Friday, April 2

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

Luckslinger [Duckbridge] (Nindie Choice!) -
As a fan of games that subvert expectations and are determined to simply be a bit weird, Luckslinger puts a smile on my face. At its base it’s a retro-styled side-scrolling Western gunslinger that has you shooting, reloading, jumping, and rolling as you make your way through levels and take out your foes. If it were only that the game would just be middling. But add in an attack duck, a luck mechanic that can help or hinder you, a cavalcade of weird characters and humor including a minister who spits some great rhymes, and cut-scenes that randomly throw in modern musical beat drops or other incongruous elements and it just becomes something unique. There’s no doubt the play, especially in the shootouts with bosses, can get tough and will demand that you work out how best to use what luck you have to your advantage. That said, the promise for what weirdness may come next, sometimes prompting a laugh, is a pretty great motivation to figure it out. Tack on a budget-friendly price and this is just a welcome detour from the typical that I thoroughly enjoyed.

A Long Way Down [Seenapsis Studio] - The roguelike deck-builder has certainly seemed to be en vogue for the past few years but at least we’ve gotten some well-conceived and executed games out of the trend. The problem for anyone pushing a new one into the arena at this point is that the competition is pretty fierce so you really need to come with your A game and preferably a new idea or two. A Long Way Down thankfully does bring something new to the table in the form of an added strategic layer in each level you find yourself on, having you and an adversary place tiles to connect different platforms in space, some which have critical areas you’ll want to get to and others with enemies you’ll need to contend with. This does make for some difficult choices at times as healing campfires and the ability to equip new gear in the armory can be critical to success but could represent a risky detour. Unfortunately, the turn-based card-driven combat is a bit too generic and the general control mechanics a bit too clumsy to maintain the promise of that signature feature. The result is a generally good deck-builder, but one that falls short of the high bar its contemporaries have set in place.

What Comes After [Flynn's Arcade] - It’s always a bit of a challenge for me to review games that really aren’t games, whether interactive novels or in this case semi-interactive and fixed narrative experiences of a sort. If you’re looking to wax a bit philosophical and ponder life, it’s value, and how different people perceive it on a number of levels this could serve as a great meditation on the subject as you’ll play as a young woman simply moving between people on a subway of souls on their way to the afterlife who all have something to share. I’ll give it credit for being interesting and having some perspectives worth sharing, but at the same time it’s just a very slight experience that makes next to no use of the format it’s being presented in. Throw in the pretty brief amount of time you’ll spend with it and it’s potential audience will likely be a bit limited.

Ghost: Elisa Cameron [Ocean Media] - Having recently played quite a few more refined modern takes on the hidden item casual genre Ghost is a bit of a trip through a wayback machine for me. With absolutely primitive cutscene production values, far less variety, and far more obvious items strewn about the areas you’ll explore, this title is a pretty accurate picture of the genre from roughly a decade ago. The thing is, while that’s a little disappointing perhaps there’s also a familiarity to it that made me a little nostalgic I suppose. If you’re looking for the most current and highest quality casual games in this space you’ll want to check out some other options but if you’re an old school fan of the genre and want to get your vintage hidden item groove on this hits the spot.

Afterpulse [Digital Legends] - Mobile games making the transition to a dedicated gaming console are always a bit of a tricky proposition on multiple fronts. While typically control and quality are the core drivers that determine success, Afterpulse helps to point out other critical pitfalls. First, there’s the problem of the price, with it being a free-to-play on mobile but carrying a $20 asking price on Switch. Aside from the infamous “Switch tax” concerns there’s another big problem this creates since rightfully the developers bless you with some solid starting gear to go with that price of admission… but that then turns it into a bit of a pay-to-win proposition as you plow through people for a bit with your overpowered gear. Second, while it isn’t a free-to-play on Switch the game retains all sorts of systems and in-game currencies that still make it a part of that world, and it’s a bit cumbersome and annoying to deal with rather than having been rethought for paying customers. Last, though there are other issues I’m leaving out, it’s hitting the eShop against free-to-play titles that are far more polished, generally have massive player bases, and simply offer up superior gameplay. If this had launched within the first year when Switch gamers were starved for shooter content it could have fared well most likely, but this late in the game it’s really bringing a butter knife to a bazooka fight.

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