Friday, February 26

Top 50 / Best Indie Shooters on Nintendo Switch


[Last Updated: 2/26/21] Among the genres best represented on the Switch is probably one of my personal favorites, shooters. Whether we’re talking classic arcade side-scrollers, twin-stick, first-person, or roguelike there are indie titles on Switch that are sure to please. In the name of representation for all types of fun this may not be a list based purely on score, it’s also trying to accommodate the best games to suit any taste or budget. With that in mind let’s get on to the best shooters the Switch has to offer!

Assault Android Cactus+ [Witch Beam] - Absolutely one of the games I had wished for the most to come to Switch since the system launched, Assault Android Cactus is a next to perfect arcade-style twin-stick shooter. Complete with intense action, big and challenging boss fights, and 9 distinct characters who each have their own primary and secondary weapons the game is full of opportunities to go back and have some more fun. The Switch version even added an additional Campaign+ mode that further ups the ante for challenge, also making it the best edition of the game out there!


Aces of the Luftwaffe Squadron [HandyGames] - The classic arcade shooter 1943 and its many variants are among my favorites of all time and Aces does an incredible job of capturing what works in those games and then modernizing it. Hardly just a stock bullet hell shooter the variety of side missions you'll look to complete along the campaign will require you to use some strategy as well as technique. A per-pilot upgrade system that will give you a variety of new buffs and power-ups will help you shore up your weak points or simply make you more lethal, and down the stretch the bosses will test your skills sorely so you'll want and need any help you can get. Still probably the best overall modern arcade shooter I've played on any platform, and its new DLC just further sweetned the deal.


Tesla Vs. Lovecraft [10Tons] - As a massive fan of shooters you knew there would have to be some love thrown in that direction. While there were many outstanding titles in that genre on the Switch in 2018 none of them was as exciting, challenging, and satisfying for me as this twin-stick shooter from the folks at 10 Tons. While it may get off to a bit of a slow start, allowing you to get acclimated and accumulate some perks, once this game turns up the intensity it gets to be an adrenaline-fueled rush where you'll be looking for power-ups and then laughing maniacally when you get to power up your steampunk mech suit and rip through hordes of enemies. Consistently producing great titles I can't wait to see what's coming from one of my favorite indie developers next on Switch.


Nuclear Throne [Vlambeer] - Though it’s pretty clear in places that Nuclear Throne has aged a bit since its original release, its unapologetic degree of challenge and wide variety of builds still make it one of the best twin-stick shooters on the Switch. This isn’t a game you’ll really ever master per se, you’ll just have deep runs where things click and you’ll find success. With some great unlockable characters, each with their own style of play, Throne has no shortage of personality and continues to push you with a “just one more run” mentality to work to get further. If you’re ready for a challenge, and can deal with its visuals having aged a bit, Nuclear Throne absolutely delivers one of the best roguelike shooting experiences on the system without question.


Sniper Elite 4 [Rebellion] - The Sniper Elite series has always been an interesting red-headed step-child off to the side of the FPS genre. There’s no doubt its cornerstone element is the art of sniping, as well as the slow-mo kill cam shots of bullets ripping through your enemies, but to this point outside of that the games have been a bit clunky. The mechanics were always decent but the limiting factor was often the level design since the areas were simply too confined so conceptually it wouldn’t take your enemies much effort to figure out where you were positioned with so few options available to you. This entry completely blows that criticism out of the water, replacing overly constrained areas with large and wonderfully varied environments that absolutely encourage exploration and experimentation. Not only will you find random hidden stashes here and there, you’re really given the freedom to choose your personal path to success whether that’s storming in a straight line for your threat, or taking the long way to flank and utilize an element of surprise to devastating effect. This really is the leap in quality of level design I’ve been waiting for with the series, moving it away from being more of a niche bit of fun and making it a legitimate contender with the more successful series out there. Sure, you’re always going to want to set up those great long shots and enjoy the thrill of ripping a slow-mo shot through someone’s lungs, but now the connective tissue between those moments feels stealthier, smarter, and more engaging than ever. Throw in online multiplayer modes that also offer some pleasant surprises and this series finally feels like it has earned the elite in its name. 
 

Metro 2033 Redux [4A Games]  - Set in a post-Apocalyptic Russia, primarily taking place in the labyrinth of subway tunnels and other areas below the surface, Metro 2033 Redux is an atmospheric and pretty gritty first-person experience. Under threat by various mutated creatures and the intimidating threat of the Dark ones you’ll find yourself struggling to survive and persevere. What makes it even more great, in my mind, is that you’re able to choose the leaner and tougher original experience that forced you to play it more sparingly as a survival game, trying desperately to conserve your resources, and a more shooter-like action game. Honestly, I found both to be viable and challenging in their own right, and the atmosphere and tense action are something the Switch, to this point, has been needing.


Void Bastards [Blue Manchu] - While I’ve seen a few titles try to step up to the plate to establish a solid roguelike FPS to date nobody has really nailed the entire formula. Whether because the roguelike elements were out of balance or shooting itself just wasn’t well-implemented, that has left room for someone to come onto the scene and show how it can be done right. Finally, with the release of Void Bastards, it seems like someone is squarely on the right track, just be ready to struggle a bit as you get the hang of things. You control what are essentially disposable criminals, each with different quirks (ala Rogue Legacy), and through perseverance you’ll begin to make your way further and further along in your mission, shooting, crafting, and sometimes simply running away in order to survive a variety of enemy encounters in space. Initially it can be a bit overwhelming as you learn the ropes, knowing which ships to try to hit for what supplies, how to deal with different threats, which shipboard systems are best to try to utilize and how, and also just when to know you need to panic and get the hell off a ship before you die. Perhaps unsurprisingly this can lead to there being a bit of a hump to get over, equipped with just enough crafted gear and earned experience to help yourself get further along. If you’re a major fan of roguelikes or have been hoping to see a new formula in your FPS gameplay this is absolutely going to be worth checking out.


Stardust Galaxy Warriors: Stellar Climax [Dreamloop Games] - To think that when this title snuck onto the eShop I almost missed it. Since I'd not heard of it in advance of its release I almost didn't reach out for it since it was a busy time of year. I'm very glad that I didn't miss it though as it was one of the best shooters I played in 2018. Whether you're playing solo or co-op with some friends the number of different mechs and weapons you have to choose from to customize your builds open the door to repeat playthroughs and experimentation. With all sorts of ways to tune the degree of challenge as well it's a highly accessible shooter to people at all levels of experience with the genre.


Neon Chrome [10Tons] - I'd originally fallen in love with Neon Chrome on PC where I beat the game 4 times and it kept getting more intense and fun each time. Having to start out from nothing on the Switch I came to appreciate how much I had learned to lean on some of the game's most potent enhancements but I was more than happy to make it work with whatever I had and make my way to the Overseer all over again. It's challenging, exciting, and you'll need to work with what you're given but if you love twin-stick shooting it is among the most satisfying of the games of this type I've played.


Atomicrops [Bird Bath Games] - For me, Atomicrops is a story of early frustration, followed by a slow warming up, which eventually became a pretty deep and addictive love. Among the many roguelike shooters on Switch it absolutely stands apart, and getting the hang of how everything works is thus an unfamiliar challenge. Are you supposed to tend your crops? Go running out into the areas to the north, south, east, and west to find seeds and supplies? Focus on making money? Make sure to plant and cultivate roses as quickly as possible since they’re an alternative and powerful currency as well? The answer to all of it pretty much turns out to be “Yes”. I don’t think there’s only one strategy or set of tactics that will make you successful but since the game provides you with very little overall guidance and there are simply a staggering number of power-ups and pieces of equipment you may encounter you’re going to need to try and fail quite a bit before you’ll have some “Aha!” moments and feel like you’ve got your feet under you. The thing is, once I turned that corner and finally began to know just enough to pick the power-ups that best suited the situation in my current run, wisely choosing how and when to invest and in what, I got hooked and had to keep playing until I finally completed Year 1. Outside of a lack of much helpful guidance, which really can make the early game a bit of a bummer, my only other major complaint is that as the screen gets full of stuff happening at night and there’s chaos everywhere, at times you’ll swear you’re taking damage but can’t tell from what. It happening only once in a while you can write it off as you just missing something but the more it happened (once every few runs) the harder I would look and there were times I legitimately had no idea what killed me, never a good thing, but obviously not something so common I couldn’t be successful. If you’ve been feeling like roguelike shooters have been feeling too much alike and in need of an evolution be sure to give Atomicrops a shot, I think it’ll “grow” on you.


