Thursday, September 17

Mini Reviews: September 17th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Kingdom Rush Origins [Nindie Choice!] -
Finally the last unreleased version of the Kingdom Rush franchise is on the Switch, and Origins also happens to be my personal favorite of the bunch. While you could argue that there aren’t too many major differences in the core play between each entry there are enough elements that were introduced with the more fantasy-focused Origins that it stands apart from its peers with differences deeper than mere aesthetics. The big difference is the much more active environments you’ll find yourself in, featuring details that range from mere distractions in the background to flowers you’re able to activate to do a little extra damage to enemies, to your foes being able to surprise you by either creating or finding alternative paths mid-stage to throw off your plans a bit and perhaps require regrouping. As always once you get into the groove with a few heroes to choose from and the ability to max out your upgrades for each element of defense you construct you can really come up with an interesting variety of strategies for surviving the onslaught of your enemies. Since the game has such a wide menagerie of creatures to work with from stage to stage you’ll find the same strategy that got you through a few levels before won’t necessarily work once the enemy turns the screws on a later one. This mix of planning, careful use of your adhoc abilities, and figuring out when and how to adapt to the varied waves the game will throw at you is a consistent challenge and almost always satisfying when you’re able to pull it off. Highly approachable, best played with the touchscreen but workable with a controller, and full of small touches that show a genuine care in engaging your attention fully through some tough stages I’d say any of the games in this trilogy are worthwhile, which one you prefer will likely just be a matter of taste.

Mini Motor Racing X - When it comes to racers the Switch has definitely been in need of some help since launch. Sure, you have Mario Kart and a few decent titles of various flavors peppered around but it’s hardly been flush with options. Thankfully this year has recently brought us two very different quality racers with different feels that have avoided kart racing, smartly leaving Nintendo’s juggernaut to continue to dominate completely. Mini Motor Racing X is another port from the mobile platform where Mario Kart isn’t an option, and within that crowd I would even imagine it would be considered a fair racer. There’s certainly a nice degree of visual polish and effort to make things interesting, even an option to playing with or without power-ups depending on how you roll. That said, there’s no getting around the pretty stiff steering and controls that lack in nuance and do feel better suited to the phone and tablet players than gamers on a dedicated game console with analog controllers. While it is a step above the average mobile port racer (most of them are between dreadful and middling at best), X comes out of the gate strong enough to blow out that pack but quickly gets lapped by console-focused racers out there.

Vampire’s Fall: Origins - This is one of those titles that leaves me on the fence. For its pretty budget-friendly price it isn’t a bad RPG-ish experience full of vampiric elements and theming. Character progression manages to give you enough options on how to allocate your accumulated experience and skill points that it feels like you can approach combat however you may like and there’s plenty of exploring to do in search of quests and anything to help you progress through the story and get yourself nice and powerful for taking on the steadily increasing challenge of your foes. That said, the general interfaces and the combat really don’t do the overall experience much of a favor, feeling generally repetitive and bland once you get into your groove, and not really pushing you to get out of your comfort zone often beyond trying out your new skills to see if you have a new best strategy for getting through things. For the price it offers a fair amount of reasonably-good content, just don’t come to the table expecting high production values or depth.

FuzzBall - One unfortunate side effect of checking out so many multiplayer indie titles on the console is that a large portion of them honestly begin to blend together in a variety of ways, perhaps visually distinguishable in some fashion but sharing enough DNA that they instantly feel all too familiar. Unfortunately FuzzBall falls into this category, with base gameplay revolving around you controlling your cute animal who can ball up and then dodge and attack their enemies in a few different ways in hopes of knocking out the opposition. While the specifics may be unique in some way to the game the principles are overused and with the controls being on the loose side this title suffers a bit with comparison. It tries to compensate by adding in some variations like mini games that can interrupt the action but these aren’t often much more than minor variations or will use a challenge like jumping between platforms which, with the camera’s fixed position and angle, proves to be pretty excruciating if you’re hoping to be accurate. There’s no doubt room for enjoyment, especially if you’re pairing up with younger or less experienced players, but there’s a solid handful of other similar titles to choose from so it’s a crapshoot which you may prefer based on tastes and perhaps the aesthetics you like the best.

Her Majesty’s Ship - Strategy games heavy on strategy and the management of resources have been gaining ground and taking a variety of forms over the years. While many times the focus is on things like production lines or working facilities of some kind, in this case you’re trying to command the crew on a ship, attempting to balance steady work with keeping morale high and your stores stocked the best you can. After a pretty painfully lengthy tutorial that gives you a lot of information, unfortunately the mix of pretty poor overall console controls and a general lack of practical application of the things you learned leads to some pretty horrible growing pains as you try to get much of anything going in your favor. Trying to activate the stations or gear that you even know you want to focus on can be frustrating, and your first few attempts will likely be a disaster as you fight with what you’ve been told and how to hope to apply it. Even once you’ve overcome this initial aggravation your control simply feels detached particularly with elements like combat that could have helped to pull in interest, leaving the whole experience a bit of a tedious mess.

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