Friday, May 28

Mini Reviews: May 28th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Crying Suns [Alt Shift] (Nindie Choice!) -
When it comes to strategy games, on a general level it feels like the Switch hasn’t been terribly well-represented as a whole, though there are some standouts. One advantage of the lack of competition is that when well-made entries show up, they should be able to hope to clean up a bit from people starved for a bit of a challenge. On pretty much all fronts Crying Suns should satiate that hunger, delivering an outstanding sci-fi story, some decent ship-to-ship tactical combat, and a bit of nail-biting suspense as your ground parties attempt to collect artifacts planetside while hopefully not being annihilated. With loads of potential encounters to either help or harm your efforts the roguelike elements really help provide some longevity as you try to make your way through each chapter, perhaps running into a bit of luck one time and crashing and burning the next. All in all, it feels pretty unique on the system and demonstrates the power of the roguelike formula to spice up just about any genre.

Mutazione [Die Gute Fabrik] (Nindie Choice!) - With an unusual art style and even more unusual characters you’ll encounter on a remote island Mutazione just feels different than most any game I’ve played. You’ll venture there in order to meet with your dying grandfather, but there are stories involving different inhabitants of the island all around you for you to discover. While I’ll admit that navigating through the island is a bit more sloppy than I would have liked, with not all paths being visually too clear and leading to some confusion, the richness of the writing will pretty easily make you forget about the bumps in the road. With plenty of heart, a creative spirit, and simply offering something different on the Switch, Mutazione stands out in the eShop for fans of interesting characters and their stories.

Pecaminosa [Cereal Games] - Since forever I’ve been a pretty big fan of noir-style stories, whether they be literary, in movies, or in games. The classic hard-boiled detective walking the streets of the seedy underbelly of the city, the whole nine yards. Pecaminosa makes pretty good use of this, with you playing through a sort of old school adventure talking to people and often needing to get a bit dirty in order to keep things moving along or settle scores of some kind. Mechanically it feels a bit dated, in line with the look, but that can also be a bit frustrating when you’d really prefer a bit more accuracy. If you’re in the mood for something with that general moody feel it’s a good choice, just perhaps not a guaranteed hit depending on your specific tastes.

Family Vacation: California [Ocean Media] - Hidden object games certainly aren’t a genre for everyone, and they’re relatively common on the Switch, so it can be a bit difficult to really sort through which are better than others. In Vacation’s favor the art style is pleasantly cartoonish, it’s characters have a good and authentic family feel, and the puzzle areas look good with the items blending in nicely and not being given away by visual artifacts and sloppiness you can see sometimes. There are some additional puzzle types to engage in but they’re few and far between and just average for the most part. If you enjoy the genre this is a good one, though I’ll admit there are some with a story that’s a bit more compelling than generic like this one.

Aluna: Sentinel of Shards [Digiart Interactive] - Creating a great game is, no doubt, a serious challenge since conceptually there are so many areas they can go wrong in. Aluna, for me, is a title that gets so many things pretty right but then, unfortunately, drops the ball on the most important ones, which really dampens the enthusiasm around the good things. In terms of the general story, art style, and voice acting it’s a great effort and pulls you in. The issue is sadly the gameplay itself, with stilted attack animations, simply not enough variety to be exciting, objects that can be hard to differentiate from the background in places, and even a general glitchiness with enemy targets at times. At the end of the day it isn’t so much that Aluna fares poorly against the like of Diablo 3, it’s that it struggles to even surpass the dated likes of Titan Quest.

Tuesday, May 25

Mini Reviews: May 25th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

King of Seas [3DClouds] (Nindie Choice!) -
Whenever you embark on a journey while raising your Jolly Roger on the high seas, pretty well everyone out there is going to evaluate the experience against the genre-defining Sid Meier’s Pirates. I wish it didn’t have to be that way, and there’s no doubt that going back and playing that title now isn’t all that hot, but it set a crazy bar long ago and the fact is nobody has hit all of the things it did right since. Out of the gate King of Seas actually shows quite a bit of promise and captures the essence of fun seen in that classic title with solid ship-to-ship combat, plenty of incentive to explore, latitude in how you want to get your business done through trade or more violent means, and an amusing sense of humor. The problem is it doesn’t feel very ambitious to break too far beyond that, leaving it with a feeling of some potential unfulfilled. Throw in some general glitchiness and hitches from time to time and while it’s the most satisfying swashbuckler on the system, to be fair it doesn’t have much in the way of respectable competition either.

