Tuesday, September 29

Mini Reviews: September 29th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Rebel Galaxy Outlaw [Nindie Choice!] -
As an old school fan of the Wing Commander series I’m always excited to take on any new space sim promising dogfights, exploration, and excitement. Typically new attempts at the genre have a tendency to be incomplete in some way, lacking in their combat, coming up short in terms of an overarching story, or just not putting together all of the pieces in a thoroughly satisfying way. While not without its faults in a few areas I’d say anyone looking for that nostalgic sort of experience with Wing Commander vibes (well, specifically Privateer), or simply someone who enjoys a well-made space sim with RPG-like elements and some actual story will likely dig the hell out of Rebel Galaxy Outlaw. Starting out from extremely humble beginnings, flying what essentially looks like a space garbage truck, you’ll take on missions that offer some variety from hauling cargo to clearing out bogeys to perhaps going on the shadier side of the law. What you choose will carry some consequences in terms of where you’ll be able to fly or land so don’t take that decision lightly. One of the game’s downsides is that it can get to be a grind, working simpler missions to buy new ships or gear, and that can make for some repetition. Don’t worry, if you try to tackle anything outside of what you’re capable of the game will quickly and almost rudely tell you so as you’ll get blown to bits. Combat can be intense, but I think the left shoulder button which essentially allows you to let your ship fly itself to pursue a target is the key to it all remaining fun. You’ll often be taking on numerous enemies at once, so letting the ship keep pace while periodically dodging and fine-tuning your aiming to maximize damage is more practical than trying to do it all yourself. Feel free to try to do it all yourself but pretty quickly I found its use invaluable to staying alive. With a great deal of freedom, choice, and trouble to get into Rebel Galaxy Outlaw is probably the best overall package of a space sim on the system, delivering both rewarding combat and a story with characters that helps to knit everything together.

Jet Set Knights - This is absolutely one of those titles that sort of shows up out of the woodwork and gives you a pleasant surprise… at least if you’re an old-school arcade aficionado like I am and can appreciate the simple but effective gameplay. Your goal is simply to protect the queen (princess?) who is at the bottom center of the on-screen castle using whatever means are available to you. Starting only with a trusty sword you’ll get the opportunity to use several weapons and abilities, some of which are even very powerful, in order to hold off a steady flow of enemies who would do her harm. I do wish there was at least some more minimal instruction initially as item icons and some other aspects require some trial and error to understand for their proper use, but since there’s simply not that much to it I suppose it doesn’t take that long to get the hang of things. Since what you get varies each time through you’ll need to simply be ready to improvise and do your best to survive through wave after wave. It’s not going to change the world but it honestly feels like it could have been a contemporary of some classic arcade games back in the day, which is admirable.

CastleStorm 2 - While the original CastleStorm had an old school sort of appeal the best thing about the sequel is the increased ambition to provide a more varied experience. Whether or not it worked out and made the game more enjoyable is probably arguable unfortunately, as the new strategic territorial control aspects of the game could be argued to simply detract from the action focus while not clearly adding tangible benefit. The thing is, I could see people going either way appreciating the changes or disliking them so perhaps that’s a wash. What I would say though, regardless, is that the added need to move through screens and options which require you to use a cursor you move around the screen rather than having the experience optimized more for consoles, is a bummer. The new strategic aspects unfortunately require hitting these screens quite often and not only are the controls for this simply cumbersome, I’d say the interface can be a little tricky conceptually in places as well. It certainly still has a fighting spirit, and setting up your defenses and then tackling foes in a variety of ways made available to you can be fun, but whether or not it’s a major improvement over the original would be a fair question.

Unrailed! - While new and different ways to play are always an exciting thing in principle, how they work out in practice isn’t always quite so great. I’d consider Unrailed a pretty good example of this, working out as a sort of railroad survival game in a way, with you needing to clear ground and build the elements of a track to keep a train moving and from blowing up. Since everything is done pretty well manually, with you needing to chop down trees or mine in order to get the resources you need to build materials like track, there’s a mix of planning and time management that needs to come into play to be successful. If you’re able to play it with some other folks, whether locally or online, this can work out reasonably enough with people falling into roles and working collectively towards success. Solo? Not so much. You do have the ability to dictate tasks to a helper robot who is actually pretty quick and efficient at doing work. The problem is you’ll need to focus on keeping it busy often to the point where you don’t do much more, which then sort of detracts from the satisfaction of collecting materials and doing work. It’s not a bad game necessarily, but it isn’t going to be for everyone by any means.

Worm Jazz - There’s nothing wrong with a decent casual-ish game to provide some challenge while also letting you unwind. In the case of Worm Jazz the soothing background music sets that stage, and it’s good that it’s there since the challenge here is more than you’d expect. While in principle its base is the classic Snake game, new mechanics continue to be added that make it far more tricky and contemplative if you’re determined to get all 3 stars on every stage. I’m not sure whether there’s a significant crowd looking for this kind of experience but if you’re looking for a puzzler that will throw some new and unusual challenges at you while soothing jazz plays on in the background it’ll fit the bill nicely.

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