Friday, October 23

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

Pumpkin Jack [Nindie Choice!] -
Ah, tis the season for games that deliver at least a spooky feel, even though I’ll acknowledge more often than not Halloween season games tend to be a bit lacking in overall quality and simply hoping to capitalize on peoples’ urges. While by no means a horror game Pumpkin Jack may be one of the best games I’ve played that leans into the Halloween-y spirit with a timely release, delivering high-quality platforming plus a fair amount of variety with a reasonable degree of value. You obviously play as the Jack-o-Lantern headed Jack, jumping, dodging, and slashing your way through a variety of well-constructed stages that consistently change up what you need to do and have plenty of secrets to find without going overboard. In particular I appreciate that the camera tends to do a great job of giving you the right perspective pretty naturally and I rarely had issues with depth perception when making tough jumps to small platforms which usually plague lesser 3D platformers. Where I think the game shines the brightest though are the action-driven sequences in between the platforming sections, including a fast-moving escape from a burning barn, wild horseback rides, a riff on the classic minecart sequence in a few places, and more. Throw in boss fights that have some smart variety to them and while visually it may be a bit rough around the edges at times (though there’s no denying its aesthetic style is perfect for this time of year) Jack and his crow companion absolutely deliver a treat of an experience a mere week before Halloween.

GoNNER 2 [Nindie Choice!] - I absolutely adore the original GoNNER but I won’t deny that it’s a love that wasn’t easy to develop in the early going. The fact that the sequel is so similar in its approach to the gameplay experience shouldn’t be a surprise but also somewhat inherently makes it a tough sell for more than a niche-y crowd no matter how much fun it can be once it gets rolling. The GoNNER experience initially is all about exploration, experimentation, discovery, and probably hitting up boards and FAQs as you try to find the game’s various heads, weapons, and additional gear or at least a reasonable explanation of what some of them do. The reason for this is there’s no help text or guidance of any kind in the game, and if you walked into the experience without at least knowing that a reasonable percentage of gamers would possibly just stop playing out of frustration. So, OK, you’ve got some heads, weapons, and gear so next you’ll play with combinations to figure out which work best for you. To the sequel’s credit there’s some new crazier stuff to find as well as a new-ish perk system so more than ever I think the “ideal build” will be more of an open question. Now, once you’re at least feeling set and geared up, as well as armed with a knowledge of what the heck you’re doing at times, you’re ready to work on getting that multiplier up, making the game go a bit crazy, and basking in the chaos of it all. Much like the original there are just things that make GoNNER 2 a challenge to love, but for those who do stick with it through the substantial initial difficulty curve it’s just a quirky and unique platform shooting roguelike experience like no other.

Supraland - Right off the bat I’ll say to Supraland’s credit I can’t say I’ve played anything structured quite like it. Initially it almost feels a bit sandbox-y as you’ll have a main quest with an objective but you won’t be able to get there anytime soon without some upgrades first. What’s a bit odd is that the game really leaves you to simply explore and work out how to get coins and upgrades on your own, providing you little direction aside from some barriers until you acquire a necessary skill. While it’s a little disorienting at first not being given specific direction, the freedom to explore and discover on your own is actually nice. While mechanically the platforming can be tricky with the camera and your perspective in spots, and the combat tends towards a one-note jam the button to just slash your enemies into oblivion strategy, it’s not bad necessarily as much as simplistic. That said, there’s something charming about the experience as a whole and it feels fresh somehow. Likely accessible to gamers of just about any age, it would work well for a light challenge for veterans to simply enjoy or likely be a nice and reasonably friendly starting point for younger gamers learning the ropes. It may not be amazing but it’s thoroughly pleasant and friendly, and there’s something to be said for that.

9 Monkeys of Shaolin - As a life-long fan of the beat-em-up genre there’s just something simple and satisfying about a good brawler, letting you blow off some steam kicking ass and taking names. 9 Monkeys of Shaolin mostly delivers on that promise, going with its own take and pace, and especially as you unlock abilities begins to have a decent flow. That said, it feels about a half-step on the slow side, and I couldn’t always tell if that was deliberate or in order to cover for the game having a potential for performance issues. The overall look is an unusual one since it certainly has artistic flair but at the same time its characters just look and animate a bit oddly. The fact that you can join up with a friend locally or perhaps online (always a tricky prospect for availability with indie games especially) may help to sweeten the pot for some people but at the same time it can’t really address the pretty repetitive play that lacks enough variety to firmly keep your attention. It isn’t a bad title by any means, but there are definitely stronger brawlers out there in the eShop.

Outbreak: Epidemic - It’s most definitely that time of year when gamers are inclined to go looking for something a bit more horror-focused in order to enhance the Halloween Spirit. On its surface Outbreak: Epidemic looks like it has potential, sporting some zombies, some guns, and a bit of blasty-blasty action. Sure, the general look may be a bit last-gen (or earlier), but if it’s a good time most people would still be game. Unfortunately my experience with the game hasn’t at all been a positive one though, with an abundance of fog everywhere, mechanics that are sloppy at best when trying to dispatch zombies coming your way, and even a ridiculous struggle to perform mundane tasks like reloading. Somehow it feels like the inspiration for gameplay is more akin to the ancient versions of the Resident Evil series when it comes to your inventory and trying to use items, both not seemingly aware that was consistently one of the series worst problems early on and unable to even remotely capture the suspense and general dread that title evoked. The result? An experience that’s scary for all of the worst reasons and far more trick than treat.

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