Tuesday, January 19

Mini Reviews: January 19th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Rhythm Fighter (Echo Games) -
I’m always a fan of titles that try out new combinations of genre styles, so when I heard about a rhythm-based beat-em-up roguelike I was immediately intrigued. Out of the gate while the style of play takes some getting used to there’s quite a bit of promise. The art style and characters are a bit on the silly side, helping to add to the fun. The soundtrack in general fits well to the action, and you’ll progressively unlock new characters that have different feels and that can be upgraded to better help suit your style. Where the problems set in for me revolves around the overall execution. The control scheme, though you get used to it, feels a bit on the clunky side overall which really comes to light when the game gets more intense and you’re trying to keep moving to stay alive. Nailing your hits on the beat precisely is absolutely a key to success but doing this consistently is more of a challenge than the game’s contemporaries. Whether this is a matter of the success window being brief or some issue in the timing (you can play with the latency in increments, though I didn’t find that this helped), but more often than not even while trying to be on the beat it wasn’t happening and honestly when I did get it right it “felt” wrong in terms of the timing. I think the thing that hurts it the most though is that when more difficult enemies are stacked in the same space or when the pretty bonkers boss fights hit everything gets so overwhelming that concerns like keeping the beat tend to go out the window completely. The bosses, in particular, are so generally all over the place with their attacks and speed that it feels like the core rhythm play gets betrayed a bit. Granted, the roguelike element and your ability to upgrade your character will help to counter this as you play but whether the core hook is sufficient to keep you grinding to get to that point may be a fair question from person to person.

Dead Ground (ShotX Studio) - Since the Switch works very much like a tablet when in handheld mode it’s not a surprise that a great number of tower defense games (ranging from great to meh) have come to the platform. With that in mind trying to carve out a place for yourself anywhere near the top of the list in the genre is a challenge. Dead Ground makes a valiant, if pretty no-frills, attempt at making an impression but there’s no doubt that it lacks refinement. Survival in a zombie apocalypse is the name of the game, and initially you’ll need to focus on setting up your limited defenses while taking a very active role in helping to shoot down zombies while staying alive, which can be tricky if you’re not careful. Once you have some money you’ll then need to decide what to invest in, providing some opportunities to do things your own way, though not knowing what all buildings or abilities you can use do, that can be very trial and error. It’s certainly a bit different than its competition in theme and style of play, more actively favoring you taking a role in combat than most, but the lack of polish and refinement compared to its contemporaries in the space is hard to miss and holds it back.

Epitaph (Everook) - There’s no doubt that in order to make an impression in a very crowded Switch eShop it takes being daring and making your own rules. I think Epitaph is a great example where taking such a step has certainly made it unique, but not necessarily in good ways. Best described as a tactical strategy fighting game, there’s no doubt that with its combat featuring head-to-head teams of 3 reapers apiece (and with a roster of 13 distinct characters this makes for a staggering amount of strategic possibilities) there’s nothing quite like it. That said, in order to get the most out of it you’ll need to invest some time to grasp its mechanics… and unfortunately an equally-committed friend to play with as well since there’s no single-player versus mode. The solo puzzle mode is very enlightening, helping you understand the strategy involved by having you work through 150 different scenarios that will hone your skills, but from there you’ll need someone to play with. Combine that limitation with the heavy up-front investment versus very conditional reward and it may struggle to find a satisfied audience.

Four In A Row (LudosLabs) - Converting classic family games from the physical space to the digital tends to lead to mixed results. In the case of Four In A Row, to its credit, at least it is able to do something the classic clearly doesn’t, which is allow you to add your chips from any of the four directions, adding a pretty substantial amount of strategy you may find yourself struggling with at first. If you’re able to find a friend or family member to play against this may offer at least some mild entertainment for a little while, though you’ll be able to play through puzzle scenarios or take on the AI head-to-head when going it solo that really doesn’t bring enough energy and excitement to the table to make it worthwhile for long.

War Truck Simulator (Ultimate Games) - Imagine taking to the roads in a war zone, moving between bases and the front lines, supporting the troops while trying to avoid any real action yourself. In principle that would be the optimum experience in War Truck Simulator, but the problem is it doesn’t really even begin to get into the vicinity of that level of excitement, as marginal as it may be. Given the janky nature of the game’s physics, the weirdly uneven surfaces of the “roads” you’ll find yourself on, and the extreme pop-in everywhere you look I’d say it resembles a game from a few generations ago but truthfully that would be insulting to titles from that era. Though it may be a budget title there’s a visible lack of polish on this game that surprises you at every turn with weirdness with trees popping into view and falling over, boulders randomly appearing looking like tumbleweeds with how they move, and numerous other issues.

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