie titles show up that I’ve never seen or heard of and they end up being a pleasant surprise. That’s precisely the case with Starlit Adventures, a game that looks almost too cute for its own good but quickly demonstrates it packs in some fun arcade-style play in akin to the likes of the classic Dig-Dug or Mr. Driller… but with some of its own flair as well. The gameplay is a mixture of puzzle and action as you dig your way down, trying to grab keys, coins, and stars as they appear as well as taking out enemies when necessary. While this as a base is pretty enjoyable what then livens things up a bit is that there’s also a pretty wide variety of gear you can choose to run levels in, giving you some quite a number of different perks that can be critical if your goal is to grab every star on every level. The mixture of classic play, some smart puzzling, a variety of fun surprises along the way, and a great (though perhaps a bit sickeningly cute) art style really made this game sneak up on me and made me a fan!

Rock of Ages 3: Make & Break - There’s nothing wrong with a little weirdness and quirk and I’ve been very pleased that the Switch has delivered quite a bit in that vein over its lifespan. One of the more successful funky series in terms of its longevity has been Rock Of Ages, historically featuring an unusual sort of first-person pinball / destruction derby experience all while serving up various bits of silliness to sweeten the deal. This third iteration comes to Switch packing in even more variety, as well as provisions for community-based fun, whether grabbing levels created by others, contributing yourself, or if you’re lucky maybe taking on some opponents head to head. The main campaign uses it’s humorous storyline to serve up all of the variety the game has to offer, moving between what are roughly races, more classic levels bent on destruction, and now even a tower defense variant. The variety is actually where the game stumbles a bit, as not only is the tower defense poorly explained, in general these stages just aren’t very interesting or fun by comparison, and the controls don’t really feel up to snuff either. If you’re a fan of the series you’ll likely have good reason to invest in another round but if you’re new to the series and may not be intrigued by the potential for community-made levels the previous iteration may be more appealing as a starting point at a more humble price.

Mittelborg: City of Mages - Games coming over from the mobile space and intended to be played on tablets with a touchscreen are often a bit hard to evaluate. While Mittelborg makes the attempt to allow for docked play using a control I’ll just cut to the chase, what was set up is cumbersome and pretty awful, as much as I don’t like using the controller to move a cursor I think it may have been better than this mix of using both sticks in different contexts mixed with buttons. You can figure it out but it’s pretty miserable. Once you get into the game itself I’m actually a bit surprised how little there is to it underneath the attractive and pretty grand presentation. You’ll need to decide where to allocate your very limited resources for every phase of colored “waves” your city will face. The goal is to use what you know about the waves, or even use some power to get clued in to know where best to use your wizards to try to weather attacks or capitalize on what opportunities you get. There’s something about the nature of it always feeling like a losing battle (you’re not stopping damage generally, just reducing the amount done) that really took the wind out of the experience for me. I suppose for strategy fans it may be a fresh approach but the lack of depth or more meaningful engagement on top of the poor controls in docked mode make it tough to get excited about.

Laraan - Sometimes there are games out there on Switch where you load them up and from the time you start playing your face takes on a sort of perplexed “Whaaa?” look until you stop. That’s where I land with Laraan, a title where there are obviously some attempts at lore around you but generally sticks to you running around in large spaces wondering where you’re going, why, and how this was necessarily intended to be “fun”. Sure, its low-poly look has some charm and the music gives everything a sort of epic feel but there’s simply not a lot to do or get excited about. Then, even when it throws you a bone with something a bit different the issues with the pretty wonky controls kick in, throwing water even on variety being fun. In the end this feels a bit like a class project that demonstrates a game can be made but there’s just nothing to make it compelling to play.