Friday, March 26

Mini Reviews: March 26th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]


Dicey Dungeons [Terry Cavanagh] (Nindie Choice!) -
OK, so perhaps at this point the concept of a deck-building strategy roguelike has been played out a bit… but what if you added an additional layer of RNG madness with dice just to spice things up? That’s precisely what Dicey Dungeons does and, damn, if that doesn’t reinvigorate things a bit and further increase the challenge and fun of tackling classical turn-based combat. Depending on which of the game’s classes you choose, which in themselves will often shake up your approach, the game is really about making a commitment to your strategy based on the cards you have and then learning how to take whatever rolls you may get and turn them into success. Of course, if the RNG gods are really determined to piss on your parade, disaster may still be coming for you… but that’s really the nature of roguelikes and inherent in risk versus reward concepts it plays with. There’s no doubt that the game’s presentation errs on the simpler side but if you’re a strategy fan such details fall away when you’re so hyper-focused on the battle of the moment and turning what would seem to be a random garbage roll into a winning combination. This is a game that has very much earned its high marks with a great concept that has been executed incredibly well, taking what has become familiar and raising the stakes even further.


Bladed Fury [NExT Studios] (Nindie Choice!) - While side-scrolling slashers have been around for quite some time, and tend to show up in some abundance, I’ve more often than not been disappointed by them historically. Too often settling in too early with locked-in attacks and combos and facing too many enemies that work as decent fodder but fail to really satisfy, setting up and experience that sucks you in and then keeps you engaged is obviously a challenge. Enter Bladed Fury, a very stylized and sexy slasher visually, but also one with a well-told story, a strong set of core moves, and enough variety in enemies and upgrades to remain engaging throughout… though it does feel like it ends a bit quicker than it could. While mechanically the timing and feel of some attacks can take time to learn, and this can make countering some enemies and their attacks tricky, in the end it feels fair and helps compel you to hone your skills rather than just mash away at buttons. If you’re up for a pretty decent challenge, some great visuals, and love to mix things up and make things bloody this is a great choice.


Little Kite [Anate Studio] - While I typically consider games a form of entertainment for pulling your mind away from the harsher realities of life, there are those that instead dive into the ugliness with both feet that definitely have their place. With a point-and-click adventure format that’s pretty straightforward the groundwork in Little Kite is familiar and set, but the sense of loss, dread, and fear experienced by the main character, a mother of a young boy who has remarried into an abusive relationship after losing her husband to tragedy, is anything but ordinary. My one complaint would be that some of the puzzles and how progression is implemented are a little sloppy, partially not helped by you staying in the same space for quite a while discovering items that will be useful for future puzzles but adding to some confusion on what you should be doing for the moment. That aside, there’s a logic to most of them that’s refreshing and sometimes creative. Whether or not you are drawn to the game will likely hang on the subject matter and whether or not something a bit “too real” is something you’d prefer to avoid or instead embrace and understand.


BodyQuest [Artax Games] - When I was growing up “educational games” had two big problems as I see it. First, they were typically aiming pretty low in terms of their audience, looking to teach very basic math skills or other fundamentals that were targeted very young and were easy to master. Second, while they often would use a familiar character or setup to draw you in as a gamer they were pretty well always a complete bore, so saying you were “playing” them was generous at best. BodyQuest, while still not by any means a game you’d likely seek out if you weren’t trying to learn something, tries its damndest to address both of these issues, and really does an admirable job of it. Where its educational content is concerned it very much aims high, with the focus being on the various systems that our bodies are made from, quizzing on bones, muscle groups, major organs, and other anatomical topics. Sure, you may not know the right answers initially, but it will always reveal the correct answer in its multiple choice format and incentivize you to return to get it right the next time by tying progress to your scores. Second, rather than the learning be integrated directly into gameplay it’s concentrated into stops you’ll make along the way, with a relatively simple Flash-esque action game in the middle. Whether or not the quality or nature of the gameplay hit the target for the target audience may be up to date but among games of this type I’ve played over the years I’ll credit this with putting in the most effort on all fronts to deliver on its promise and goals effectively.


Rip Them Off [Lozange Lab] - There’s something to be said for venturing into uncharted territory when making games, but the results may not always be what you were hoping for. I think that’s the case for Rip Them Off, a strategic puzzle game of sorts with both a unique look and a pretty different hook. Your goal is to optimize stores of various types and sizes along routes your citizenry walk along in the hopes of maximizing profits, taking them for as much money and as efficiently as possible. In principle this isn’t such a bad idea, and certainly aesthetically it all has a certain flair as you progress to see the well-oiled machine of your capitalism take in customers and drain them of every penny like an assembly line. The problem, for me, just ended up being the often very trial and error method of understanding how best to extract those dollars, requiring an attempt, a failure, and then a restart to try a new combination. At times it can be intuitive but other times you’ll even have everything nailed in the first phase but then fall apart the next, making you wonder if your whole strategy needs rethinking. For strategy and optimization fans this could be a great match but for others the tedium may drag it down.

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