Wednesday, September 23

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

Ori and the Will of the Wisps [Nindie Choice!] -
When reviewing games in general I try to carefully avoid hyperbole and excessive exuberance whenever possible. To that end, even with well over 1,500 reviews under my belt and so many terrific titles played, I’ve only awarded 2 perfect scores among them for Stardew Valley and Dead Cells. In the case of Ori and the Will of the Wisps I’m going to be adding to that very exclusive list with pretty well no reservations. With its nimble movement, massive scale, gorgeous environments, and combination of so many elements that feel like they’ve been carefully refined to be their most engaging it’s likely the best Metroidvania title I’ve ever played. I will warn that the platforming is probably a little more challenging than the average, requiring patience and precision, but for the most part success rests solely on your skills as the controls are spot-on and well-implemented. With there being so much ground to cover and spots you’ll want and need to return to, as you acquire the necessary skills or changes to environments to give you access, I do wish there were a few more waypoints scattered about but that’s about my only real criticism (OK, and it has crashed on me twice, but thankfully with no real loss of progress in either case). There’s a very good reason Microsoft backed this horse, and it is a gift that has been shared with Switch owners that is absolutely worth your time and effort.

Going Under [Nindie Choice!] - As an enormous fan of anything roguelike Going Under has been on my radar since I first saw it announced, billing itself as a sort of insane 3D beat-em-up where you can pick up just about anything to use as a weapon. When I got the chance to check it out at PAX East this year I could see the promise of the fun in it, and I began to see the humor that actually serves as one of the game’s surprising areas of appeal, but there was just also something that didn’t quite click for me. With the full release now available to me I still feel like something’s missing in the formula that somehow keeps it from true greatness but that isn’t to say it can’t be fun to take for a spin of challenging and often chaotic combat. Since you’re able to use so many sorts of objects you find laying about, and in a pinch you won’t always have ideal choices around you, it does have a rough early learning curve. Weapon durability, range, effectiveness… you’ll generally just need to experiment to get a feel for these things. The same can be said for many perks and items you’ll have to work with, the brief descriptions aren’t always as instructive as they could be so it can be a bit of a mess until you sort it out. The skewering of corporate culture is spot on and often hilarious if you’ve ever worked in a cubicle farm, so that helps bring the experience up but it may be offset by meta progression that, compared to its competition, doesn’t feel quite as helpful as normal… perhaps making the grind to success feel a little less rewarding on the way. I have mixed feelings about it in the end, really appreciating the silly tone and its addressing a flavor of roguelikes I haven’t seen much of to this point but at the same time missing the spark in it that drives my enthusiasm to recommend it with more than somewhat above average force. Roguelike and beat-em-up fans should appreciate and enjoy a change of pace, but everyone else will probably be fine missing it.

Raji: An Ancient Epic - While this statement may inspire some eye-rolling for some people out there as a life-long gamer I deeply appreciate attempts to expand inclusiveness in video games. By this point western gamers are generally quite well-steeped in the mythology of the Roman, Greek, and Egyptian persuasions, with the gods of those pantheons providing a great foundation for many narratives. In the case of Raji I’m happy to see a completely different set of fresh deities and stories of legend coming from ancient India, and with representative architecture and musical accompaniment as well. The result is a pretty rich and unique storytelling experience that’s worthy of attention. Thankfully the gameplay also, in general, has a fresh feel with the very nimble Raji on a quest to save her brother which features quite a number of well-implemented traversal moves and plenty of options to keep combat interesting. Where it unfortunately falters noticeably is in maintaining its pacing, with combat often feeling over-encumbered and sluggish when too many enemies are on-screen. Granted, the varied moves and weapon options help to compensate for this since it makes for engaging and varied combat, but it feels like though the Switch didn’t need to skimp too much on the beauty of the visuals a price was paid in speed. While it’s over a bit quickly the rish storytelling and culture of Raji still make it a stand out worth giving a look.

Breakpoint - When I saw shots of this gloriously old-school retro arcade title I was instantly drawn in with visions of Geometry Wars-style twin-stick shooting coming to mind. Oh, how wrong I was, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Breakpoint would best be described as a twin-stick beat-em-up if that makes sense, giving you the fluid movement and enemy patterns that would feel right at home in a shooter but that you’ll instead be taking out exclusively melee-style with a wide variety of both blunt and bladed weapons. You’ll definitely develop a taste for specific weapons too, as depending on your style you may prefer the rapid-fire stabbing of the spear, the quick swiping of the dagger, or perhaps the devastating swing of a battle axe with the risky delay that comes along with it. In the end this will only appeal to people who appreciate the feeling of placing just a bit higher on the online leaderboard and who are determined to scratch and claw your way to improving your multiplier and technique. It won’t be for everyone but that isn’t to say it won’t be addictive for the gamer who is properly inclined.

Tamiku - I have a great reverence for classic arcade games (as you may have gathered by now) so from the get-go seeing Tamiku open with a classic ROM boot-up screen of sorts hit me right in the nostalgia bone. From there the story is unfortunately a bit more of a mixed bag. Yes, the balloon popping mechanic, level design, and enemies are reminiscent of a number of classic titles. The problem I have is that as you progress so little really changes and it just feels like the game is in need of an injection of a fun and surprising element or three that would elevate play rather than just throwing out new enemy types and maze layouts. This is a game in need of a power pellet, an enemy-wrecking hammer, or just something to introduce a layer of added strategy and interest to the mix… like the blast from popping the red balloons destroying enemies close by for added points as an example. It’s not necessarily bad but Tamiku just ends up being too flat and uninteresting arcade experience.

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