Wednesday, December 16

Mini Reviews: December 16th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Shady Part of Me [Nindie Choice!] -
There’s something pretty delightful when you encounter games that you’ve never previously heard of that, once you begin playing them, grab you and demand your attention until they’re completed. Shady Part of Me is a smart puzzle adventure of sorts with a story to tell and a fantastic hand-drawn art style that absolutely fits that bill, and what’s fascinating is that rather than having only one or two elements that stand out and are compelling it delivers a high degree of quality on all fronts. The story revolves around a young girl who appears to be institutionalized and troubled, with a slow trickle of hints to her overall condition doled out the further along you get. She’s not quite alone though as you’ll also alternatively take control of a shadow version of herself who is generally projected on the wall but sometimes the floor as well. Puzzles alternate between the 2D shadow space which plays as more of a puzzle platformer, and the 3D main space where you must often manipulate objects to change the placement and scale of the shadows on the wall that are either blocking your doppelganger or helping her to either proceed or nab origami birds as bonuses along the way. All of this happens in some of the most elaborate and often surreal hand drawn art environments I’ve seen in a game, and certainly never as well integrated into the puzzles. This all comes together to create an experience that’s utterly unique on the console and one I would highly recommend.

Synthetik Ultimate - It’s sometimes tricky to write reviews when it comes to scoring games that show a ton of promise and are engaging but then have a critical flaw or two you can’t ignore. Synthetik very much fits that broad description, offering up some solid twin-stick sci-fi shooter play that is challenging, has some great gear to work with, and also has enough variety to keep you coming back for more. That said, when it comes to initial impressions the game is a really tough one to love as it simply offers no meaningful guidance of what you’re really doing, which buttons are for what, and conceptually how everything is meant to work. Sure, within an hour or two you can probably work most of it out, but I’d wager any nuance there may be will be missed by most people or they may have to look it up online to fully understand. Elements like the quicker reloads if you time things correctly and some of your abilities are interesting, but they’re also hardly self-explanatory. If you’re itching for some sci-fi shooting I’d probably recommend you be sure to check out something like Neon Chrome first, but since the list on Switch from that point is limited if you’re willing to take the time and care to understand what needs to be done to succeed you’ll probably have some fun with this one.

Instant Chef Party - In theory the hook of a multiplayer mini game fest in the general format along the lines of Mario party featuring a collection of quirky chef characters isn’t a bad concept. Unfortunately, though Mario Party’s mini games are typically pretty simple in their design and execution, it takes playing games that fail to reach that same level of quality to appreciate the consistent quality in what Nintendo’s team typically manages. With a general feel more reminiscent of Wii-era waggle fests there’s just a lack of energy and compelling play to make the loosely cooking-oriented games worthwhile, with many being utterly generic variations on simple games you’ve played many times before. While there aren’t many games of this type out there, and this is certainly cheaper than Nintendo’s own franchises, I’d say you’d be better off saving up for those titles rather than plunking down some money on this one.

Autumn’s Journey - If you’ve seen my reviews of visual novels before you’ll know that in a general sense I’m rarely a fan. A lack of player agency and some branching in the story to help make it more compelling and into an actual game of some time tend to make me wonder why the story in question was released on dedicated gaming hardware. I suppose fantasy fans may like the idea of a story revolving around a young woman running into and trying to help a dragon who has been turned into human form a bit of a hook, but aside from that specifically I can’t say there’s much to differentiate it substantially from other games of its kind. There are apparently 3 different endings you can end up with but given the rarity of decisions to make and the overall blandness of the story I’d think it would be quite an undertaking to try it again when so much of it would likely be the same.

Danger Gazers - Since there are quite a number of not only roguelike twin-stick shooters in general on Switch, let alone a pretty substantial list of exceptional ones, there’s not necessarily much shame in struggling to make a splash near the top of the list. The problem for Danger Gazers, unfortunately, is how far its pretty bare bones presentation and play put it. Granted, it’s a budget title so the level of expectations needs to be lowered at least a little bit against more expensive fare, but even against contemporaries in its price range or modestly more expensive there’s not even a contest. The weapon variety, general feel, and lackluster quality all around simply make it forgettable on the system.

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