Enter the Gungeon [Dodge Roll] - At the time of its announcement as one of the most anticipated roguelike shooters for the Switch among the people "in the know", Enter the Gungeon is as preposterous as it is bullet-laden. Full of personality, bizarre enemies, over-the-top bosses, and some truly ridiculous weapons you'll never quite be sure what to expect each time you go down into the Gungeon. If you're up for the challenge it delivers its own flavor of bullet hell with a distinct sense of flair.


Bleed 2 [BootdiskRevolution] - While sharing a lot in common with the original title Bleed 2 made critical refinements to make this run and gun shooting experience far more exciting and accessible. Quick and challenging, complete with some insane boss fights, it stands out with a style all its own. Throw in the temptation for repeat runs using different characters, each with their own feel, and it can deliver a lot of unique fun.


Everspace: Stellar Edition [ROCKFISH Games] - As a massive fan of the classic Wing Commander series this is a title that easily caught my eye while it was on PC. There's absolutely no doubt that it nails the space combat aspect very well, offering up variability with its roguelike structure, multiple ships you can experiment with and a variety of weapons as well. While it doesn't quite have something akin to the space opera I always enjoyed it absolutely delivers with its solid and challenging gameplay.


Steredenn: Binary Stars [Plug In Digital] - Moving in a very different direction Steredenn is a bullet hell roguelike space shooter that has some truly bonkers weapons and challenges. While you'll have more traditional options in your arsenal the inclusion of some crazy melee-based weapons changes the formula around a bit and encourage experimentation to find the weapons that suit your play style and the variety of scenarios you'll need to be able to survive.
 

Hell is Other Demons [Cuddle Monster Games] - All things considered, Hell is Other Demons is a very good platforming shooter that plays smart, is challenging, and ultimately will support a wide variety of styles through its varied weapons and upgrades. While in docked mode the characters may look a bit chunky that means in handheld mode everything is very easy to see and helps make play on the go all the more viable. Each increasingly-powerful weapon you get to work with tends to encourage different styles of play and that keeps things consistently interesting and exciting. This is yet another shooter deserving of your time and attention and it deserves a place among the top tier of titles in the genre on Switch.


Jet Lancer [Vladimir Fedyushkin] - With so many high-quality shooters of all types and styles it takes some effort to put something new on the table, particularly something that stands apart from the rest with its own style. Jet Lancer manages to do just that with an intense and very inertia-based flying style, that takes some getting used to, and blends it with arcade-like swarms of enemies and even some terrific boss fights that will put your skills to the test. That isn’t to say it’s perfect. I’ve hit some rough patches when things have gotten intense a few times, hit a crash or two, and there’s no doubt some people won’t either “get” or enjoy the flight style in the game that reminds me most of the well-regarded Luftrausers (still somehow not on Switch!). However, if you’re ready and willing to bring the fight to your foes, keep your combo meter up, and knock enemy ships out of the sky with a mix of guns, barrages of missiles, and some great unlocks that will let you tune your ship to better suit your style Jet Lancer can be a ton of fun.


Serious Sam Collection [Croteam] - As time has gone on the first-person shooter genre has gone through quite a lot of changes and evolution, generally moving from simply being all about blowing through hordes of enemies and trying to add in either story elements or genre mixes to help it become a bit more elevated. Then there are titles like the Serious Sam series that are pretty well determined to stay in place and revel in the simplicity of carnage and crazy-ass enemies to blow apart… and as this collection proves that can still work when it’s handled correctly. You’ll be able to enjoy all 3 titles in the Sam trilogy as well as the DLC add-ons for the last of the series and follow Sam from his beginnings killing in the desert, then to more tropical locales, then to wrecked cities, and more while dispatching a host of weird and generally unique foes using an arsenal ranging from the more ordinary to the ridiculous. Granted, at times Sam feels like he’s trying a bit too hard to imitate Duke Nukem in terms of his one-liners and bits of dialogue but for the most part the style and feel of the action is at least distinctive. Yes, there are more evolved shooters on the platform without a doubt, as well as some AAA shooters that appropriately carry a higher price tag, but if you’re just down to blow stuff up on a budget it’s hard to argue there’s a better overall value on the system. 


Juicy Realm [SpaceCan] - When it comes to roguelike shooters I’m both a tremendous fan and often a picky critic. We’ve been absolutely spoiled on this system with some incredibly varied top-tier titles that range from having a quick hit arcade feel to ones that are a slower burn and almost adventure-like. That makes it tough for new titles to break in, needing to throw down something pretty impressive to crack through and compete. Juicy Realm is absolutely a game that does just that, using its somewhat unusual art style and characters to suck you in, but then making you work hard to survive while working with some bizarre weapons and a fair amount of risk and reward as you try to go the distance. Varied initial characters are complemented by even more that can be unlocked, and while the random nature of the weapons you may encounter tends to make them a little more alike each person’s special skills can make a massive difference depending on how you prefer to play. Small complaints like the exits sometimes being far harder to spot than they should be are there but the core gameplay makes it easy to ignore completely so you can just keep playing. Throw in progressive powering up, new weapon unlocks, and ways to increase your burden for more rewards and this could easily become your go-to shooter on the system for quite some time.


Iron Crypticle [Tikipod Limited] - Who said you couldn’t have a great time with a budget retro arcade shooter? Iron Crypticle has a smart but classic arcade style of play that will challenge you solo, or you can join up with 3 friends as well. Working your way through a map in the main mode you’ll be able to work your way into special rooms that offer greater risks as well as rewards. The action is all about keeping your multiplier up, which means you’ll be rushing to pick up items that are dropped by enemies to maximize your score. Throw in online leaderboards and it offers up some great shooting action for its very reasonable price.


I Hate Running Backwards [Binx Interactive] - Though I initially struggled with it, wanting it to be a twin-stick shooter, once I got into the unique rhythm of I Hate Running Backwards I became a big fan. Here you'll need to stay focused on eliminating your lethal enemies while also spinning to destroy things in the environment to accumulate experience for upgrades. Roguelike in nature you won't be able to predict what choices you'll get in what order so each run can feel very different, though it's always challenging. Throw in multiple characters, including ones that can be unlocked, that can play very differently and it's a pretty deep game if you give it some time and attention.


Valfaris [Steel Mantis] - If you’ve been looking for an experience on Switch that takes some of the core shooting mechanics of games the likes of Contra, then bolts the ability to hack and slash, and tops it all off with some cranking metal tunes and loads of intensity… Valfaris is going to be your new jam. Made by the same team who brought the platform Slan: Back From Hell, Valfaris varies up the action and tones down the frustration factor a little bit, though not much. This is a grit your teeth, laugh as you turn enemies into a bloody mess, and enjoy the thrills kind of experience that sets itself apart from the current pack on the Switch nicely. Be sure you’re ready to take a bit of a beating at times, but from start to finish this is a top-notch shooter/slasher with personality and adrenaline to spare, a great game for cranking up the volume and letting it all hang out for a while.


Airheart: Tales of Broken Wings [Blindflug Studios] - This is a game that splices together twin-stick shooting, careful exploration, and crafting, but then throwing in roguelike procedurally-generated levels as well. The result is unique and quite challenging, but also very smart when it comes to technique, making it a truly memorable journey. It’s gorgeous, at times serene, and then knows how to get down to business with plenty of shooting action and nuance if you’re willing to take the time to get skilled at using your harpoon. It’s very much the crazy mix of exploration, “fishing”, shooting, crafting, and a number of situations that will catch you by surprise and challenge you. While perhaps a little rough around some edges, I highly recommend giving it a try.


My Friend Pedro [DeadToast Entertainment] - All in all My Friend Pedro handily delivers what it promises, bonkers gunplay, challenging scenarios, and when you’re on top of things a ballet of violence. It would have still been a blast to play even with less variety, but the care put into upping the stakes and providing plenty of insane situations over its runtime is very much appreciated. Be aware that the struggle to succeed while looking cool can be very real, you’ll need to take things one step at a time and develop your repertoire for slow-motion violence before it all moves to another level of fun, but the investment is well worth your while.


