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.

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