Thursday, December 17

Mini Reviews: December 18th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Grindstone [Nindie Choice!] -
There’s nothing I like more than a surprise game that shows up, slaps you around a bit, and leaves you thirsting for more. With its pretty wacky (and seriously violent) cartoon-like style, smart mix of puzzling and strategy, and a terrific surprise specifically in the form of Daily Challenges that will ensure I keep coming back for more, Grindstone absolutely delivers the goods. If you’ve played a variety of puzzle titles before the base mechanic will be familiar, your typical goal is to try to chain as many enemies of the same color as possible. Past that though I can’t say I’ve played anything like this since Grindstones that are dropped for high enough combos then allow you to change to a new color in the same chain, leading to even bigger combos. Now add in a touch of temptation with chests that will coax you into lingering on a board longer to unlock a new blueprint for usable gear, special monsters that will demand you consider how to take them off the board, and even some wild boss battles and the 200+ levels will give you plenty to think about. The cherry on top is the Daily Greed Challenge though, which will challenge you to a sequence of tough levels, providing you with options for perks at each step and truly pushing your strategy and sense of daring to the max if you want to be competitive on the leaderboards. It’s rare that puzzle games are a treat from top to bottom, and add in that it is drenched in great cartoon carnage and Grindstone is a game you’ve got to at least give a moment to check out.

Space Invaders Forever [Nindie Choice!] - Retro remix collections tend to be a mixed bag, but for fans of arcade classics even though not every title in Forever is equally compelling it still delivers the goods. What I’d consider the weakest link in the package is novel Space Invaders Gigamax 4 SE, though I will give it credit for being the most novel in the bunch since it does support up to 4 players who can play a wide screen and more varied version of the classic game complete with some unexpected modes and tough boss battles. In the middle there’s the carryover from the mobile space, the very well-made Arkanoid Vs. Space Invaders which you’ll play vertically using the touchscreen. The combination of these two classic franchises actually works quite well, and the addition of different characters that then have varying abilities keeps things fresh through quite a bit of content, but there’s no missing the original mobile game DNA that exhibits itself in a variety of ways. The crown jewel of the package by far is Space Invaders Extreme though, which I have very fond memories of enjoying on my PSP back in the day. The varied levels, branching paths, crazy modes, and colorful overall presentation absolutely make this one of my favorite retro reduxes of all time. If you’re a big fan of classic arcade titles given a jolt of modernity this is absolutely one worth checking out.

When the Past was Around - With a unique hand-drawn art style and some unusually inventive point-and-click puzzles When the Past was Around definitely stands out from the crowd. Now, granted, depending on the puzzle at times it can be difficult to follow the train of thought in how to move from clues to success, but since there tends to be limited repetition in how these challenges work I suppose that’s to be expected. Throw in an element of love and loss and though it all comes to a close pretty quickly the experience is generally a memorable one.

Calico - I can respect games that aren’t made for the adrenaline junkie set, whose goal is to proceed at a slower pace and enjoy taking everything in. That’s certainly the style of Calico, with your goal being to revitalize the town cafe while making friends around town of both the human and furry varieties. Unfortunately the main obstacle is that, for now, there are quite a number of ways the game steps on its own tail. The A and B buttons are reversed from the norm, something that always grates a bit (this has been promised to be resolved in an upcoming patch), the customization component when choosing colors can be a bit wonky and lose some of your choices, and just in general there are some visual and gameplay bugs that you’ll run into more than you should. The positive is that since this isn’t a high-intensity game for the most part you’re not being greatly inconvenienced by any of the problems. However, there’s no doubt that they erode from the experience and as there are some other great casual adventures out there in the eShop it bumps this a bit further down on the “must-play” list.

Crawlco Block Knockers - When you’re an old fogey like me you’ve seen a whole lot of games over time, including those that push into the more inappropriate realms in various ways. With both its simple-but-solid puzzle aspects and its slowly-revealed animated models (you can choose to obscure the topless nudity if you’d like in the options) this game actually joins a lineage dating back to even the early PC and console days. It isn’t high art or incredibly engaging over the long term but if you’re looking for a little teasing of art by persevering over the challenge of kicking and pulling blocks into place, or destroying enemies, in order to complete the blocks obscuring the artwork it works well enough. Though, you may want to consider that your friends will see the game name come up in your playlist, so take that into account.

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