Freedom Finger [Wide Right Interactive] - When I originally caught this title at PAX I was drawn in by its sheer attitude, blending together some great voice acting, an abundance of perhaps crude but entertaining humor, and an absolutely kicking soundtrack. It’s when you play the game though that the nuances of a great arcade shooter emerge and impress further. The mechanics of grabbing and then either throwing enemies or using their weapons rather than power-ups is smart and effective. The fact that every track of the music influences the speed, style, and flow of each stage is then just icing on the cake. In many regards Freedom Finger defies easy traditional characterization, never fully committing to any set arcade style and instead providing a pretty balanced buffet of action and smart level designs. That ultimately help it stand out just as much as its surface-level fun and makes it easy to recommend if you’re up for some giggles and a challenge.


Ruiner [Reikon Games] - With its visual flair, dystopian world, and what appeared to be a penchant for tense and violent action, Ruiner has been on my radar for quite some time. When it was released on other platforms my heart sunk a bit though, as it seemed to be pretty widely criticized for cranking up the difficulty too far and coming up short on fun. Count this as an instance where the delay in the game coming to Switch was absolutely a blessing. You’re a man on a mission, though revelations over the course of the story continue to make you question who you’re working for and whether everyone may simply be out to manipulate you for their own bloody purposes. The good news is that towards those bloody ends you’ll have access to quite a diverse arsenal of both projectile and melee weapons, though in general you won’t be able to use any of them for very long before needing to pick up another. This dynamic, mixed with a diverse perk system, makes every battle improvisational, requiring you to keep on the move and on the lookout for any opportunities that may present themselves. The most useful (and fun) thing to keep track of are enemies who are on the edge of death that you can dispatch with a finisher, with the incentive not just being a cool kill but often some crucial health or energy that can help keep you from being overwhelmed. Sure, there can be skirmishes that seem less well-balanced than others, and in the end I found the time wandering around town to be wasted effort, but overall these are small criticisms. While Ruiner may not be perfect, it was a title I couldn’t stop playing until the credits rolled. Intense, violent, surprisingly varied, and I’d argue quite replayable due to the wide variety of perks you can invest skill points in, its mix of shooting and slashing feels quite distinct and it’s one of the most satisfying games I’ve played this year.


The Bug Butcher [Awfully Nice Studios] - Another title I hadn't heard too much about and almost missed that I'm very glad I got to check out was The Bug Butcher. Essentially playing out like a faster and more intense version of the classic Pang (Buster Bros), The Bug Butcher is a load of arcade shooting fun and while it can get pretty tough I couldn't stop playing it until I beat the game. Great stuff and well worth checking out if you love classic arcade shooters.


Super Hydorah [Locomalito] - While inspired by the classics like R-Type and Gradius, Super Hydorah has a great feel and style all its own. You're able to choose your path at specific branches, though there's nothing stopping you from backtracking to grab more enhancements. You'll then need to carefully consider your loadout for each stage since each has their own challenges and there's no single solution that best addresses them all. A great mixture of retro play and modern sensibilities.


Hotline Miami Collection [Dennaton] - Shadow dropped as a surprise this year, Hotline Miami was one of those indie darling titles that had shocked me continuing to be a hold out more than 2 years after the system’s launch. To help soften the blow, and in what I think is a nod to practicality, both the original and its sequel have been released together in this collection. This helps with the fact that neither game is terribly long and, in general, the sequel isn’t quite as beloved as its predecessor. These titles are all about execution, thinking and reacting quickly, and often a fair amount of luck. Both are brutal in their violence, but there’s something quite satisfying when you manage to string together a series of kills and leave a bloody mess in your wake. If you’re hoping for more, the story here is on the thin (and weird) side, but there’s no denying that when it comes to intensity and carnage there’s nothing quite like it.


GoNNER [Art in Heart] - I'm not gonna lie, GoNNER gets off to a very rough start and it a true roguelike in that it is frustrating and hard as balls. That said, as you get the hang of it and unlock more heads, weapons, and gear you'll find combinations that work for you through experimentation and then things start to look up. There are some terrific combinations that are a lot of fun but I tend to gravitate towards the scythe and shark fin for maximum carnage. What brings it all together is the reactive audio that continues to get more frantic as you increase your multiplier and then once you reach a certain point it all goes crazy! If you're down for a challenge it is one of my favorite titles on the Switch!


Guns, Gore and Cannoli 2 [Crazy Monkey Studios] - Another sequel that took what worked in the original and then made it better on all levels, this side-scrolling zombie-blaster is terrific fun whether you're solo or playing with friends. The 360 degree aiming feels great, the level design and progression are creative and often unpredictable, and the violence makes for a bloody good time.


Velocity 2X [FuturLab] - Making games that feature multiple play styles is always a bit of a risk, as getting either of them wrong can really sour the experience. However, when a game like Velocity 2X comes along and does a great job in both areas, in this case space shooting and running and gunning platforming, it does make them far more memorable. You'll move between both styles pretty often, starting out in the more traditional space shooting mode but then needing to go on foot to unlock or disable defenses getting in your way. Full of upgrades and a steadily increasing degree of challenge this was a great addition to the Switch lineup this year.


Huntdown [Easy Trigger Games] - As a fan of old school shooters and beat-em-ups of all persuasions perhaps it was inevitable I’d be a Huntdown fan. Thrown into an effort to bring down various gang factions in your futuristic city you’ll take control of one of three different officers in an attempt to bring down the bad guys. Hoo boy, and as it goes on will you need to work for it. I think it got off to a rocky start for me, not quite feeling as fluid in the controls and versatility for aiming as I’d like but growing on me with its tone and general style. Things are going to get tough, gritty, and downright bloody as you try to shoot and beat your way through enemies. Capped off with a battle against one of the sector bosses, the general length of stages hits a nice sweet spot, giving you time to get your groove on without generally overstaying its welcome. Bosses are quite varied, and at times this can mean they don’t get tougher on a consistent curve so much as be unpredictably easy or tough, but at least they pose a challenge. Borrowing both visual and gameplay elements and beats from diverse arcade titles of the past, Huntdown feels both familiar and fresh, I just would wish for the initial curve to be a bit less steep to allow a wider audience to not hit a likely wall quite so early.


Rigid Force Redux [com8com1 Software] - When it comes to shmups on Switch the tendency is to see either games that tap firmly into nostalgia, adopting classic looks and play styles, or those that innovate and do things their own way. What I think makes Rigid Force Redux notable is that moreso than any other shooter I’ve played on Switch it feels like it manages to carefully walk the tightrope smack dab in the middle of those concepts. While it has primary and secondary weapon pick-ups as well as a general structure with elements reminiscent of the classics, the ability to reconfigure the position of your drones tightly forward, in a wider spread, or then behind you opens up new challenges and some surprises to help make things feel fresh. Granted, though not unusual for shooters of these types, when it comes to overall length the campaign is over faster than you’ll want it to be, and while you can then chase high scores afterwards it’s the breaking of new ground and the unexpected that provides more of the thrills, the rest can be fun but lacks that same spark. If you’re a fan of the genre you should find this to be a smart and fun experience, and more importantly for more casual fans who find the likes of bullet hells to be too intimidating the degree of challenge here is more mild and accessible, making it an appealing all-around package for just about anyone.


NeuroVoider [Flying Oak Games] - Aside from some nitpicking NeuroVoider is another roguelike I've enjoyed spending time with on Switch. Even though I’ve settled into what I believe my preferred weapon combination is I’ve continued to be either enticed or forced into changing it up in relation to the gear I find. Generally I’m not a melee guy but when you pick up a melee weapon with explosive damage you can’t help but give it a whirl every now and again. Weapons vary in range, accuracy, splash damage, and more… the fact that every few levels base weapons will begin to be more powerful than the rares you lucked into before means you’ll need to continue to take a hard look at your loadout in order to survive. From run to run I’ve gotten only a few levels in right after getting through the first few bosses so there’s just no knowing what the game will throw at you. With all of this in mind it is easy to recommend NeuroVoider to anyone looking for some satisfying and challenging action.
 

Crimsonland [10Tons] - I'm not positive there would be a wide critical consensus on something as old school and generally as basic as Crimsonland making a list like this but I don't care, the game calls to me on an almost-constant basis. Throwing away the need for a story, structure, or complexity this is an extremely satisfying arcade-style twin-stick shooter that fans of classics like Robotron or Smash TV should absolutely check out. Completing all 3 difficulty levels of the campaign is a test or your skills and patience but from there the leaderboards will be calling you to try to be the best there is... be seeing you on the Survival Blitz boards, if you're up to it!
 