Very Very Valet [Toyful Games] (Nindie Choice!) - Blending together time management sims, an injection of Crazy Taxi road silliness, and (ideally) multiplayer madness, Very Very Valet is a unique title on Switch that can offer quite a bit of silly fun unlike pretty much anything on the system. Your goal will generally be to take cars from incoming customers, depositing them somewhere (you don’t need to use the lot if you don’t want to), and then getting their cars back to them when they’re done with their dinner. While this starts out relatively simply it very quickly gets to be a hectic mess and that’s where you’ll ideally be able to play with at least one other person since solo I don’t know that the game does a great job of scaling things down as you progress. Throw in surprises in the form of alternative levels that will have you engaging in even more ridiculous activities and this is a terrific change of pace and style in multiplayer games that people should enjoy.

Maneater [Tripwire Interactive] - If you’ve ever watched movies like the classic Jaws and found yourself vocally rooting for the shark, Maneater will likely be squarely in your wheelhouse. Wisely letting you initially get a taste of the carnage and mayhem to come you’ll get to terrorize some tourists and take on hunters right away, leading to some story elements that will then start you out as square one as a mere pup trying to survive in the bayou. From here the game plays much like classic titles where you’ll need to attack and consume other creatures roughly the same strength or less than you, with an option to take a chance on bigger creatures who you’ll get a great reward for defeating but could easily succumb to as well if you push too hard. The thing is, the grind can be very slow as you swim all around in search of prey and pick-ups to help your case, so ultimately even though you can slowly upgrade to becoming a truly fearsome force of nature those thrills are, by comparison, short lived to quite a fair amount of repetition to get there. The high points are a thrill, just be sure you’re ready for soldiering through the mid and low ones on the way.

Wonder Boy Asha in Monster World [Artdink] - Reskins of classic titles are both often very cool but a risky proposition in many regards when the original gameplay is left completely intact. I think Asha is a pretty great example of this problem, as it looks absolutely gorgeous without a doubt but it’s hard not to reflect on the inherent repetition in the level designs and general play and be a bit disappointed by comparison. If you happen to be a fan of the original title I’m sure there will be something special about seeing it realized in such a polished modern form, but for people like me with no such connection it just comes through as being a bit sloppy where play is concerned generally. Depending on where you fall on action platformers you may find everything to be perfectly fine here, but the higher expectations you apply to Asha unfortunately the more it will suffer from its dated overall feel.

0 Degrees [EastAsiaSoft] - There’s nothing wrong with a decent budget puzzle platformer, in fact there are plenty of them out there in the eShop. While I’ll give the specific style of play in 0 Degrees credit for not being quite like any of the rest I’ve played though, it’s in the execution that it feels a bit more lacking. The basics are pretty simple, with you needing to avoid spikes and sometimes activate certain spots in order to get to the exit. Where it is a bit more unique is that aside from just being able to push ice blocks around to help you avoid traps, activate buttons, and get yourself to higher platforms, you’re able to create them yourself as well, using the second joystick to aim. It’s the mechanics of this that tend to get aggravating and pull down the enjoyment level. It can be a bit quirky, for sure, and that’ll slow things down even when you know what you need to do. For a low price it isn’t a bad deal, just be sure you know what you’re in for.

Monday, May 24

Mini Reviews: May 24th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

SnowRunner [Saber Interactive] (Nindie Choice!) -
Realistic all-terrain driving games are an odd breed that has emerged in popularity in more recent years, and to date hasn’t been represented too well on the Switch. They can be hard to get used to at first as your enemy isn’t another driver or often even the clock, instead the focus is on simply overcoming the elements and a variety of horrible driving conditions to break through and deliver your loads. There’s no doubt that the controls in SnowRunner aren’t perfect, for instance trying to figure out how to turn on the headlights was an odd challenge until finally the game prompted me on how to use them after I’d been struggling in the dark for quite some time. I wouldn’t say this is a mainstream sort of experience by any means, but recognizing that it’s a legitimate form of play in the genre a chunk of the public appreciates, it would be a shame to dismiss this pretty challenging and engaging driving title that will reward people who stick with its often slow pacing. 

Leisure Suit Larry: Wet Dreams Dry Twice [CrazyBunch] (Nindie Choice!) - Leisure Suit Larry is a franchise I’ve been with since the very earliest days pretty much. While I missed the original, a few titles in I got looped into the series on my early PC and then went back to play the originals. Certainly at the time it was all pushing the boundaries of what you could get away with in terms of heavy innuendo and suggestive imagery but it was often quite clever. Having had attempted reboots a few times already in the last decade or so I wasn’t positive the character could work anymore, and some of the more crass efforts did nothing to dissuade me from that line of thinking. With Wet Dreams Dry Twice though I think they’ve gotten pretty close to finding a way to honor the humor and odd creativity of the original titles while being more mindful of how things have changed radically since those earlier days. Certainly this won’t be a title for everyone and there’s still an abundance of humor that could be considered inappropriate. Nonetheless, there’s also enough heart and earnestness in this attempt that I’m happy to say I found Larry’s sort of return to form (though continually made aware with how things have changed) to be refreshing, if still a bit cringe in places.

