Thursday, March 18

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

Signs of the Sojourner [Echodog Games] (Nindie Choice!) -
There’s just something about this game that feels so brilliant and yet there’s also something unassuming about its nature that makes me worry people will skip over it without a thought… and that would be a shame. Mixing diverse and pretty interesting characters, a story that slowly plays itself out and likely would take multiple playthroughs to completely appreciate, and a brilliant take on deck building strategy used as a representation of human interaction it’s absolutely unique. Starting out from your hometown, choosing to either follow a trade caravan or venture out on your own in search of goods for a store you’ve inherited, you’ll encounter all manner of people in different areas who, at first, you may struggle to be on the same page with. Your conversation is either successful or a failure based on the strength of your limited deck, but even if you struggle early on with each conversation you’re able to inherit one card played by your partner but you’ll have to sacrifice one of your own in the process. As you progress it really all gets to be about the added attributes some cards can carry that are critical, sometimes allowing you to survive a tough conversation with someone you aren’t necessarily vibing with… but there’s just something about the entire construction of the game, its mechanics, and its story that are fascinating and kept me wanting to visit “just one more town” and make it easy to recommend.

Pinkman+ [Ratalaika Games] (Nindie Choice!) - While there are an abundance of challenging retro minimalist action platformers out there I don’t find that I often recommend them. Whether too picky, too dull, or just lacking a certain charm more often than not they feel like a vehicle for getting something out on the eShop on the cheap without imbuing the experience with some essential fun. Pinkman+ stands out for me as something more though, offering the right mix of solid controls, a steady progression of new elements to keep the challenge level up, and tough but not lazily brutal difficulty that more often than not feels fair even while kicking your butt on some stages. The fact that it has such a rock-bottom price really makes it a superb deal for people who don’t mind a Super Atari or maybe C64-esque minimalist look but a terrific feel that seems more modern.

Myths of Orion: Light from the North [Cateia Games] - Taking a more casual game base of a hidden object title and trying to elevate it to another level takes some guts, and that’s obviously the goal for the people behind Myths of Orion. Injecting far more story elements than the norm and adding in a layer of point-and-click adventure-type play does manage to set it apart from its brethren, though whether that would be enough to broaden its appeal may be a fair question. While I can’t fault the effort it can be a bit janky at times in its implementation both in terms of the mechanics and storytelling. However, considering its budget-friendly price the total package still feels like a pretty good deal for people looking for something with a more casual feel that has greater than typical ambitions.

Faircroft's Antiques: Home For Christmas Collector's Edition [Ocean Media Games] - When you play multiple titles in the same casual series there’s no doubt that there’s often a baked-in consistency that’s both good and bad. On the one hand consistent quality and a guaranteed degree of satisfaction if you enjoy their play is reassuring, but you then do risk it becoming more dull even if the content is changed up. In the case of this Christmas edition hidden object game there’s no doubt that everything about it is consistent with the other release in the series, however in this particular case there’s something about the “home for the holidays” vibe and interactions with family that gives it the edge for me. If I’m going to dip my toe in the casual pool a little family happiness and positivity of the season are a plus. It won’t offer much if you’re not a fan of hidden objects and mild puzzles but if you want to relax and enjoy family interactions ala The Hallmark Channel it’s a feel-good package.

Cyanide & Happiness: Freakpocalypse [Serenity Forge] - Games that come from an existing property I’m not familiar with are always a bit tougher to score, and this title in particular (based on a popular comic) falls squarely into that space. With the general format of a point-and-click adventure it’s full of humor without a doubt, but I’d say the hit to miss ratio will likely vary wildly depending on who is playing. I have no doubt people already familiar with this world will delight in it but as an outsider I’d say the tendency is to come up short rather than knocking it out of the park. Throw in a relatively short length and while I’d say it is likely terrific fan service and an appealing package for its community everyone else should likely take in what’s out there to see of it to decide if its humor is a good match for you or not.

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