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.

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...

Thursday, February 18

Mini Reviews: February 18th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Astrologaster [Nyamyam] (Nindie Choice!) - Inspired by the spirit of Shakespeare’s Renaissance England, Astrologaster features a unique pop-up book art style, choral verse that tells the story of your character “Doctor” Forman and his patients, and use of the stars to try to help guide your patients through problems both medical and interpersonal. It’s a bit of an oddity, to say the least, but that’s also what I really enjoyed about it. Once you get used to the constraints of what you’ll be able to diagnose and how you’ll have the option to try to take things seriously, generally tapping into your common sense and intuition, or having some fun potentially at the expense of your clients. Regardless there are some laughs and surprises along the way to be had and as unusual as it all is I must admit that I was intrigued to play through a few more appointments in order to see a follow-up with one of my repeat customers to get a handle on what happened after I imparted my advice the last time. It’s not a game to be taken seriously but its unique presentation and style make it well worth a look if you’re in the mood for something thoroughly different.

Cathedral [Decemberborn Interactive] - Absolutely inspired by the 8 and 16-bit eras and the likes of the classic Castlevania series, Cathedral should be quite good at scratching the old school Metroidvania itch for genre fans. You’ll set out to explore a sprawling map full of puzzles, secret rooms, and various enemies, and the overall feel and action beats feel highly reminiscent of that time. The thing is, that can be both a good and bad thing depending on your modern expectations. There are elements in classic titles that haven’t aged as well as others, and the lack of overall guidance will at times burn some of your time (and perhaps enjoyment) as you backtrack and try to figure out what you may have missed given the way the map is laid out as a whole. Additionally, the level of challenge I would consider consistent with the titles that inspired it but may prove frustrating for some folks given its old school “git gud” approach. If you treasure modern games that fully honor the old style this is a must-buy proposition, but if you were hoping for a retro feel with more modern sensibilities you’re more likely to be disappointed.

Speed Limit [Gamechuck] - With a style falling somewhere between modern endless runners and classic arcade action, Speed Limit sports pretty intense and unique gameplay on the system. There’s not much to go with to know why but you’ll find yourself running and gunning on a speeding train, trying your best to think and act quickly jumping between cars, taking out a variety of well-armed enemies, and surviving a few surprises along the way as well. While it’s not a terribly long game, for fans of an old school challenge it should be pretty satisfying. Just be ready to do a whole lot of dying along the way and just be happy that you won’t need to keep pumping quarters to continue.

Healer’s Quest [Rablo Games] - This is one of those titles that I see being divisive, especially since I think enjoyment ultimately will spring from how much you enjoy the game’s sense of humor rather than the gameplay itself. I’ll give it credit for setting a stage for overall amusement with you playing as the under-appreciated healer of a pretty typical ragtag party of miscreants. Most of the game’s humor springs from this sort of love/hate relationship with your group, though there are also general self-conscious jokes about genre tropes and the like as well. The game unfortunately needs to lean pretty hard on the funny in order to compensate for generally lackluster action as you’ll need to battle cooldowns while you try to keep your party alive through a mix you’ll choose of buffs and healing skills, which you’ll then be able to customize a bit through the upgrade trees. Overall a pretty light but somewhat grindy affair if the humor amuses you it serves as a great hook but not it’s also not going to be for everyone by any means.

UltraGoodness 2 [Ratalaika Games] - As a die hard twin-stick shooter fan it’s both a good and bad thing to check out new entries to the genre on Switch. Since the system has been blessed with an abundance of riches the bar for even making an average showing has become quite high. On the plus side there’s a certain distinct look and feel to UltraGoodness 2 that helps to set it apart, on the bad side there’s also just a certain overall blandness to it all that puts it in the below average category for the genre on the system in my mind. If you’ve really exhausted your options and just need a fix on a budget it’ll do in a pinch but there are loads of more worthy examples of the genre you’ll want to check out before this one.

Tuesday, February 16

Mini Reviews: February 16th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Little Nightmares 2 [Tarsier Studios] (Nindie Choice!) - Having missed out on the original, though certainly having heard its praises, I walked into Little Nightmares 2 with next to no pre-knowledge aside from knowing to expect a creepy tone. Without the ability to contrast it against the original I can’t speak to how it holds up, but what I will say is that, on the whole, it is a well-crafted and very atmospheric action adventure with a spirit in line with classic cinematic adventures that I love. While there’s no dialogue you easily get a sense of the situation given the dark and ominous look of your surroundings and the pretty evil enemies you’ll encounter. You’ll spend the majority of your time either exploring or trying to elude capture or death, and that will require a mix of being stealthy, some problem-solving, and a bit of periodic violence as well. While it may not have the same clever narrative hook the likes of a title like Inside and others this is a well-crafted and quite gorgeous title that performs quite well on Switch and will engross you over its handful of hours.

Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption [Transolar Games] - It’s always interesting to see variations on well-worn genres, whether it’s in term of a game’s tone or even overall feel. As familiar as the classic point-and-click adventure may be there’s been a surprising variety in its implementation across a load of titles on the Switch. Hero-U, as a whole, just feels like its own animal from its well-structured interface to its non-stop punnery if you’re willing to take the time to check everything. That’s also where I think the critical point of the game lies when it comes to enjoyment. If you’re more interested in moving the story along and progressing it’s not well-geared to that and pushing quickly will actually deprive you of some clever humor and commentary. However, if you’re more inclined to savor what your adventure games have to offer and will take the time to check everything you can there’s plenty here to tickle your punny bone.

Aground [Fancy Fish Games] - Survival games have really come in a wide variety of forms on the Switch and Aground may be one of the most basic of the bunch. You’ll pretty quickly progress through different phases and technologies as you move about digging, chopping, and whacking away to collect materials you’ll need to complete quests and craft new equipment. Compared to most titles your progression will be pretty quick, and to the game’s credit it’s quite surprising how far the technology tree will go given your time and patience so that can help to keep things evolving at a brisk pace. That said, there’s no denying that while your specific actions and what you collect may change at the core the experience and your moment by moment activities won’t change all that makes, making a sense of repetition set in. If you’re looking for more of a lightweight survival title that can be satisfying, even if not terribly deep, you may find this to be worth your while though.

#DRIVE [Dariusz Pietrala] - While the Switch is still criminally under-represented when it comes to racing games genre fans shouldn’t leap at #DRIVE thinking it’ll slake their thirst for a game from that genre. Really more of an “endless driver” from a third-person perspective this is a mobile conversion and plays as such so it’s less about racing than simply about steering to avoid other vehicles or swerve into stations to pick up gas or power-ups along the way. There’s plenty of “content” in the form of unlocks and new locales to visit but don’t mistake that for much variety as you go along since the same core gameplay remains throughout. If you’re looking for something to kick around for a few minutes at a time it may satisfy but if you were hoping for any depth or nuance you’ll walk away disappointed.

Summer Catchers [Noodlecake Studios] - Whenever you have games come to Switch that were obviously originally intended for mobile devices the first question is whether or not they benefit from the move to a dedicated gaming console. In the case of Summer Catchers, on the whole, I’d say it shouldn’t have come over as it has. Working as a sort of endless runner/racer the hook is that along your side-scrolling journey you’ll encounter a variety of obstacles and hazards that you’ll need to quickly act to avoid or counteract. In terms of gameplay that pretty well defines the entirety of what you need to know. That being the endless runner style perhaps casual fans won’t be bothered, but unless you’re playing using the touchscreen the cumbersome method of controlling which tool you’ll use to get through obstacles really puts a damper on the fun. Even with the touch controls the need to manage which power-ups are available to you at any given time is a consistent distraction and again cumbersome, pretty quickly draining the light fun out of the experience.

Thursday, February 11

Mini Reviews: February 11th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Undermine [Thorium Entertainment] (Nindie Choice!) -
As a connoisseur of roguelike titles of all stripes Undermine had me excited at first glance. With its pick-axe throwing protagonist(s), quite varied power-ups and potential curses, and some tough-as-nails bosses to battle it feels fresh while pretty familiar so genre fans should quickly feel right at home. My main warning would be that you should be ready for a pretty slow and deliberate grind, with results and satisfaction taking a bit longer to achieve than what I’d consider the average. That said, it also has a much longer tail of content to continue to unlock as you chip away at meta upgrades and new hard won gear. There are certainly a number of titles in the category with more flash and craziness, but the deliberate and more measured pace of Undermine, as well as a steady stream of new things to discover for those who are willing to invest in it, this is a pretty unique and worthwhile addition to the upper shelf of titles in the category on the Switch.

