Thursday, December 3

Mini Reviews: December 3rd Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Sam & Max Save the World [Nindie Choice!] -
I will gladly and freely admit to my bias here, ever since the original Sam & Max Hit the Road made way back when for PC I’ve been a fan of this silly animal duo. Steeped with humor thoroughly reminiscent of the glory days of point and click LucasArts adventures this Telltale continuation of their legacy is well-scripted and a wonderful love letter in general to the classic feel of the genre, though in a 3D rendered world rather than the traditional 2D pixel art style. With Sam playing the relatively straight (but undoubtedly quirky) man to the somewhat unpredictable and unrepentantly nutty Max this duo moves through the game with jokes aplenty about anything and everything they’re given the opportunity to comment on. Granted, not all of the jokes connect, some of the humor now feels a bit dated, and there’ll be people who simply don’t like them as characters but for me there’s a consistent reason to keep a smile on your face throughout the game, even if as always some of the unusual methods you’ll need to employ to get through the game’s puzzles may require some quick reading of a walkthrough for hints to keep you moving.

Ponpu [Nindie Choice!] - While the Bomberman series is undoubtedly well-known for its terrific competitive multiplayer matches there’s no denying that its characters themselves are a bit lacking in personality and its single-player efforts to date have been inconsistent as a whole. Ponpu absolutely borrows liberally from that franchise when it comes to core concepts, with play generally revolving around blowing up walls and enemies with your bombs, but with its distinctive art style there’s no denying that it has a fat greater attempt at personality hands down. The solo campaign also happens to be pretty challenging and enjoyable in itself, making for a pretty pleasant surprise and helping it stand apart from the competition. The fun thankfully also carries over into the various multiplayer modes, with some being for teams and others being a free-for-all, but all working with the classic foundation but layering a smart element or two to help each distinguish themselves from one another. It’s a wonderful weirdo surprise, no doubt.

Nine Witches: Family Disruption [Nindie Choice!] - Walking into the Nine Witches experience I hadn’t seen enough about the game to know what I was in for. It turned out the answer was quite a lot of laughs, some tricky puzzles to solve in order to progress, and an element of the unexpected to boot. In the game you’ll alternate playing as the paralyzed psychic Alexei and his more able-bodied assistant Akiro. While most of the time you’ll be playing as Akiro since he’ll be the one carrying the inventory and manipulating objects, Alexei quite regularly is essential to progress with his ability to go into a trance and move about in spirit form. Whether talking to ghosts, using a sort of radar to suss out hidden object locations, or simply being able to pass through locked doors with ease it’s very important to always remember you have these abilities available to you when you’re feeling stuck, as they’re essential pretty regularly. For the most part the challenges don’t get too complex or outlandish, which is a help, but I’d say that the occasional shootout sections do feel a bit sudden at times and perhaps out of place, even if they’re thankfully rare and for the most part manageable. If your taste in adventures is more geared toward pixel-based classics with a sense of humor this does an excellent job of capturing that essence with console-geared controls which are a plus.

Tracks: Toybox Edition - As a kid I never owned one of those pretty cool wooden train sets that would allow you to connect sections of track and then run your train over them but I remember playing with them at daycare or perhaps church and enjoying myself with them. To its credit Tracks absolutely captures the essence of that experience, really providing the framework for enjoying this sort of activity in a virtual space and pretty intuitively allowing you to string together your pieces of track as well as lay down various elements as scenery. Then, to top it off, you’re able to throttle up your engine and experience riding through your creation. It’s all generally done well, just there’s no denying that it is also then limited by what’s possible with those physical sets as well. This lends itself authenticity but also creates some artificial limitations to what’s possible to construct. Regardless, if you have kids or are a kid at heart and think being a virtual conductor on tracks you construct sounds like a good time it does accomplish its design goals quite admirably.

Brawl Chess - Seeing this title immediately brought back fond memories of the classic Battle Chess, which was generally pretty enjoyable even if I was never very good at playing the game. Seeing the unique bit of combat for every match-up of pieces, with all sorts of creative ways they would find to kill each other, still made for an entertaining experience at least for a while. Unfortunately, that comparison does little to help Brawl Chess and the high bar set by that game made more than 20 years ago actually does it active harm. Unfortunately the brawling your pieces will do is merely a cartoony animation of a cloud of a fight, with the winner being the only one remaining. Without that hook all you’re left with is an extremely bare bones chess game that offers nothing in the way of instruction on the game and has no real flavor to speak of either. That actually leads to another bone I have to pick and that’s the inclusion of DLC for you to unlock other characters to play the game with representing your avatar. With the offering already being quite meager this prodding for some extra dough really rubbed me the wrong way. Considering there are other chess game options on the system that offer more robust features this is thus a bit of a disappointment.

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