Thursday, July 30

Mini Reviews: July 30th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Crysis Remastered - While I wouldn’t say that Crysis is at the absolute upper echelon of FPS titles it certainly has its adherents. In particular, at the time it was released it was notable for its ambition and resource-draining outdoor environments that were a major departure from the typical enclosed corridors people were used to. The fact that the remastered version of it is up and running on the Switch, and quite well mind you, is absolutely an impressive technical achievement and even in handheld mode when we’ve come to expect some stuttering and sputtering this port manages to be respectable even if not particularly ideal. Probably my biggest struggle with the game is visibility, an issue I even had playing when docked but at times making for misery when played portably. One downside of foliage everywhere is that there’s plenty of cover to hide your enemies, most of which are wearing uniforms that themselves lend to helping people disappear in the distance, and sometimes even when they’re practically on top of you. Contrast that with it often feeling like every enemy has the eyes of a hawk and will spot you and begin shooting even while you’re struggling to isolate their position and there are passages that can be very frustrating indeed. Still, once you’ve become accustomed to your power suit, and how it can amp up your armor or stealth abilities, you’ll probably find it more often than not makes for an experience that’s just plain different (for better or worse) than your average shooter and that’s capable of satisfying a wider audience than mere FPS genre fans.

Ageless - New and smart ideas on how to juice up all-to-familiar core gameplay are a mainstay of the indie gaming movement. Ageless, while its presentation is a bit on the simple and pixelated side, manages to stand out primarily because of its smart time manipulation hook, and that helps to elevate what otherwise would have felt like a generic puzzle platformer into something more worthy of your attention and praise. Granted, though I appreciate the obvious effort to create a great game experience, I would be remiss not to note that it also has some shortcomings. Though the controls work well enough there’s also something cumbersome about the combinations of buttons you’ll find yourself needing to use, and I can’t say they ever quite felt natural. Even a minor hesitation or fumbling over buttons too often results in areas and puzzles where you’ll know what you want and need to do but will find it’s hard to put it together. In others, especially as you’re still learning how best to utilize some of your abilities, the problem can be with leaps of faith the game is thinking you’ll make in terms of using what you have at your disposal in new ways in order to proceed. The concept and some of the puzzles are a great challenge, and the game has plenty going for it, but there’s just a lack of polish and refinement that’s hard to miss and may keep it from reaching the more mainstream success of some of its contemporaries.

Heroes of Hammerwatch - This is a title that has me feeling a bit torn. On the plus side anyone familiar with the likes of the classic Gauntlet series will no doubt immediately grasp the play experience, which is a very arcade-y action RPG core, with you hunting through dungeons and trying to grab all the loot you can before meeting your demise at the hands of varied monsters and lethal traps. On a positive note this edition also has a major leg up on its predecessor since it offers a load of content, which should lead to many more hours of enjoyment either solo, or hooking up with others online (for now there's no local option). Your class options do have some diversity to them, especially depending on the upgrade paths you choose, and that should also provide more incentive to attack the game more than once. All of that said, to me there’s something a bit encumbered about the experience and pacing when you get back to town and I wish it could have been a bit more streamlined to get me into the action quicker and staying in it a bit longer. If you’re down for steady-but-grindy level-building fun this is a great and fairly-priced option in terms of content, but given the competitors in the space I’m not sure it clearly stands out at the top of the pack either since it doesn’t really embrace either classic arcade simplicity or satisfyingly-deep systems, instead scouting out a more muddled and generic middle ground.

Cubers: Arena - While there are plenty of twin-stick shooters and beat-em-ups on the system I can’t say that there are many that work as a sort of hybrid of the two. With top-down 360 degree slashing action there’s a certain simple-but-satisfying feel to the arena fights of Cubers. As you progress your foes and the traps you’ll face will get trickier to deal with, but the good news is that a steady stream of new equipment and upgrades will also provide you with some options on how to play, whether favoring all-out aggressive offense, block-and-counter strategy, or some other variant in between. As you progress in the campaign more and more goodies like additional multiplayer modes will unlock, affording you more opportunities for challenges and fun with your friends as well. While it doesn’t quite get to the level of being amazing, to its credit the action it does offer up is fun in a grindy sort of way and regular upgrades help entice you to play another round or two to find out what may be next and how it could shake up your strategy and play to keep things a bit more fresh.

Cubicity - Puzzle games are a dime a dozen (or perhaps even more than that) on the Switch, so it’s important to offer up something distinct to bubble up when people go hunting for some fun. While Cubicity absolutely nails the cute factor, making it sure to grab some eyes that way, in terms of gameplay it may be a bit too familiar in many ways, essentially working as a box-pushing game even if the presentation tries to give it a different feel. In general it’s a fine experience, though I will say that the white indicator arrow helping you track which “boximal” you’re looking to work on is really damned hard to make out when it happens to be laying over a cloud and that happens more than I wish it would. This isn’t a complete killer problem but along with some other quibbles the game feels like it could use more polish as a whole. Overall it’s fine, and may tickle your fancy, but it’s not breaking any new ground by any means.

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