Blue Fire [Graffiti Games] - Never let it be said that the team behind Blue Fire lacked in ambition. Attempting to bolt together the essence of a Zelda-esque sword-wielding adventure with an often-challenging platformer, you can see many inspirations in its gameplay. Unfortunately, it lacks the necessary polish and refinement to truly pull it all off… at least this time around. To its credit, while its visual style can often be pretty sparse on detail it is at least pretty attractive and generally runs well. Level design, however, can be a bit all over the map with some platforming areas working well but with many of the more action-oriented spaces feeling more generic, which is also a good word for describing the majority of the game’s combat. Definitely a victim of the jack-of-all-trades-but-master-of-none syndrome there’s a little bit of everything here, which can be diverting and fun, but in terms of substance and satisfaction its kitchen sink approach firmly places it in the “good” region, but it fails to elevate itself much towards “great”.

Gal*Gun Returns [Inti Creates] - Ah, the wonders of the eShop of today versus the Nintendo marketplace just a generation or two ago. For those not familiar the Gal*Gun series is (in)famous for being a rail shooter where your targets are young women, your weapon of choice is roughly a love gun, and your goal is to incapacitate them with ecstasy as you move through the many areas generally of your high school. Sure, there’s an unusual story that attempts to explain it all and you’ll be trying to woo a love interest of your choice while all of this is going on but in the end it’s all about some pretty pervy content as you fire away. To its credit, compared to some other games in this general category there’s more reasonably-decent gameplay and less jaw-droppingly gross and inappropriate moments. That said, this still isn’t likely the sort of game you’ll want to play with anyone else around.

My Universe: Pet Clinic [Maximum Games] - The My Universe series, obviously targeted at more casual and younger gamers, won’t be for everyone. Consistent with the other titles I’ve played, Pet Clinic has a generous helping of cute and charming then filled in with what amount to essentially mini games for the completion of daily tasks. In this case your job is to be the local vet, taking care of furry friends who’ve been scraped up, aren’t feeling well, or perhaps need some full service care of some kind. While every few days in the early going you’ll add new rooms and treatments that will help steadily add to the potential tasks to complete there’s no getting around the inherent repetition of the days and it can pretty quickly become a grind. For less experienced gamers that may be developing their skills the cute factor and mild nature of the action may have legs but for anyone with some experience it will quickly get dull no matter how many cute dogs and cats it may throw at you.

Football Cup 2021 [7Levels] - Sports titles in general have been criminally under-represented on the Switch, and budget games within the space are next to unheard of. While in terms of impressions Football Cup 2021 comes out of the gate reasonably well, featuring a sort of training mode that features many mini games and distractions that help you develop your game skills, unfortunately in the long run it quickly loses gas. When you’re participating in skill drills the game’s woeful (that would be a generous description) AI doesn’t really get time in the spotlight but once you’re playing full-on games it quickly becomes apparent. Players on both sides of the ball meander and cluster in unusual ways, often fail to respond in any coherent way to what’s going on, and just struggle painfully. If it weren’t for this crippling problem the budget title may have been fun, but the issue is simply impossible to ignore.

Tuesday, February 9

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

Disjunction [Ape Tribe Games] - Both stealth games and cyberpunk theming have been pretty popular in more recent years, and Disjunction does an admirable job of bringing together these two great tastes to make something pretty appealing, even if its stealth segments can’t quite stay fresh over its handful of hours. While the story borrows familiar elements from other narratives, whether futuristic or some classic noir tropes, the dialogue often gives you just enough room to enjoy yourself rather than merely be a passive observer. The main draw though are the missions you’ll go on, trying your best to do things quietly and cautiously, but being ready at any moment for it all to go south and getting your hands dirty. This makes for some great moments of tension, and a certain degree of observation and strategy, if you’re invested in not always having things devolve into a bloody mess as guns begin to blaze, especially since you’ll usually be outnumbered unless you’re careful. It won’t take the world by storm on any front, but it is a solid stealthy experience nonetheless.

Haven [The Game Bakers] - While a great story in a game isn’t usually quite enough to singularly make its purchase a must, it can help to elevate a title beyond other elements that are more lacking. For me, the story and well-written romance between its main characters, somewhat stranded on an odd collection of floating islands, Yu and Kay was the most compelling reason to keep playing… with the exploration and other elements falling more flat by comparison. It’s unusual to observe in-game romances being anything more than superficial and predictable, but there’s both something about the essence of the writing as well as the voice acting performances of the characters that makes the game feel pretty special. Certainly the mystery behind their circumstances, what they’re running from, and what brought them together helps to add flavor, but it’s their pretty natural and believable relationship that will sustain your interest on this journey.