Long Ago: A Puzzle Tale [GrimTalin] - Classic puzzlers of all sorts are on the Switch, but while the style of play in Long Ago is fairly well represented, with you needing to collect all items with an increasing number of complications in a minimal amount of moves, to its credit none has quite this sense of style. With quite a bit of visual polish, and each level bringing a new bit of classic storytelling prose to the table, it’s a title determined to at least make the most of what it has to work with. Mind-blowingly original or innovative not so much, but certainly well crafted within the genre space for the asking price.

Gutwhale [Stuffed Wombat] - Retro graphics, check. A certain old-school arcade simplicity and brutality, check. A budget price, sure. Gutwhale gets some things right, and I suppose isn’t truly horrible, but there’s just no joy in its setup involving you trying to survive level after level having to pick up and bullet you shoot and dodge enemies. In particular, being dropped to the next floor often seems to leave everything to chance so any run feels like it could end at any time simply on the random luck of where you drop and what sort of enemies are there. There’s just not much here to latch onto to eke out enjoyment, it’s just there determined to be hard… but I suppose for some people that may be a draw. More power to them.

Outbreak: Endless Nightmares [Dead Drop Studios LLC] - Having endured a previous Outbreak title in the form of Epidemic, I’ll say my enthusiasm for checking out Endless Nightmares was limited. While credit goes to the lone wolf developer behind the series for tackling some ambitious game designs, intended to fit into the mold of the older-school Resident Evil titles, when it comes to execution there’s no getting around pretty well all aspects of the game being a mess. Conceptually trying to add some unpredictable roguelike elements to the mix could have been a good move, and my hope would be that would allow him to simplify things and get down to solid core gameplay… but alas that’s not the case. Perhaps some patching can help get it onto tolerable footing but honestly this doesn’t feel like it is even release-ready.

Friday, May 21

Mini Reviews: May 21st Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Layers of Fear 2 [Bloober Team] (Nindie Choice!) - “Walking simulators” that play out as horror titles on the Switch, more often than not, have tended to be a bit of a bust for me. Whether reliant on cheap jump scares that quickly grow tired, an overabundance of objects you can examine pointlessly dragging things down, or simply by outright being dull they just have been lacking the right combination of elements to make them stand out. By contrast, Layers of Fear 2 more often than not gets the formula right, slowly teasing out details to clue you in to what is going on, relying more on a sense of building dread than cheap thrills, and integrating in puzzles in a variety of ways that are often novel. If you’re looking for action, blood, gore, or quick frights it won’t likely do it for you but if you’re willing to let its slow burn style get going you’ll find it’s a satisfyingly creepy and unnerving journey.

Backworlds [Skymap Games] (Nindie Choice!) - The Switch has thankfully been blessed by a number of notable puzzle action titles, and more often than not each has chosen its own distinct path vin terms of style. Backworlds is another to add to that list, and while it generally keeps its core mechanics pretty simple it does a fine job of leveraging them to create novel puzzles which require some thought and often a bit of dexterity as well to get through. I will say that I wish the controls were a bit more intuitive in how they’re mapped, while I was able to get used to the control scheme I wouldn’t consider it ideal. That said, for its budget price this is a smart and increasingly challenging puzzler that satisfies by simply bringing a feel that’s just a bit different into the eShop.

Rise of the Slime [Bunkovsky Games] - In the past few years it has been a surprise to see the roguelike deckbuilder style of game go from the fringe to the mainstream. Buoyed by highly-successful titles like Slay the Spire and some others there have been a number of exceptional titles in the space on the Switch. Now we have Rise of the Slime to add to the list of titles in the genre, and while it does a reasonably good job of putting together strategy with choices of consequence it also struggles to make its mark among its brethren. A slightly lower price and a polished cohesive look do help its case, but if you're looking for the top dogs in this genre this is more of a middle of the pack entry.

Quantum Replica [ON3D] - Stealthy action games have had their ups and downs over the years and actually haven't been that strongly represented on Switch, leaving fans a bit thirsty for their handheld fix. While Quantum Replica has many of the necessary elements to help pull you in with the narrative and genre fundamentals it also has some execution flaws that stumble on its way to finding success. In particular the pulled out camera and very dark environments can make even simple pathfinding a problem at times, likely next to hopeless if you're playing in handheld mode in particular. Even without that though the general play feels pretty stale and lacking in innovation or excitement. It does manage to deliver a genre experience that's in short supply on the system but it's also a weak entry among its peers in the eShop.

