Friday, January 29

Mini Reviews: January 29th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Olija [Skeleton Crew Studios] (Nindie Choice!) - With it’s very retro pixelated look you could walk into Olija expecting a similarly old-school experience, but you’d be wrong. That isn’t to say there isn’t some vintage essence to be found, the way the somewhat limited narrative is presented feels reminiscent of older times, as does the level design that will require careful exploration and perhaps some leaps of faith at times. You’ll be pushed to experiment and work out platforming puzzles but this is rarely a stumbling block, more often it’s just a great excuse to take advantage of its pretty solid mechanics and fluid style. Olija is an unusual title that somewhat defies simple explanations, effectively mixing the feel of old school cinematic adventure with sometimes tense combat and plenty of smart platforming as well. The result is a refreshing oasis in the typical doldrums of the early part of the year.

The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav [Daedalic Entertainment] - While most people first think of LucasArts classics when waxing nostalgic over the days of point-and-click adventures past, the foundations of the genre were typically focused more on fantasy and adventure than plentiful silliness. Chains of Satinav, though not completely humorless, is cut more from that traditional cloth in line with the likes of King’s Quest, providing a pretty authentic (in both good ways and bad) window into the vintage point and click adventure experience. While you may end up needing to consult a walkthrough or guide to work through more solutions than the usual these days you’ll at least be rewarded with some quality art and a different flavor than the typical adventures found in the eShop.

The Dark Eye: Memoria [Daedalic Entertainment] - In the follow-up to Chains of Satinav the Dark Eye series takes a bit of a different path, or in this case multiple paths, when it comes to the story being told. Moving between the current day hero from the first adventure, Geron, and Sadja, a princess from a much earlier period, the game manages to feel a bit more fresh since it isn’t simply married to one storyline. In addition I think more often than in the first title the puzzles here feel a bit more refined and take less periodic leaps of faith that could be frustrating. While typically you’d want to start stories from the beginning of a series, Memoria feels like a reasonably enough starting point for the story as well, so if you’re thinking you may only want to spring for one classic adventure there’s no reason to be obligated to choose Chains of Satinav over this one.

Heaven’s Vault [inkle] - Regardless of how I feel about the game’s overall funky mechanics and technical quirks at times, Heaven’s Vault deserves credit for putting effort into building a bit of a different world that you’ll need to endeavor to explore and understand. That does absolutely make it interesting and pretty unique. The problem for me is that in so many situations it felt like I was watching or playing a sequel, or hit the game somewhere in the second act. Without understanding my character’s motivations or anything about the reasons behind her attitude towards robots and other characters being prompted to complete her dialogue simply felt strange. You are able to understand more about her and some other characters as you go, but by then you’ve already made decisions which you’d hope wouldn’t negatively impact the outcome of the story just because you didn’t have enough context at the time. Trying to translate symbols falls into the same space, where you’re asked to interpret things but have no basis to work from initially, it’s just a bit odd. Throw in inconsistent pacing and just some technical weirdness at times and it’s an attractive and different sort of package but you can’t help but be baffled by some of its missteps.

Balancelot [Ratalaika Games] - OK, so there are just games out there plain determined to run a singular idea into the ground and for me Balancelot falls right into that category. You’ll play as a wannabe knight astride his unicycle while carrying his lance and shield, ready to take on tough enemies… or, more often than not, crates and hills which often prove to be the more lethal foes. Trying to manage your forward or backward momentum, needing to stop or jump, and then being sure not to fall over become the entire focus of play for the most part. Using your lance to attack an enemy or knock something over will periodically come into play as well, but more often than not your lack of fine control over its positioning will make it yet another one of your enemies as it plain gets in the way as you try to make jumps or get through some tougher spots. If you love a challenge that features pretty heavy repetition and frustration it may be a winner for you, otherwise you’ll want to pass.

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