Ikaruga [Treasure] - Though it's a carry-over from the previous generation there's still no other space shooter quite like Ikaruga. Not only is there the bullet hell component to contend with, but you'll also be trying to manage your ship's color polarity as taking down enemy ships as well as what can damage you is dependent on which color you've switched to. This creates an almost puzzle-like component that sits on top of some very intense shooting, making Ikaruga a standout shooter for people who like a challenge.
 

Grand Brix Shooter [Intragames] - While I’m a big fan of arcade-style shooters of all types I’ll admit that generating excitement for them is getting tougher on Switch as there have gotten to be so many of them. Thankfully their styles tend to be a bit varied, and many have something smart and distinct to offer to help them stand apart. That’s very much the case for Grand Brix Shooter, a title that I initially just thought was good but then as I played it more began to truly appreciate. I love the very different classes of ships that you’ll unlock and that are made available unpredictably in missions, I’m consistently challenged by some of the tricky bosses, and I think the need to regularly switch to a new ship (losing your built up experience and added power) in order to get back to full health and improve your chances of surviving is brilliant. The weirdo story you get that generally feels completely disconnected? A mystery, but there’s no denying the shooting is great!
 

Jamestown+ [Final Form Games] - The Switch has most certainly been blessed with a wide variety of excellent shmups since its release and with the release of Jamestown+ there’s now another strong contender on the pile. With an unusual alt-history story, a variety of unlockable ships whose style changes the gameplay pretty substantially, and a very consistent challenge no matter what the stage it really delivers. For some added fun and challenge throw a few friends onto the pile and it can make for a screen full of chaos and fun, for sure. If your tendencies are towards a more classic arcade shooting experience, moreso than its competition Jamestown+ has elements that are fresh but are still very rooted in  that overall feel, and it very much delivers reliably consistent and challenging gameplay to boot.


BroForce [Free Lives] - While playing with friends adds a layer of frustration, and potential for brutal trolling, to the mix, Broforce gets absolutely crazy when you play with friends (or online). You'll play as super-charged versions of a load of classic heroes from the 80s and 90s, each using their unique flavors of firepower and violence to cut through a variety of environments. While the on-screen action can get intense and even confusing there's plenty of opportunity to laugh and have fun with this crazy shooter.
 

Galak-Z: The Void [17-Bit] - With its exploration focus, diverse combat options, and pretty unique gameplay Galak-Z is a favorite indie of mine that has finally come home to the Switch and it feels like home. Beware, the bigger aliens and enemy mechs you’ll encounter along the way will make for quite a challenge, but if you make effective use of your ship’s abilities and arsenal (and maybe a little bit of luck) you can do quite well. Definitely worth a look for fans of classic sci-fi anime, laser fire, and big-ass robots.
 

Fury Unleashed [Awesome Games Studio] - With a comic book-inspired look, a pretty wide array of over-the-top weapons, and challenges aplenty Fury Unleashed is a roguelike platform shooter with plenty of personality. You play the role of the somewhat stock 80s-style hero, buffed up and ready to kick ass, and over the course of the game’s major chapters (which each are made to look like their own comic book, each with their own theme and enemies) you’ll be sorely tested. This isn’t a game you’ll come out of the gates tearing through, you’ll need to grind and earn it, slowly customizing your perks, gaining access to better starter gear through challenges, and coming to understand how best to be effective in your runs. In the end it is really about moving quickly and decisively, keeping your combo meter up so that you can earn health “ink”. It may seem counter-intuitive, that in order to try to heal yourself you’ll need to be aggressive, putting yourself at risk to lose more health, but that’s how this experience rolls. The thing is, you’ll have plenty of wild weapons, ranging from simpler guns to grenade launchers, sawblade guns, and more as well as devastating melee weapons, grenades, and even a deadly stomp attack at your disposal. Once you get into a groove and understand how to approach specific enemies you’ll begin to have more success, just look out for some of the game’s tough-as-nails bosses as well. If it weren’t for the variety and personality in the game the level of difficulty could have been more of a bummer but there’s just something about the whole package that kept me wanting to come back for more.


X-Morph: Defense [EXOR Studios] - I’m really impressed by everything the folks behind this game have put together. The campaign is challenging and at a satisfying length, and if you really want more there’s already additional DLC content available as well. The mix of strategy and action it offers is pretty unique and in general the presentation of the destruction and carnage really helps make it all exciting. You’ll need to make some tough choices at times, and if you get too distracted by the action your defenses can really fall apart, but that all adds to the challenge and fun. If you’ve ever had any affection for tower defense games you owe it to yourself to see this example of the genre being taken to a new and more exciting level.


Debris Infinity [SVC Games] - I absolutely love me some classic arcade shooting action and Debris Infinity was one of my go-to titles for providing that fix this year on Switch. While, at a glance, people may be tempted to write it off as a clone of Geometry Wars based on its visual presentation, in terms of gameplay it absolutely has a style all its own. Throw in a few different modes that each feel distinctive and challenging and shooting fans have a gem of a budget arcade title with this one.
 

Hyper Sentinel [Four5Six Pixel] - With the heart of a game pulled from the 80s but production values and visual enhancements that help give it modern flair Hyper Sentinel is a load of fun. Inspired quite a bit by the classic shooter Uridium you'll be attacking a large ship and trying to take it down while fighting off it's defenses, working to rack up combos and maximize your score.
 

Immortal Redneck [CremaGames] - As a whole package Immortal Redneck is a bold first step and demonstrates that the FPS genre, too, can definitely benefit from the addition of roguelike elements. As you unlock your skill tree you won’t feel quite as helpless and will hopefully stumble into a starting configuration that helps you kick some ass in earnest. When you’re just in the zone and shooting things up for the most part everything feels good, it’s really only when you have to try to complete some jumping puzzles that things start to unravel. The good thing is that in any given run you may not notice the problem almost at all since everything is generated procedurally, just when you need to do some jumping and have enemies coming at you at the same time that it can feel a bit unfair. I look forward to more attempts on this formula as it shows a great deal of potential for further fun.
 

Astebreed [Edelweiss] - With as many bullet hell shmups as I’ve played over the years, including ones that have dabbled in different perspectives of various kinds, I’ve simply never played anything like Astebreed. It’s visually full of detail that you’ll blow by and struggle to appreciate as your screen is full of targets, but for all of that intensity the gameplay rarely has any hitches. Once you get the controls in order it’s smooth sailing and feels very natural, even as the game constantly shifts perspective and style on you. While I couldn’t really tell you much of anything about the story, there’s certainly one there, just since it plays out while you’re desperately trying to stay alive I’m not sure you’re really meant to digest it more than in passing. If you’ve been looking for something different and intense in a bullet hell shooter, Astebreed is a solid choice.


R-Type Dimensions EX [Southend Interactive] - I really appreciate the love and effort into bringing the R-Type experience to the Switch. While playing it old school has a nostalgic appeal seeing it all gussied up in 3D is a blast. I’d say it’s worth experimenting with the various looks they offer as not all of them may be great or practical, but they can be novel. In particular the 3D Crazy Camera looks really cool, just since it affects your depth perception a bit I don’t know if it’s practical in some sections. All said though it offers up many ways to experience the same terrific core game and fans of classic arcade shooting action should have a great time with it, and quickly become reacquainted with how tough it can be.
 

Colt Canyon [Retrific] - Whenever a new roguelike shooter arrives on the scene you know I’m there with a degree of eagerness to see how it has turned out. The thing is, the hill to climb for roguelike shooter greatness has continued to get tougher over the years, honestly the Switch has been blessed with so many great ones of all types that claiming a prime spot on the pile is a challenge. Enter Colt Canyon, a game I’ve checked out at PAX before but aside from having a pretty simple and old-school pixelated look never made a huge impression on me. Whether it has been tweaked since those demos I’ve played or whether in the rush through appointments didn’t allow me enough time to truly get engaged with it I’ll admit my impressions were pretty far off the mark. Taking into account the variety in the heroes you can choose (they need to be unlocked but honestly this wasn’t hard to do), the weapons you’ll encounter, and the various perks you’ll have to choose from if you take the time to find people who have been held captive, the result is pretty challenging and satisfying. Moreso than most roguelike shooters the emphasis here is on using your dash and melee attacks as much as possible. Ammo isn’t necessarily scarce but your carry capacity limitations can deplete your rounds pretty quickly in a big firefight, guns are noisy and attract attention so stealthily chipping away at bad guys can be preferred, and for many guns the reload time can make them a liability when things get crazy. Put together this all makes for a shooter that has a very different flow than its competition, and paired with a pretty modest price I consider it to be worth a look if you’re itching for some pretty challenging shooter action.