Binarystar Infinity [Ricci Cedric Design] - Ahh, retro arcade-style shooting. Love the genre and we’ve been fortunate to have a number of worthy examples on the Switch. The shame with Binarystar Infinity is that though perhaps it wouldn’t have ranked at the very top of the list of titles in the space it could have at least been solidly somewhere in the middle, providing satisfying play with a pretty unique overall look. The problem, though, is the inclusion of extremely distracting screen shake when enemies explode, and this is even more unfortunately something that can’t be minimized or disabled. That feature proves to be enormously distracting when your goal is precision, and when you couple that with the limited color palette when things get intense it makes it very hard to make out what object are enemies, the background, or objects like asteroids you’d be best off avoiding. A major mistake that will hopefully be patched or minimized in some way to make the game more consistently and enjoyably playable.

Odysseus Kosmos and his Robot Quest [HeroCraft] - Pont-and-click adventures have been converted over to work with console controllers in a variety of ways and, let’s face it, none of them work as well as the traditional mouse unfortunately. That said, there have been implementations that have worked well and there are those that are pretty clunky. Unfortunately Odysseus Kosmos suffers from one of the overall most cumbersome I’ve used, with you often needing to cycle through a variety of options before you get the one you want, partially because proximity to the spots in question isn’t much of a driver it seems. The humor is appreciated and can be amusing, and the puzzles have a certain flair to them (though they feel more often on the obtuse side than most), but on the whole among the many great options for a classic adventure title this Robot Quest is lacking in polish.

How to Take Off Your Mask Remastered [roseVeRte] - Anyone who has read a few visual novel reviews from me will know that I don’t tend to be a fan. With “Mask”, though it has an unusual storyline that feels very unique with its whole “cat people” thing going on through the eyes of the main characters, the biggest issue is simply the lack of choice. This is an experience for you to click along and read, and really the use of images and elements that could have complimented and improved the story are minimal, so having it as a “game” feels like a terrible waste. I’d say find a new oddball anime series streaming somewhere and enjoy instead.

Thursday, February 4

Mini Reviews: February 4th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Glyph [Bolverk Games] (Nindie Choice!) -
I’m a fan of games that combine elements from multiple titles to make for a new experience so Glyph, featuring a mix of 3D platforming ala Mario and others with a healthy dose of Marble Madness (or Monkey Ball for younger gamers) mechanics firmly checks the box for unexpected. Of course with the rolling element the challenge becomes more focused on managing uneven surfaces and controlling your inertia, so even sometimes simple level layouts can be troublesome in the beginning as you get a feel for the physics of it all. That said, once you get it down, the game does a fabulous job of throwing challenges at you in a steady stream for regular gamers but also tempts more daring folks with hidden secrets that will send the needle much higher for difficulty. Sure, the rewards are generally just simple cosmetics, but for people determined to get everything the game has to offer it’s going to get pretty bumpy and you’ll need to truly master all aspects of controlling your spherical character on all sorts of uneven terrain and obstacles while making sure your jumping and landing games are on point. With plenty of content for the average gamer and loads of hair-pulling action for the pros this is a pretty unique platformer with wide appeal.

Gods Will Fall [Clever Beans] - I always get a bit nervous when anything, whether in its own marketing or by players, gets described as Souls-like since for me that generally points to a measure of tedium and some frustration. Though that can be an element in the boss fights against hulking gods of various persuasions what’s odd in this title, and a bit disappointing, is the often inconsistent roads to get to them. You’ll choose your warrior from a slowly-shrinking party who each have their weapon of choice and some traits that will emerge as you find success (or sometimes failure of others). Mechanically each weapon plays quite differently so tactics are important to consider as you go out with each fighter, what works for nimble warriors will tend to go poorly for your slow but burly characters, and as you get to know the various gods you’ll likely tend to prefer some for specific fights over others. But while I love the game’s art style, and some of the great environments you’ll explore, there can be a barren feel to them in places too. That makes it so the flow of some of the areas can leave something to be desired, sometimes feeling like it’s wasting your time as you fruitlessly explore them (and need to go through them again when you die). It’s an odd mix, though I’m sure it will find an audience.

Cultist Simulator [Weather Factory] - If you’re in the mood for something different, often surprising, and at first a bit baffling, you may enjoy this card-based roguelike. Each round has you trying your best to manage what resources you have to create opportunities to progress, but you’ll need to keep a focus on your survival as you go as well… and keeping that balance can be a challenge since there are multiple types of demise you can succumb to if you’re not careful. I would imagine this will be a pretty divisive title, with people loving it or hating it, with what can feel like a frantic pace in spots intermingled with periods of waiting to see the outcome of your choices. It can take a bit to plot out an effective strategy for success but that’s part of the point, and as you survive longer it unfurls some interesting emergent narratives for you to follow as well. Definitely not for everyone but refreshing.

