Thursday, December 24

Mini Reviews: December 24th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Tohou Luna Nights [Nindie Choice] -
Leave it to indie games to keep finding ways to push the “generic” genre experience of something so well-known as the Metroidvania in at least slightly new directions. Tohou Luna Nights, for me, got off to a bit of a rocky start because of how different it was in its approach but by the time I got to the game’s first boss and things like your ability to stop time had kicked in I was on board. I did find some elements of it to be a bit on the quirky side, and the story I’m not positive will be everyone’s cup of tea, but to its credit it doesn’t quite feel the same as its contemporaries on the Switch so that helps it stand out. If you’re a genre fan looking for a mix of classic and new sensibilities combined it should be a satisfying ride.

The Hong Kong Massacre - In terms of an elevator pitch description The Hong Kong Massacre would best be described as a mix of the brief levels and one-hit-and-you’re-dead brutality of Hotline Miami and the slowdown-enabled ballet of bullets and diving around of the earlier Max Payne games. In other words, for me, what would immediately look like a good time. That said, there’s no denying it’s a bit rough around the edges. Sure, with this sort of experience you’re going to die often and sometimes even quickly but, your enemies tend to pick up on your presence and return crazy accurate shots a bit too consistently. Sure, you’re pretty well supposed to move through diving this way and that so you’ll evade shots but given the one-hit nature of your runs there are times it feels cheap. Perhaps my other issue is tied to my mental comparison to Max Payne but I do wish there was more of an attempt at a story or even just some connective tissue, even if it were just odd like in Hotline Miami. A brief cut-scene that conveys very little provides a hint of a revenge tale but I wanted at least a little more to sweeten the deal. It’s still a bit of fun but there’s an unrefined quality that keeps it at arms length from being more.

Spirit Arena - If you’re a fan of twin-stick shooting the Switch has got you covered. The downside for this is that new indie shooters on the scene have a lot of tough competition to bump up against. In the case of Spirit Arena one thing on its side is that mechanically it’s a bit different. One added element of challenge is that your character is able to fire in 2 different colors, only same-colored enemies being affected by your bullets. Similar to hardcore shooters like Ikaruga this does add a layer to the overall challenge as you’ll nedd to alternate color and strategize on the fly as things get more tense on how you can switch between colors as efficiently as possible. The problem is that with the exception of this element pretty well everything else about the gameplay is pretty boilerplate stuff and simply gets dull with the simplicity. So on the good side the gameplay is pretty unique but on the bad even with that fact on its side it doesn’t compete very well in a genre with a ton of representation to date already.

Kolumno - With very little going on mechanically Kolumno is a pretty basic game, with your only goal on each stage being to successfully get a ball to drop into a hole. While this is initially a pretty simple task, simply requiring you to dial into a sense of timing for when to release the ball so it isn’t knocked out, the further you get the more the challenge will increase. Adding new elements of control, like being able to briefly pause the ball as it drops, get introduced as you go attempting to keep the feel as fresh as possible. One complaint is that new abilities really aren’t explained so precisely how they work or what you’re supposed to do may take some trial and error. It’s a very basic game but not bad for a temporary distraction to break up your day.

Roundout by POWGI - With a simple and clean presentation consistent with the other POWGI games Roundout won’t win any beauty contests but gets the job done. Really this isn’t so unlike a few other titles aside from the fact that you’re constrained to a small number of letters and will need to iterate over every word you can think of using those. The name itself is related to the letters being in a circle so you’ll essentially turn around the dial in order to select them. While for the most part this is fine it was hard not to make errors as you moved around, getting a wrong letter, but it’s at least a relatively quick method most of the time. You’ll definitely want to be up on your vocabulary as aside from seeing partially filled words from the letters of words you’ve completed there are no clues at all to help you if you find yourself stuck. If you enjoy word puzzles I’d probably suggest some others in the POWGI series but if you’ve exhausted them it works to be sure you know your Scrabble words.

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