Friday, September 11

Mini Reviews: September 11th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

MO:Astray [Nindie Choice!] -
You'd think at this point in the history of gaming, given the popularity and abundance of platformers of all types, the genre would be just about out of new tricks to keep things interesting. MO:Astray is here to prove you wrong. While just the mechanics with you sliding your little slimeball around, working on your jump angles and trajectories to get yourself around, would probably suffice for most titles it takes things even further. You see, you’re also capable of taking control of creatures of a variety of types by jumping on their faces, and this can be useful for a variety of reasons over the course of the game… in fact it’s a key mechanic usually involved in the game’s multiple boss battles. While it may not look terribly intimidating in the early going, give it some time and you’ll be sucked in with challenges where you understand what must be done but you’ll be challenged to put together the precision to do it successfully. Taking on a variety of new and pretty substantial upgrades in abilities as you go you’re also never quite able to get comfortable. Just when you feel like you’ve got it all down you’ll need to incorporate a new skill with new accompanying challenges to boot. While it may edge a little further into being tough than most the included provisions for softening the difficulty a bit are available as well, making this puzzle-platforming mind-controlling adventure worth putting near the top of your list.

Bake ‘n Switch [Nindie Choice!] - While there’s no doubt that the Overcooked franchise has been wildly successful, and can be an absolute blast to play with friends or family, in terms of accessibility I’d say it’s a mixed bag. Not only does the chaos and switching between many tasks require some level of coordination and cooperation, there’s a certain degree of pressure and challenge to it that may be too much for less experienced gamers. I think that’s where Bake ‘n Switch comes in and delivers an alternative that can be similar, and still gets to be more and more challenging as it goes, but feels a bit more friendly since it helps reduce the individual chaos a bit by making it easier for each person to lock into set roles. The character you choose isn’t just cosmetic, that decision also defines (to a degree) what you’re best at, with your special ability even further reinforcing that. Now, if people get hung up on picking a character they like visually but are uninterested in which role they should then play (fighting off mold, combining breads, baking, etc) that may backfire a bit but if you’re looking to optimize your potential for success everyone should do their best to stay roughly within the roles and run with it. One notable thing the game doesn’t have is an ability to play it solo, though. You’ll need to have someone to play with locally or a friend you know you can hook up with online (sorry, currently there’s no matchmaking) and for some this may be a dealbreaker so it’s important to note. However, if you’re looking for something to meet up and play with friends periodically online or have people over for some fun playing together this may be a more broadly accessible answer to cooperative (or competitive if you like) kitchen cookery.

Deleveled - Minimalism in game design is always a bit interesting. There’s no doubt a time savings benefit to stripping away complex visuals and their associated complications, but it also then places all focus on the fundamentals of the gameplay and controls only without a net. Deleveled stands up to this scrutiny well, delivering a tight puzzle platformer that packs in much more challenge than you may expect, and much of it with a flair for physics to some degree. You have control of two dots on either side of a line that will move as mirror images of each other, at least until one of them encounters an obstacle. The ability to move one while holding up the other is only one layer though, if one falls to its relative ground where the other is resting on the other side it will launch the other dot into the air with the same force it came down with. However, that’s only the beginning. As new mechanics get introduced periodically there’s definitely a trial and error phase you’ll go through, making sure you understand the rules and all of their implications. But then within just a few stages you’ll be pushed to then demonstrate your mastery of those rules by working out the tricks for getting each of your pixel dots to one of their appropriate spots. If you’ve been looking for an action puzzler that will push your ability to plan and execute (as well as you patience at times, no doubt) Deleveled has more to offer than you may assume at first glance.

Doodle Derby - When I saw this back at PAX it was called Fromto but this very creative hand-drawn title is perhaps now better known by the moniker Doodle Derby. Naming aside the core concepts remain, you’ll be looking to race your pretty basic car on different surfaces and objects, trying to get through checkpoints (if there are any) and to the finish line as quickly as possible. Well, or if playing with a friend your goal is to get there first. The racing is dodgy at best, but it’s the means you have of testing out your changes and enhancements to the track. You see, you’ll be able to either acquire parts outright in supply drops of buy them at the shop in order to construct jumps or even using contraptions to assist yourself in getting to the finish. It’s unusual, and can be wonky at times without a doubt, but people with a creative bent who like to experiment may enjoy the process and the applied physics enough to overcome the shortcomings of the driving itself and have a decent time with it.

Bounty Battle - There’s no doubt that making a game that’s meant to compete with the likes of a juggernaut title from Nintendo is always going to be tough, and the likely results aren’t going to live up against the massive team and budget the Big N put together. That’s always been true for anyone taking on Mario Kart and, though there are less contenders for the crazy fighting game crown, it has been true for Smash as well. Conceptually, Bounty Battle sounds like a dream for me, especially when you consider it’s intention was to bring together characters from a wide swath of indie titles, many of which I absolutely love. You can assume that it wouldn’t likely live up to Smash, but the real problem is that it doesn’t just come up short, it’s sadly a hot mess. Visually, making characters from so many franchises make sense together would have been a challenge, but there’s a really weird quality to combatants you’ll play with and against where they somehow feel lacking in substance somehow, and though they look true to their characters there’s almost a flash game quality to their animations and movements. Similarly, the controls don’t feel tight and responsive, typically the bare minimum for a high-quality fighter or even just a fun one, and that makes everything happening on-screen muddled at best. While the roster alone would normally be enough to make me want to recommend a true indie community fighter Bounty Battle just doesn’t honestly feel done, and if you’re looking for an indie fighter fix I’d unfortunately recommend looking elsewhere.

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