Garage [tinyBuild] - This title which, at a glance, looks like a twin-stick zombie shooter meets Hotline Miami won't be for everyone but I really ended up enjoying the odd journey it took me on. You'll need to carefully manage your ammo, shoot wisely, and know when to break out your melee weapon while you go deeper and deeper into weirdness and often end up questioning what is even real.


Earthfall: Alien Horde [Nimble] - When it comes to co-op PvE gameplay I don’t think any other title has managed to top the Left 4 Dead series, even though the last entry was released a solid decade ago. It’s plainly obvious that the makers of Earthfall are well aware who rules the genre roost as right out of the gate there are a staggering number of similarities in the structure and mechanics of this title. Once you get past the shock of what in many regards feels almost like a shameless rip-off of that title you’ll begin to notice some great additions though, particularly when it comes to strategic opportunities. Barricades and turrets are just two of the great additions Earthfall adds to the mix and they’re absolutely great ideas that are well-implemented and help it stand apart from its source of inspiration.  Considering Valve is unlikely to port Left 4 Dead to Switch (or do anything other than make money on Steam anymore it seems) and there’s nothing else like it on Switch, Earthfall: Alien Horde is a great choice if you’ve been itching for some squad-based co-op FPS action.


This list will continue to grow and be pruned as time goes on, as well as numerous other lists that try to keep track of all of the best titles the Nintendo Switch has to offer in the Indie space!

Thursday, February 25

Mini Reviews: February 25th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]


Curse of the Dead Gods [Passtech Games] (Nindie Choice!) -
Roguelikes have exploded in popularity in the past few years, with games like Dead Cells and Hades showing the way the last 2 years in how to make top-tier mainstream titles in the space. Curse of the Dead Gods may be a bit too challenging for a more generic crowd, but if you’re a fan of more challenging far in the spirit of Darkest Dungeon or (I wasn’t going to say it, since I hate when people say it) Dark Souls, it’s a title that does “hard” right. Absolutely swimming in the “risk versus reward” mentality every room you choose, every side passage you run into hoping for loot, and every bit of healing you benefit from at the cost of further corrupting your soul is about giving you choices and (often) then making you pay for them. When you first start out corruption feels like the enemy you’re fighting, and to a degree that’s true, every 100 points of it you receive you’ll take on a new curse. But even the game’s curses are often a matter of perspective and once you embrace them, and get some meta progression perks going, things get challenging and fun. Combat is tough, with your dodge and parry being essential to survival, and there’s a rhythm to it that takes getting used to but that plays with terrific (and appreciated) precision. Once you’ve got a handle on the combat, have made some smart investments with your meta progression, understand which weapons best suit your style, and have learned to use curses to your advantage whenever possible, you’ll find a deep, challenging, and rewarding roguelike well worth your attention.


Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection [Capcom] - Ahh, the tightrope of going back to revisit classic titles that live in infamy. Nobody ever accused the Ghosts ‘n Goblins franchise of being too easy, and Resurrection absolutely honors its traditions for better or worse since it gleefully reminds you right out of the gate that it’s here to kick your ass you once again. The great news is that along with a terrific modern art style and some new elements and stages (though very much honoring the classics as well) the team behind the game have also tried to make it more accessible as well, though perhaps a bit slowly. Aside from the choice of 4 difficulty levels to start out there’s also some meta progression if you’re able to collect butterflies that are located in various places in levels. With these you’ll be able to unlock new perks and abilities that can absolutely save your butt in a pinch, or critically allow you to have more than one weapon at a time you can switch between (a freaking revelation!). That said, the classic limitations of the games highly-annoying static jump and weapon aiming are also present so be warned that even powered up you’re still going to be quite vulnerable with those aspects of play to contend with. It’s hard to say whether non-retro gamers or people lacking nostalgia for the franchise will want to take the plunge with this redux, no matter how well-crafted, but for those of us who have fond memories of its challenging play this is a terrific opportunity to revisit it with some appreciated modern enhancements.


Quest Hunter [2 Zombie Games] - Who doesn’t love a decent action-RPG dungeon crawler where you can explore, kill, loot, and work out puzzles? Quest Hunter has most of those elements present, and it’s great that you can party up with others for sure, but its main problem is that from top to bottom the experience just feels so vanilla. It’s not too easy, not too hard, it fits somewhere in the middle, but it’s then also a bit unremarkable given the competition that’s out there for your attention. With no compelling story or amazing art design to suck you in the hope would be that the combat or puzzle-solving would help to compensate but though they’re serviceable they’re just good. If you’re a genre fan perhaps this will just be a comfortable ride to mildly enjoy but if you’re looking for some excitement and energy this game just fails inspire those feelings.


Anodyne 2: Return to Dust [Analgesic Productions] - Perhaps it’s me, and I’m just an impatient gamer, but this is one of those titles that simply takes too long to get off the ground and even when it did the story threads weren’t enough to justify too much generic gameplay. Moving between a light 3D platforming feel ala the PS1 generation (complete with large and generally empty spaces far too often) and some puzzle action with a 16-bit flair, you can see the effort around you at times but it just struggled to pull me in at all. It all has an arthouse feel to me, and perhaps there’ll be people who want to dig into the story that it’s trying to tell, but with such uninspired play I struggled to be interested.


Taxi Chaos [Orange One] - Hey, hey, hey… it’s time to make some ca-raaazy money… Well, or not. I know I’m not alone harboring a crazy amount of nostalgia for the frantic dodging, weaving, and vehicular mayhem of Crazy Taxi. One look at Taxi Chaos immediately sent me into a spin with hopes of a modern take on that same iconic play. Well, on a mechanical level Taxi Chaos does pretty well everything correctly, you’ll be picking up passengers and trying to get through town quickly to get your fare and then immediately pick up someone else and continue until you run out of time. The problem is that for the most part nothing else came over in translation. Sure, you could lament the lack of the amazing soundtrack, replaced really by nothing but a generic quiet bit of music in the back, but there’s so much more missing here and that starts simply with energy. Your passengers, your driver, the city itself, the lack of the gravel-voiced dude getting things going… and perhaps this is why Sega hasn’t returned to the franchise, for fear of being unable to recapture lightning in a bottle. Unfortunately, no matter how hard you’re jonesing for even a hint of that old magic, Chaos will likely disappoint you with its technically accurate but pretty soulless overall experience.

Wednesday, February 24

Top 30 / Best Indie Cooperative Multiplayer Games on Nintendo Switch


[Last Updated: 2/24/21] While there are plenty of games of all stripes that are best suited to playing solo it's important to take a moment to acknowledge those titles that are best enjoyed with some friends, family, or maybe in some cases strangers online. These are the best titles on Switch to play with others, typically locally.

Streets of Rage 4 [DotEmu] - Right out of the gate I had an admission to make, when it comes to the beat-em-up genre I’m firmly a Final Fight guy, always have been. With that out of the way I’ll quickly make a bold (but having played the game quite a bit, very simple) declaration… even with no allegiance to the Streets of Rage franchise this is hands down the best overall beat-em-up I’ve ever had the pleasure to play. It looks amazing, each of the characters have similar but distinctive moves you’ll need to really dial into to be effective, it supports both local and online multiplayer, it’s tough but not often cheap, and it has a truckload of content to explore and unlock. Not only does it manage this laundry list all in the same package, in pretty well every area I’d say it outclasses the competition (sometimes handily) across the board as well. For fans of the genre this is your Holy Grail, and for anyone who has ever wondered why people enjoy beat-em-ups this is the best example of what it has to offer, though it may spoil you if you decide you like what you see since it stands a fair distance above its competition. If ever there was a brawler that could justify a perfect score it’s this one.


