Monday, December 14

Mini Reviews: December 14th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

DOOM: Eternal [AAA Choice!] -
At long last the conversion of DOOM: Eternal has made its way to Switch to satisfy your itchy trigger finger and much like the last DOOM… it’s pretty hard to believe this game is running (well) on a console you can take anywhere. As was the case with the first there’s no denying that the move wasn’t without sacrifices when it comes to the visual quality. When the numbers of enemies around is relatively limited (granted, not that often) everything tends to look better but in order to prevent slide shows when things get intense the detail gets dialed down dynamically. The great news is that while captured screen shots of the action can look pretty funky when you’re in the moment you don’t really notice (or if you’re determined to notice perhaps the Switch shouldn’t be your console of choice to play it on). If you’ve been away from the franchise and missed the reboot you may be taken aback by the hyper-aggressive style of play, which in Eternal feels like it was amped up further. Sitting back and circle strafing from a distance isn’t necessarily going to cut it anymore, in order to keep your health up you’re going to want to get up close and personal, glory killing flashing enemies with a press of the right stick in order to extract health. You’ll also find your ammo pretty limited which will prompt a creative reason for having your chainsaw, which is now for chewing through enemies who’ll then spew ammo everywhere. The result is a very fast-moving and bloody ballet of bullets and carnage that truly sets this franchise apart from the FPS competition rather than resting on its laurels and name recognition. If you don’t have other consoles as a viable option and love blowing apart demons once again Panic Button has managed to cram a bona fide AAA title into the modestly-powered Switch without compromising great gameplay.

Monster Sanctuary [Nindie Choice!] - When you create a franchise as successful as the Pokemon series it’s inevitable that there will be a long line of imitators. Developers from indies all the way to publishers have taken a crack at the formula with varied success but in broad terms to this point it has been notable how little variation there has been in the bulk of attempts. Where Monster Sanctuary first and most notably succeeds is in changing just enough by moving to combining the tried-and-true monster collection and combat with a Metroidvania-esque hook to its exploration. Perhaps it’s a relatively small change, but for me it provided a different and more engaging sense of exploration to help distract from the pretty well-known grind that you’d typically associate with games in this style. Also worth noting is that once you begin to assemble your team the depth and diversity of your various creatures’ skill trees is pretty impressive and perhaps bordering on overwhelming. You can go wide with many skills to work with, narrow with fewer but more potent skills, or even hyper-focused on one particular tree to make a powerhouse in a specific area. Then, further mixing and matching your team line-up to suit the enemies you’ll face you can really be potent in combat. It by no means reinvents the genre but it shows a depth of effort to break away from what you’d typically expect to deliver a more unique experience.

Drawn to Life: Two Realms - While I understand the Drawn to Life games have their fans, and can see some of the appeal in being able to personalize the look of your hero, there’s also no denying that they’re decidedly casual. The core gameplay mostly consists of pretty light puzzle platforming, with some stages simply requiring you get to the exit while others make you knock out all of the enemies on the level first, and there are even those where there’s an added challenge of placing enemies and other elements on the stage first helping to assure your ability to complete them. Throw in the ability to either draw or use pre-made stickers to customize your character and there’s content here to be enjoyed, just more likely by people who skew on the more novice and of the gamer spectrum. If you’re looking for a title to help younger or much less experienced gamers get into the swing of platforming this may not be a bad place to start, but even if you’re just a lightly seasoned gamer this will probably feel a bit too simple.

Warplanes: WW1 Sky Aces - There have been a variety of dogfighting sims on the Switch, with time frames ranging from the earliest instances of aerial combat on through the future in space. WW1 Sky Aces is on the earlier end of the spectrum, and will challenge you to knock enemy aces, bombers, and even zeppelins out of the sky. In addition, depending on your mission and the role you choose, you’ll be looking to take out ground or sea-based targets as well. The issue that will determine if it’s for you will end up being the dumbed-down controls. For very casual players this may be an ideal introduction to dogfighting, as you’ll just get to fly around and blow everything away without ever necessarily being substantially challenged. With the exception of outright ramming into things you generally feel invulnerable, and once you lock onto an enemy your most typical concern is simply your guns overheating as you burn through their limited armor. You won’t be doing any barrel rolls, flips, or other extreme maneuvers, it’s more just a matter of point, lock, and hold down fire until things blow up. I will mention that there's an option to also include base management aspects into your game but with the lackluster excitement of the combat overall I don't think it is enough to really change the trajectory of the overall review. Anyone who is a fan of the genre would be better served checking another title out, this one is just too basic.

Splashy Cube - In the budget casual game arena there are some titles that embrace less complex controls, some only featuring one button even, and surprisingly deliver compelling gameplay. Then there are the bulk of the rest that really don’t. While it is certainly colorful and briefly interesting Splashy Cube unfortunately falls into the second camp, with you maneuvering your cube through a maze-like grid that has an ever-increasing number of traps to contend with using the trigger buttons on either side to move left or right. The result is an action puzzler of sorts, where the challenge is you’re only ever able to move forward, which requires a fair degree of planning the further you get to determine how to weave through threats and get to the exit. It’s by no means a bad game, it’s just not a terribly ambitious one so it’s easy to walk away from.

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