Tuesday, April 20

Mini Reviews: April 20th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Fez [Polytron Corp] (Nindie Choice!) -
This far into the Switch lifespan the list of outstanding top-notch indie titles that haven’t yet made it to the platform is dwindling. There’s absolutely no doubt that Fez is one such title that has taken too long to get here and is incredibly welcome. In screen shots it may just appear to be a solid pixel platformer, but that would be woefully underselling it since in reality it’s a hybrid of sorts, allowing and even necessitating your rotating the levels in 3D space in order to reveal hidden secrets, surprises, and challenges that you’ll continue to face in a purely 2D plane in terms of the action. This results in a feel that’s somewhere between an action platformer and a puzzle game at times, and in many ways I’m shocked that as long as the game has taken to get to Switch someone else hadn’t already beaten it to the punch with a similar feel, but nobody really has. Clever, full of heart, and genuinely unique in its gameplay mechanics, Fez may be long overdue on the platform but hasn’t lost any of its very genuine appeal.

Heal [Jesse Makkonen] - Certainly the puzzle genre, in general, has been quite well-represented on the Switch. With its friendliness to mobile conversions, the availability of the touchscreen for play, and general focus on portability it’s a natural. The challenge, then, is trying to make something that will stand out from the crowd. Heal, which conveys only a little bit of the essence of its story at a time, has you starting out without much guidance in the form of an old man who is presented with a pretty wide variety of puzzles to solve in order to progress. As you complete them you’ll move to new areas and more challenges, with a pretty slow drip of info on your character and situation but it falls short of being a compelling story-driven game to the degree of many better examples on the system. The result is then mostly a series of pretty distinctive and sometimes challenging puzzles somewhat loosely connected to a story. If you’re looking for some variety on a pretty humble budget it’s at least not a bad option.

The Longing [Studio Seufz] - Before getting a bit more negative I wanted to be clear I absolutely have respect for developers who dare to tackle the challenge of coming up with something unique. The Longing, aside from its signature hand-drawn look is inherently meditative and calm in its nature, and we don’t always need yet another high-octane experience to get our adrenaline pumping. In fact, with the timeframe you’re given of 400 days until your slumbering king is to awaken, the game itself poses little to no urgency on you. While I’m sure there’s a message here of the need to relish the smaller things in life and to not be so constantly beholden to the clock there are some elements in The Longing that I think push a bit too far. Most of all what’s so aggravating is the snail’s pace your character moves at during initial exploration. Granted, once you set a marker to a spot you’ve been to it is pretty quick and easy to get there but the kingdom you’re in is labyrinthine and mapping out where everything is gets positively brutal if you value your time in the least. The thing is, I absolutely could see how this experience would work quite well on a mobile device, with you setting some things into motion and then leaving for a few hours until they complete in some way. On a dedicated gaming device where you’re unable to swipe between running programs though? It’s a big too much of a slog, and that’s purely a design choice, even if there are some great moments in store in this experience for people with more patience and time they’re willing to eat up simply waiting on things to happen.

Geminose: Animal Popstars [Midnight City] - Usually focusing on more hardcore or even the semi-sophisticated casual market, developers don’t always put much care into trying to appeal to the next generation of gamers. Enter the super-cute Geminose cavalcade of creatures of various shapes and sizes that you’ll be able to befriend, get to join your band, and play with through a fair variety of mini games. Whether working more of a rhythm game feel or performing a series of small tasks to prepare a dish or helping your budding stars decorate their rooms this is thoroughly casual in nature and there’s not necessarily anything wrong with that. Skewing to the pretty young set or simply people who still yearn for more motion-based gaming and don’t mind everything being a bit simplistic this super-cute game fills a need on Switch, just most people won’t dig the return of motion controls and pretty simple mini game play that was so common in the Wii era.

Delicious! Pretty Girls Mahjong Solitaire [EastAsiaSoft] - Ah, gotta love those niche specialty titles from overseas that bring a little flavor to the eShop. Or, you may be a bit repulsed or disgusted by them, somewhat thinly offering cheesecake anime women in various states outfits and states of at least partial undress under the auspices of a game. To its credit, the solitaire Mahjong it offers is pretty demanding and will keep you looking and sometimes carefully choosing which pairs to remove and when. In addition the game’s tile set, while not particularly amazing, is at least attractive and generally easy to distinguish even with some characters that can get pretty close to being the same. Is it art? Not really. But for a budget price if this type of content floats your boat it is at least included in a reasonably good shell of legitimate gameplay.

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