Heave Ho [Le Cartel Studio] - While having played so many indie games on the Switch is interesting and exposes you to all sorts of takes on multiple genres one admitted downside is that it can also make you a bit jaded. When it comes to my family, who are often asked to partake in helping me evaluate multiplayer games, I’d say the rate of that happening is far more accelerated. Conceptually Heave Ho may be simple, working solo or with up to 3 friends to simply grab and swing your way from the start to the finish line without falling, hitting spikes, or meeting your splattery demise in some other way. However, there’s a certain charm to it that pretty well immediately made everyone laugh and have a good time. Even after repeatedly getting frustrated in certain spots, especially when trying to keep from dropping costume-unlocking coins that can up the challenge significantly at times, the fun cut through the difficulties for everyone. Solo does work, and is great for honing your skills, but the game is absolutely meant to be played with friends, the more the better. Overall, this may be the best and most accessible multiplayer co-op game on the system.


Moving Out [SMG Studio] - While the Overcooked series is famously (or is it infamously?) known to many fans of local multiplayer I’ll admit that I consider one of its weaknesses to be broad approachability. There are just enough mechanics and features in it that manage to frustrate more than they generally entertain that after the first few levels I struggled to keep my family and friends on board. Working with some ideas roughly in the same vein, and certainly sharing some aesthetic qualities on a general level, Moving Out can be challenging but I also consider it to be more fair and thus more likely to be fun with a larger audience. In it you and your friends will play as movers who must get all manner of furniture and knick knacks out of a house and onto your truck. No surprise, it quickly can get more complicated as you’ll need to work together to get larger and more awkward pieces out. The good news is that if you’re willing to perhaps forgo a bonus and offend your customers you can also have a ton of fun busting up the place in the process, breaking windows and disregarding best practices in the name of shaving off seconds. Throw in bonus objectives that range from mildly challenging to silly that vary from stage to stage, and while people could get a little more tense early on as everyone learned the ropes for the most part it was a room full of smiles as everyone locked into their niches and got things done. Highly recommended for approachable family fun!


Phogs! [Bit Loom Games] - While I love great challenging roguelikes and other titles geared towards the hardcore set I’ll fladly admit that well-made family-friendly fare always puts a smile on my face. I originally got to play Phogs at PAX East 2 years ago and just in that 20 minute demo I got excited about the game’s potential with its super-cute look, characters, and style. Now, with it finally making its way to Switch, I’m thrilled with the final result. It’s smart, intuitive, adorable, and I think (most critically) highly accessible without necessarily feeling “easy” either… something that’s a rare combination even among the more than a thousand indie games I’ve played on the system. At the base you’re controlling a two-headed dog, with either you controlling them in parallel solo (doing that left/right brain thing) or with you and a friend each controlling one end. There generally aren’t many controls to learn, you’ll be concerned with movement, grabbing things with your mouth, and stretching when necessary. What’s great, though, is how creatively the game works within those general limitations to create different puzzle opportunities. If one head grabs a lightbulb the other can shine light on things, if the one end grabs a water source the other can control the flow of water like a hose. These variations keep levels generally feeling fresh with new scenarios, but the dynamic where one person’s job is to grab and hold something is also a great way to take some pressure off of a less experienced gamer in the pair, leaving the tougher or more nuanced controls to the more capable one. Of course, if you’re equally paired you can always alternate who does what as well. All in all there’s much more to this game than its cute factor (though that’s undeniable) that deserves recognition, Phogs is a smart and highly-accessible co-op puzzle experience that delivers all-ages fun and some great creative variety. 
 

Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime [Asteroid Base] - While it is certainly playable, enjoyable, and challenging as a single-player game where Lovers really shines is in playing with friends and family. You'll each need to move around your ship to control the various stations whether the engines, shields, guns, or bigger cannon to defeat bad guys and save cute bunnies from their cages. Extra exploration and time taken increases your risk of failure but will also have you on the path to upgrading faster and as you progress you may find every extra bit of help you can have necessary. Colorful, fun, and sure to encourage a lot of yelling (hopefully mostly positive), it's a good time.


Overcooked 2 [Ghost Town Games Ltd] - The sequel to this frantic cooking hit managed to amp up the insanity a bit while toning down a few of the rougher edges from the original. If you don't have people to play with locally online is now an option, though that can make effective coordination quite a bit trickier. While the game is playable solo, taking on a more puzzle-like feel at times, it shines the brightest and most fun when played locally with some friends, just be ready to coordinate, communicate, and keep your cool as the game throws your well-made plans into the crapper as stages play out in unexpected ways.


Assault Android Cactus+ [Witch Beam] - Absolutely one of the games I had wished for the most to come to Switch since the system launched, Assault Android Cactus is a next to perfect arcade-style twin-stick shooter. Complete with intense action, big and challenging boss fights, and 9 distinct characters who each have their own primary and secondary weapons the game is full of opportunities to go back and have some more fun. The Switch version even added an additional Campaign+ mode that further ups the ante for challenge, also making it the best edition of the game out there!


Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince [Frozenbyte, Inc] - A quick admission, while I’ve always appreciated the beauty of the Trine series overall I was just never much of a fan of the overall experience. Through some alchemy, or maybe my tastes as a gamer have evolved, that makes my experience with Trine 4 a wonderful surprise. Smart, absolutely stacked with puzzles, and though somewhat repetitive continually changing things up in small ways I appreciate it is an action puzzling dream, and all the better if you can enjoy it with a friend. As always, each of your 3 core characters have specific abilities that you’ll need to use in concert with one another to chip away at obstacles and discover hidden goodies that seem to be present every few steps. Though I’ll admit the combat, when it happens, is clunky, this is a game first and foremost about challenging your mind and it absolutely manages to do that on a pretty well continuous basis throughout. Far more than just resting on being a pretty game (my typical feeling about the rest of the series), this is one of the most satisfying titles I’ve played this year.


Just Shapes and Beats [Berzerk Studio] - Possibly one of the more bizarre titles I played in 2018, Just Shapes and Beats pretty well gives away its secret in the title. While that may sound very simple and it's gameplay mostly emphasizes merely trying to avoid getting hit, there's no denying that doing it all with so much style makes for a lot of fun. Playable with friends locally or others online there's also an element of teamwork you'll find as players are able to save each other when someone gets knocked out. Full of some great tracks, colorful designs, and a ton of personality this is an outstanding title deserving of attention.


Cuphead [Studio MDHR] - With a mix of brutal boss battles and challenging run and gun sections Cuphead is notorious for being a tough game. While the degree of difficulty is well-known for a reason, that isn’t to say that the majority of the game is impossible by any means. Much like certain classic games like Punch-Out in particular, the key to success is careful observation, learning the enemy patterns and then getting a comfort level for executing what needs to get done. The fact that it will additionally be remembered as one of the most visually fascinating games of the generation is just icing on the cake, no matter how incredible it looks it wouldn’t be well-regarded if the gameplay wasn’t there to match.


The Adventure Pals [Massive Monster] - With a look and quirky sense of humor that feels like it came from a Cartoon Network show, The Adventure Pals is a silly platforming adventure full of surprises and some smart gameplay. The fact that the challenge generally remains pretty modest and the abundance of weird characters and situations consistently brought a smile to my face made it an easy game to consider for this category.


River City Girls [WayForward] - While the beat-em-up genre was absolutely a staple of both the arcades and the early console days more recently titles have been few and far between. The great news is that if you’ve been aching for a new excuse to dust off your brawler skills and smack some bad guys around River City Girls is easily among the best offerings available on the Switch. In general reminding me of the excellent Scott Pilgrim beat-em-up from a number of years ago there’s a quality to the presentation, action, and obvious love for the genre here that’s unmistakable and it’s a blast to play solo or with a friend. Of course if you’re someone who’ll simply settle into what combos work and fail to make full use of your attacks the that continue to unlock as you progress it will probably feel repetitive but that’s simply the nature of the beast and it won’t have been for the game’s lack of trying to give you new moves to work with as you level up.


Knights and Bikes [Foam Sword Games] - Memories from my childhood, while often involving playing games on a variety of systems or in arcades, involve a pretty heavy dose of riding my bike and trying to find ways to make exploring fun. Knights and Bikes absolutely taps into that idea, pairing the somewhat unlikely friends Demelza and Nessa on the somewhat secluded island of Penfurzy. Aside from being a bit of an odd bird you’ll find that Demelza is struggling with being raised by only her father after the death of her mother. To help cope with that the answer is a grand adventure in the spirit of the likes of The Goonies, searching for a fabled treasure while trying to thwart an ancient threat possessing the people of the island. What the game does well is blend together some novel and fun combat with a hefty dose of exploration, as well as move effectively between lighthearted silliness and more reflective emotional moments. The result is an experience that sticks with you, which with so many titles out there vying for your attention can be tough to accomplish. While it’s playable as a solo experience it really does shine in co-op, though I’ll admit a few of the puzzles can require tricky leaps of faith that can be a challenge either way. That minor gripe aside this is a game with a load of laughs, childlike wonder, and heartfelt moments that’s absolutely worth your time.