Silver Chains [Cracked Heads Games] - Horror adventure / walking simulators are always a bit of a mixed bag, and many have unfortunately gone down the rabbit hole of featuring too many objects you can pick up and move around to look at fruitlessly, which is annoying. Silver Chains keeps that to a minimum and in addition while there are times you’ll need to consider hiding yourself it doesn’t get stuck in a repetitive loop of that either. What it has then is a ton of creepy ambiance, a building sense of dread, and a breadcrumb trail of a story to compel you to keep going further to see the picture that results. It doesn’t reinvent or reinvigorate the genre by any means but it deserves credit for constructing a better overall yarn than its average competitor and resisting the urge to give into an abundance of cheap jump scares over substance which is appreciated.

Crossbow Bloodnight [Hyperstrange] - If you’re low on funds and are looking for nothing but intense shooting action, while they aren’t deep, arena shooters can be momentary fun in bursts. You’re not looking to progress and unlock things so much as simply stay alive and chase a top time on the leaderboards, it’s perhaps a bit shallow but it can work if you’re in the mood to blow some stuff up. Crossbow Bloodnight has a decent theme with all manner of nightmare creatures coming to get you, but there is a bit of a learning curve and some experimenting to do in order to make the best use of what you have to work with, all vital to grinding out a few more seconds of survival. It’s pretty niche, but if you’re in the right mood it can be a fun release.

Tuesday, February 2

Mini Reviews: February 2nd Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Bonkies [Crunching Koalas] (Nindie Choice!) -
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.

Tadpole Treble Encore [BitFinity] - Since I’m a fan of both music games and those that have some quirk Tadpole Treble Encore fits pretty nicely into my wheelhouse in general terms. However, it’s where it gets to the details that, though it undoubtedly has a unique approach, I’m a bit less hooked by it in a lasting sense. Though I love the distinctive music and the action generally accompanies it well enough, the game shouldn’t be oversold as a rhythm game first as more often than not the tunes compliment the action in my mind more than they dictate it. For some that actually may be a plus, but whether playing with the joystick or the D-Pad I found my tadpole a bit floaty as I was trying to keep lined up with your pick-ups. Since paths can branch I’m not sure missing elements is a huge deal in the overall scheme of things (unless you’re trying to get top grades and not just survive and enjoy the ride) but while it’s fun to make your way through I don’t see it offering enough satisfaction and precision to encourage returning to hone your scores after you make your way through the modest amount of content it has.

Golden Force [Storybird Studio] - Harkening back to the classic 16-bit days there’s a familiar flair to Golden Force that works pretty well. Once you get started you can expect it to be a challenging action platformer where you’ll need to choose your hero carefully based on which best suits your style and you can expect to be challenged getting through the stages and defeating some menacing bosses as well. Unfortunately, at least for me, the game gets off to a terrible start with an opening boss battle that can be frustrating for the wrong reasons. Before you’ve even gotten accustomed to the controls, let alone how best to use them, you’re thrown into a battle that exposes some of the game’s tender underbelly mechanically. While people who relish a challenge will dive in regardless more mainstream players may be finished with the game before they even get started.

Sword of the Necromancer [Grimorio of Games] - With the rise of popularity and quality in roguelikes across the board in the past year or two the bar has been raised with expectations and unfortunately I consider Sword of the Necromancer a casualty of that shift. While the background to the main story will advance as you make progress it isn’t really enough to compensate for combat that may be novel but is lacking in excitement. The main hook here is that you’re able to take control of slain enemies to enlist them to fight for you instead but while that’s something a bit different it fails to liven things up, if anything it can make combat a bit more dull as they do some of the work for you. With so many great roguelikes already in the eShop as competition there’s just not enough energy to sustain interest in this title.

Vera Blanc: Ghost in the Castle [Winter Wolves Game Studio] - As a relative fan of the first game in the Vera Blanc series I was eager to check out this new entry. Many of the elements of the first are still in place, with you working with your partner to get to the bottom of an unusual supernatural mystery while trying to avoid perils while engaging in a variety of relatively simple (optional) mini games. The thing is, this go around feels a bit different in a negative way as there seems to be a much more consciously overt effort to sexualize Vera that just feels tacky and undermines her as a character. Tack on that the number of decision points in the early going by comparison are lacking, making you feel more along for the ride than participating compared to  the first game. I hope if there are further outings there can be a better balance of elements and a focus on Vera’s character rather than her bustline.