Wednesday, December 9

Mini Reviews: December 9th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Wildfire [Nindie Choice!] -
Stealth-oriented games have never typically made for my favorite experiences but there are times when the mechanic is either used wisely or it’s merely an option you have in approach. In the case of Wildfire there’s no doubt that biding time and sneaking around can be essential to survival, but it’s also a side-scrolling puzzle platformer that puts some fun powers at your disposal, allowing you to be a real bastard on the offensive as well. You’ll play as a simple villager who it turns out has a special ability to wield magic, the most fun form of which is a flair for pyrotechnics. Working to liberate your fellow countrymen from capture you’ll need to move between careful sneaking and opportunistic action, sometimes very rapidly as situations tend to devolve into chaos quickly at times. You’re powerful but hardly invulnerable so you’ll need to make judicial use of your powers to maximize their effectiveness, often by carefully considering enemy movement patterns and things like high grass in the environment. You could sneak by perhaps, but wouldn’t it be fun to light it on fire as they walk through it, catching them ablaze and sending them running? For the most part it’s really up to you how you play things the majority of the time, though with level bonuses that reward certain goals you may well choose to play the level both ways as well. With a consistent flow of new abilities to experiment with and revel in Wildfire is a pretty unique puzzle platformer with a ton of flair that’s well worth a look.

Oniria Crimes - With the premise of you working to solve crimes in a virtual dreamspace, mixing elements of a classic point-and-click adventure with some smart detective work, Oniria Crimes is certainly different. Perhaps it’s a given that with the environment not being tethered strictly in reality the story has some room to be a bit unusual, which is a good thing. I also found the putting together of evidence to try to deduce the perpetrators of the crimes to be engaging and pretty uncommon among the many games I’ve played on the system. My biggest issue with the overall experience, though, is the amount of time spent in the least rewarding aspect of the game which is in the collection of said evidence. Classic adventures that make you hunt through many screens to find the bits and pieces you need are always annoying but this moves in the opposite direction, with you generally staying in a small space but pretty well checking out every object in the room since they each could have the vital clues you’re looking for. This makes for a somewhat uneven experience in many ways, and enjoyment will be a matter of whether the positives outweigh what I’d consider the drudgery at times.

John Wick Hex - I’ll openly admit that perhaps a degree of my disappointment with John Wick Hex is that it took a gameplay road I wouldn’t have anticipated. While I always try to be fair to the developer’s vision and evaluate things on how well that was pulled off rather than how well it met up with my hopes I’ll at least say in a case like this it’s an odd marriage. Known for its fast-paced kinetic fights, the John Wick movies are action movie staples filled to the brim with all manner of craziness. At first blush that conjures thoughts of something akin to the Max Payne series perhaps. Any such ideas are completely wrong though, instead the gameplay is more in the vein of a turn-based tactical strategy game. Sure, you’re capable of at least a subset of the movie’s badassery, and that’s nice, but the core experience is slow and strategic so your enjoyment will be very much dictated by your tastes and expectations being in check. I think I’d be fascinated to see what would come in the next iteration in this vein, but between the pacing, quite a bit of overall repetition in tactics out of necessity, and some general clunk I’d imagine this title will have opinions split down the middle.

Taiko No Tatsujin: Rhythmic Adventure Pack - Music and rhythm games are always interesting to check out since it’s amazing how many different ways developers have approached gameplay. Shooting pretty well for the middle we have two different games with the same core experience with the Taiko No Tatsujin pack. Both are unlikely to be revered for their story, which is perhaps predictably odd in places, but the main event is how well it plays and what kind of music it features. The selection of tunes would best be considered eclectic, ranging from up-tempo classical-ish music to more contemporary tunes and slower fare as well. As for the play, I think enjoyment hinges on a few different things. The first would simply be how you’re playing. Though I can’t compare with playing on the game’s drum peripheral my guess would be that the most effective controls for the game would be using the touchscreen which, aside from sometimes not registering the right type of hit (the zone for what’s orange seems oddly small), is very precise. If you’re into peripherals that’s probably going to give you the best experience, perhaps at the cost of some precision. Third would be a toss up with motion controls and buttons. I find the buttons to be more reliable than motion (though it’s pretty well-implemented here as a whole compared to the norm) but trying out all configurations I also found it hard to love any of them as they didn’t make the best use of the triggers specifically. If you’re into some quirk and want plenty of songs to challenge yourself with (even if you’re unlikely to be familiar with most of them) this can make for some fun, but it’s a very traditional rhythm game that doesn’t aim to at least try to innovate as much of its competition either.

Chronos: Before the Ashes - One of the tough elements of releasing a game on the Switch is that when you take on a gameplay style even remotely similar to one of its pillar titles, whether fully fair or not, you’re going to be compared a bit. Chronos is certainly not intended to in any sort of vein like Breath of the Wild, instead apparently targeting more of a “Souls-like” feel, but at least where the core mechanics of its combat are concerned comparing notes doesn’t seem too unfair. To be clear, there are plenty of other benchmarks on the system (from full-blown indie on up to AAA) to hold up the combat to as well and since it is such an integral part of the gameplay experience the fact that it is pretty ho-hum and highly repetitive at best hurts. Knowing that its roots come from originally being for VR helps to make some sense of that weakness, even if I applaud the effort to turn that base into a third person adventure. The quality of the puzzles and the look and feel of the environments no doubt benefit from those roots, just for me the comparison to Souls feels more like an excuse to justify the lack of flow and engagement (a criticism I tend to heap on Souls games as well, I generally find them sloppy) in combat you’re going to be engaged in pretty consistently throughout. If you’re into the game’s combat it’s a plus, if you’re bored by it the entire experience gets dragged down in the undertow.

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