Death Squared [SMG Studio] - If you've felt like puzzle games have become a bit stale and predictable over the years, with many of them using well-known mechanics to simply create variations on a known theme, you'll want to check out Death Squared. It's amazing how first adding a second person (or pitting you against yourself) to the mix and forcing careful coordination and teamwork can really liven things up. Add in some clever and sometimes diabolical leaps of faith that are necessary to discover the game's secrets and progress and it makes for one of the best puzzle games I've played in years. If you really want to push the limits of your sanity try the collection of 4 player puzzles as well, it makes for a lot of laughing, yelling, and fun.


Aegis Defenders [GUTS Department] - Mixing together action platforming with tower defense, Aegis Defenders has a style all its own. While the game works well as a single-player experience sharing the responsibilities with a friend ends up making things much more manageable and fun. Work together to set up a sturdy defense and conquer the game's challenges together.


Victor Vran [Haemimont Games] - While it’s inevitable for Victor Vran to be compared to the series that obviously inspired it presuming that it is merely a clone or some lesser attempt would be a mistake. It may borrow elements, but aside from having great core gameplay it also does some things very differently, and even as someone who had invested hundreds of hours into the Diablo series I appreciate there being a strong competitor out there that has dared to be different. If you’re seeking some challenging and satisfying action RPG gameplay on the Switch, Victor Vran absolutely delivers.



Guns, Gore and Cannoli 2 [Crazy Monkey Studios] - Another sequel that took what worked in the original and then made it better on all levels, this side-scrolling zombie-blaster is terrific fun whether you're solo or playing with friends. The 360 degree aiming feels great, the level design and progression are creative and often unpredictable, and the violence makes for a bloody good time.



Sky Racket [Double Dash Studios] - This is one of those games where with the elevator pitch alone I was revved up and ready to go. A retro-styled mash up of shmup bullet dodging and breakout? Where do I sign up? Fortunately, though granted the experience isn’t necessarily a long one (and I’d say it’s a mistake not to have online leaderboards to encourage people to replay stages to compete on scores), Sky Racket’s execution justifies the excitement. Not only does it look like a long lost title from the 16-bit era, there’s just a whimsical quality to it that lines up with that time as well, making it feel like a bit of a lost classic. I’d say the experience is equally good solo or with a friend, though paired you’ll probably want to be sure your skills are at least comparable to keep some frustrations at bay. If you’ve been bemoaning there simply not being enough innovation in the market you owe it to yourself to partake of this great and unique indie gem.


Biped [NExT Studios] - I first encountered Biped at PAX East, repeatedly walking by the booth on the way to other appointments and seeing small crowds forming and having a great time. Later, when I finally got to take it for a spin with one of the reps on-hand at the booth I could see why. For a game featuring two robots as the protagonists there’s somehow something very cute and endearing about their look, mannerisms, and the way they scoot around. By contrast, at least in the time I got with the title, I was a bit taken aback by how tricky the experience could be. Now, having played the final product the good news is that some of what I’d faced was from later in the experience and though there’s no doubt Biped won’t be a cakewalk for anyone it consistently manages to be surprising with smart level design, generally superb controls, and just enough variety in its relatively short duration to keep you engaged. I think the best feature it has is that while typically co-op games struggle to provide a solid experience if you have to play them solo, in general Biped does such a great job at it that you could assume it isn’t necessarily meant to be a co-op game. There’s no doubt that in some circumstances the controls, where you use each joystick to carefully move either leg, can be a bit touchy but with so much precision required in some puzzles you’ll work through that’s not necessarily a surprise. Regardless, whether solo or co-op Biped is easily one of the best action puzzlers of the year on the Switch… just be ready for some challenges (which is a good thing).


Vitamin Connection [WayForward] - One thing that’s certainly interesting about the Switch is that somehow it has managed to inspire new types of gameplay at times with its portability, easy-to-share design, and built-in motion controls. Now, granted, the results of the experiments that seem to have stemmed from these features have varied pretty wildly, but when it all comes together it can be pretty exciting. In general that’s how it feels in the case of Vitamin Connection, a title that has an upbeat and cheery color scheme (of a familiar pairing of colors, mind you), soundtrack, and gameplay that blends careful maneuvering, rotating your ship, some shooting, and a few other touches that together make the game not quite like anything else I’ve played. The fact that you can choose to tackle it solo or with a friend is also a terrific feature, and in either case you’ll be presented with challenges, albeit generally different ones in terms of the controls and what you’ll need to have under control. In the case of solo play the challenge will be a degree of left/right brain thinking, managing to have steady control of your ship and to not allow yourself to get distracted. With co-op the challenge will very much be to either somehow be in synch with one another or to use a fair amount of precise and hopefully constructive language to coordinate. With a satisfying story mode (which includes a New Game+ variation) that sports a weido silly story and a gameplay mix of puzzle, action, and even shooting elements, and then add co-op and mini games where you can revisit key parts of the story with unique variations and this is a full fledged experience that should be highly accessible for just about anyone who likes to have fun and laugh while being challenged


Bonkies [Crunching Koalas] - While my family and I have become quite jaded with multiplayer titles, since so many of them fall into pretty predictable gameplay, there are sometimes games that do something new that are worth getting excited for. Bonkies, thankfully, is one such title that offers up an unusual construction challenge involving monkeys, jetpacks, and robot arms. The name of the game is definitely precision, whether that involves feathering your boost, working quickly and efficiently to get pieces in place, or taking special care with special blocks that have a tendency to blow up everything you’ve worked for if you fail to take care. What sets the game apart further is that unlike the majority of multiplayer-focused games out there you absolutely can play through the game Solo and still find it quite challenging and enjoyable, you’ll just be fighting with yourself rather than your family and friends. It’s really two very different games through those lenses, with one being about technique and precision and the other layering on some serious communication and coordination, also understanding who the best people are for specific tasks since mistakes can be so calamitous. Unfortunately, if you’re playing with younger or less experienced gamers this may make Bonkies a poor choice unless they’re quick studies, but if your group is up for a unique challenge this offers both frustration and fun in pretty equal measure.
 

Stardust Galaxy Warriors: Stellar Climax [Dreamloop Games] - To think that when this title snuck onto the eShop I almost missed it. Since I'd not heard of it in advance of its release I almost didn't reach out for it since it was a busy time of year. I'm very glad that I didn't miss it though as it was one of the best shooters I played in 2018. Whether you're playing solo or co-op with some friends the number of different mechs and weapons you have to choose from to customize your builds open the door to repeat playthroughs and experimentation. With all sorts of ways to tune the degree of challenge as well it's a highly accessible shooter to people at all levels of experience with the genre.


Shing! [Mass Creation] - When it comes to beat-em-ups the Switch has really fleshed its line-up out since the early days, which generally makes it tougher for new titles to make a strong impression with something new. The people behind Shing have done just that though, offering up an experience that may generally adhere to the gameplay elements you’d expect but that approaches the controls in a completely unique way. While you do have the option to go the traditional button route in order to execute your attacks the new way is to instead use the right stick, whether using simple directions or swiping moves, and that really does give the gameplay a unique sort of flow. To boot, some of the tactics you’ll need to use for specific enemies and most bosses are generally a step above the norm, requiring a bit more care and planning than simply button-mashing your way through all of your problems. Throw in the ability to play with up to 3 friends, or to freely switch between the game’s 4 characters as you play to be sure to tackle enemies with the style that may be most effective in the moment and it’s a challenging and very unique experience for what’s typically a more straightforward genre.
 

Unruly Heroes [Magic Design Studios] - Especially considering it’s pretty modest price Unruly Heroes is a rock-solid platformer that looks phenomenal and plays well whether you’re taking it on by your lonesome or with some friends. The degree of difficulty generally feels well-balanced, the gameplay has a number of surprising variations along the way, and there’s a sense of style that permeates it and helps it be memorable. While perhaps not quite a flawless title it’s certainly worth a good look if you’ve been searching for a worthwhile platformer.


BroForce [Free Lives] - While playing with friends adds a layer of frustration, and potential for brutal trolling, to the mix, Broforce gets absolutely crazy when you play with friends (or online). You'll play as super-charged versions of a load of classic heroes from the 80s and 90s, each using their unique flavors of firepower and violence to cut through a variety of environments. While the on-screen action can get intense and even confusing there's plenty of opportunity to laugh and have fun with this crazy shooter.
 

Ninjin: Clash of Carrots [Pocket Trap] - This is another title changing up the classic formula, combining elements of a runner with the mechanics of a brawler. Positioning on the screen, smart use of your attacks, and choosing the right weapon from an array of all sorts of silly choices are the keys to your success. Silly, light, and simply a lot of fun (though still certainly challenging), Ninjin is breath of fresh air for the genre.


Super Cane Magic Zero [STUDIO EVIL] - Though it’s not an experience everyone will enjoy Super Cane Magic Zero does more right than wrong and is simply a game that does its own thing without apologies, something I can respect. Mechanically it may be a bit sloppy and there can be a lack of coherence at times, but there’s just an energetic and weird enthusiasm to everything that makes it easier to overlook faults. If you’re looking to laugh and enjoy yourself exploring a weird and colorful world and experimenting with everything there is to do it’s definitely worth checking out.


Speed Brawl [Double Stallion Games] - Taking the genre to a slightly different destination with its focus on combos and keeping things moving Speed Brawl can be a lot of challenging fun. Upgrades, some tricky enemy designs, and the ability to tag out one of your fighters for another give it a controlled chaos kind of feel at times. The fact that each brawler you acquire plays differently makes determining which two you go with on any given level a serious choice to consider, and generally prevents the gameplay from getting stale.


Earthfall: Alien Horde [Nimble] - When it comes to co-op PvE gameplay I don’t think any other title has managed to top the Left 4 Dead series, even though the last entry was released a solid decade ago. It’s plainly obvious that the makers of Earthfall are well aware who rules the genre roost as right out of the gate there are a staggering number of similarities in the structure and mechanics of this title. Once you get past the shock of what in many regards feels almost like a shameless rip-off of that title you’ll begin to notice some great additions though, particularly when it comes to strategic opportunities. Barricades and turrets are just two of the great additions Earthfall adds to the mix and they’re absolutely great ideas that are well-implemented and help it stand apart from its source of inspiration.  Considering Valve is unlikely to port Left 4 Dead to Switch (or do anything other than make money on Steam anymore it seems) and there’s nothing else like it on Switch, Earthfall: Alien Horde is a great choice if you’ve been itching for some squad-based co-op FPS action.


Catastronauts! [Inertia Game Studios] - While there are similarities here to Overcooked, Catastronauts is very much its own distinct experience and will require your full attention to be successful. Rather than being so many distinct tasks you need to complete in sequence and looking to optimize performing those tasks Catastronauts focuses on setting mayhem into motion and forcing you to adapt. Smart positioning, keeping your critical tools close at hand, and transitioning quickly between working on offense and then keeping your ship in one piece are the keys to success. While the pressure of the experience may not be for everyone it makes for a thrilling and unique challenge.


This list will continue to grow and be pruned as time goes on, as well as numerous other lists that try to keep track of all of the best titles the Nintendo Switch has to offer in the Indie space!

Tuesday, February 23

Mini Reviews: February 23rd Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]


Blizzard Arcade Collection [Blizzard Entertainment] (Nindie Choice!) -
Before they became Blizzard and released the likes of the WarCraft and Diablo series, among others, the folks at then Silicon & Synapse created a diverse set of 3 very different titles that showed they were set for greatness. Released in a single collection you can now play and appreciate them all in both their original as well as enhanced (how thoroughly varies) forms. Starting with the one I never owned and only rented a few times in theory I should have liked Blackthorne more since it has DNA in common with cinematic adventures the likes of Prince of Persia and Out of This World. You’ll need to run, jump, climb, shoot, dodge, and blow things up in this title, but there’s a stilted sort of quality to your character movement and overall play that never quite did it for me. Still, I know many people with many fond memories of it so I know my opinion isn’t necessarily the popular one. From there things take a big step up in the form of The Lost Vikings, a puzzle platform action title that will have you shifting between your 3 characters who each possess a key skill, with the challenge being using them each properly in each situation in order to progress. Considering it’s a template that went on to inspire many other titles including the popular Trine series it’s a smart title that’s fun and well executed. Saving the best for last Rock N Roll Racing is absolutely one of my favorite games from the SNES era and it’s actually a racing experience I prefer to even Super Mario Kart. Possibly one of the best overall combat racers ever made the fact that Blizzard went the extra mile at some point to give it an upgrade to support widescreen play, to include actual classic rock tracks (with a few new ones added), and to support a 4-player split-screen mode really puts a smile on my face. For retro fans who grew up with these titles or anyone out to see the excellent start the people behind Blizzard had before they hit it huge this is a must-have collection.


SNK Vs. Capcom: The Match of the Millenium [SNK Corporation] (Nindie Choice!) - While there has been a whole series of conversions of the fighting games from the Neo Geo Pocket, and many have been decent, until this point none of them quite felt worthy of more broad support than folks looking for some nostalgia. While there’s no getting around the limitations of it being tied to that much older hardware, with the reduced screen area for gameplay and 2 buttons for control most notably, as a fan of fighting games from both companies the representation in this specific title makes it noteworthy. With a mix of characters from multiple series on both the Capcom and SNK sides, as well as options to play with a singular fighter, paired up for a tag team, or in a team of 3, there’s ample opportunity to choose the style that suits your preference. In addition, don’t let the 2-button set-up fool you, it’s truly impressive how many moves they were able to cram in for each fighter, all with a feel of flow that’s easy to get into hitting signature moves and executing satisfying combos. While obviously there are more technical and visually-impressive fighters on the system this budget-friendly and surprisingly deep fighter shouldn’t be counted out, it’s a winner.


Rogue Heroes: Ruins of Tasos [Heliocentric Studios] (Nindie Choice!) - As a huge fan of roguelikes and someone who appreciates games that can bring people together I’ll come out and say I have mixed feelings on this title, though as a whole I think it gets more right than wrong. Working as a sort of rogue-ified version of the 16-bit likes of Link to the Past you’ll find yourself in a world of procedurally-generated dungeons to conquer, loot to collect, and also dead bodies to pile up… and many of them will be those of your fallen heroes. The fact that you can party up locally or online is a plus, and a pretty unique feature within the genre, so that’s very much appreciated and playing with others helps make up for the absolute lack of any real story which really just charges you with soldiering on because of “loot and reasons” pretty much. All that said, I can’t help but feel like the experience is a patch (or a few) away from realizing its potential. In its current state the early game and meta progression are painfully slow and that makes for too much dying mixed with a lot of repetition. Having to unlock each class and upgrade them to make them viable feels like an unneeded chore and with so many choices inundating you for upgrades the overall experience feels unfocused. Throw in a tendency towards cheap deaths to traps (and freaking snakes in pots) and rather than it feeling like you’ve died because you need to refine your skills it feels a bit like it’s purposely slowing you down just because it can. There’s a lot in the game to like but the recommendation is still given with some qualifiers I hope can get worked out in the coming weeks.


Dry Drowning [Leonardo Interactive] - Operating somewhere between a visual novel and a classic adventure Dry Drowning is a bit of an odd bird. It’s future-noir setting and theme are a plus and it does a pretty good job of pulling you into its story and characters. That said, in terms of your level of engagement and cleverness in making you a participant in the proceedings are  a bit lacking, so people looking for a mystery to actually “solve” will likely be disappointed by the more on-rails feel everything seems to have and the pretty minimal investigative portions. The story, as expected, offers some twists and interest but unless you’re fine with watching more often than engaged in playing its overall mix may be a bit too far on the casual side to be noteworthy.


PUSS! [teamCOIL] - As a huge fan of weird and funky games PUSS! certainly has elements that give it appeal. Touted, accurately, as a “dodge-em-up”, seemingly trying to cram every color in the spectrum into your eyes, and featuring an assortment of feline clip art and sounds it more than earns it’s weirdo cred. But is it necessarily a really good game? Well, I can see where there’ll be challenge hounds and oddball cat fans who may be amused by it all enough to persist through its patience-testing stages but mechanically under the hood it’s a bit murky, much like the somewhat blurry overall visual quality. Amusing? Certainly. Great? Meow let’s not push it...