Cosmic Top Secret [Klassefilm] - While traditionally people think of games as an active means of engagement and entertainment, over the years it has also emerged as a means of sharing narratives as well. That's definitely the focus of Cosmic Top Secret, a collection of thoughts, media, and information to create a sort of interactive autobiography of sorts. Weird and different is usually my bag, and I can appreciate the attempt to do something different with a gaming format but it's also impossible to ignore the shortcomings of the actual game design and mechanics while trying to appreciate the art and quirk of it. If you're interested in something more avant garde and to learn some details about foreign intelligence in the Cold War era it could work for you, but just don't expect much more than that.

Thursday, May 20

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

Jetboard Joust [BitBull Ltd] (Nindie Choice!) -
As an old-school arcade fan I'll admit I've been a big fan of indie titles that have come to the Switch putting a twist on classic gameplay. Jetboard Joust undoubtedly cribs heavily from the likes of Defender from back in the day in particular, but by adding roguelike elements, different weapons, and even bosses it differentiates itself quite nicely. Make no mistake, this won't be easy at first, even if you're familiar with the general mechanics of trying to keep innocent people from being grabbed by enemy craft and flown to the top of the screen... then turning into more formidable foes you'll need to deal with. The alternative weapons are different enough from one another that I'd imagine people will have strong opinions about their most and least favorite, and I appreciate the way they can change how you play and add a wrinkle of strategy to the mix as well since their ammo is limited. This won't be a game for everyone but for a budget-friendly price anyone who appreciates classic arcade games and a challenge should absolutely pick it up!

Aerial_Knight's Never Yield [Aerial_Knight] - This is one of those titles where I'm a bit torn in terms of how I feel about it. Starting with the positive Never Yield absolutely has style to spare from its terrific soundtrack to its colorful visuals to its somewhat weird-but-cinematic story. Putting all of those elements together you're absolutely sucked in for a bit as you drink it all in, steadily applying your somewhat limited repertoire of moves to new situations to deal with a variety of threats. However, I also think there's a point where you'll realize that for all of the production value it brings to the table, underneath it all the actual gameplay itself is quite simple. With that in mind, whether you'll enjoy the game will revolve around what you're looking for. If you want to feel a bit like you're playing through a movie of sorts (with the total length being roughly the same) you'll likely dig it a ton, if you're looking for rewarding gameplay you'll likely find it unsatisfying. Credit to the lone wolf developer for making something so polished, but I'd very much recommend getting a taste of what it has to offer from the available demo before making your decision.

Tested on Humans: Escape Room [mc2games] - Much like it's predecessor on the eShop, Palindrome Syndrome, Tested on Humans brings the escape room experience, at least conceptually, to the video game sphere. Forcing you to combine a pretty wide variety of puzzle solving skills, often first including simple observation and thorough examination of your environment, I do enjoy how different the experience is from traditional genre games that only tend to test one specific skill set. That said, there's no doubt that the social component of working with a team of people is lost, though you could have other people in the room participate as watchers and help out it isn't quite the same. While there are times where the controls with specific puzzles can feel a bit clumsy for the most part everything here works well and if you're game for a challenge this will give you plenty to ponder over.

Rabisco+ [Green Dinosaur Games] - Especially when games are budget priced it can be unfair to be too tough on them for looking more simplistic but with what I would call a "crayon-drawn" look perhaps Rabisco may look a bit too simple for its own good. Offering up for-all-ages action puzzling, you'll be simply moving through increasingly maze-like stages in search of stars and ultimately the exit. It isn't by any means brain surgery but if you're looking for something a bit less hectic to enjoy at a slower pace it may well suit you.

RWBY: Grimm Eclipse [Rooster Teeth Games] - Games based on existing properties I'm unfamiliar with are always a bit of a challenge to fully appreciate but in the case of Grimm Eclipse I think my issues with it are deeper than that. Billed as a co-op friendly beat-em-up it sounded like it could be a good time. There are numerous characters to choose from, and befitting the fact that this edition includes the cosmetic DLC you'll additionally be able to gear your character up in a variety of ways to suit your taste. Now, on its surface this all seems to work well enough, with each character playing a bit differently, and at a high level the 3D environments and action not looking shabby at all. All that said though, there's also something sadly shallow about the experience both in terms of gameplay and story. The play itself struggles more than most in the genre with a feeling of repetition and doesn't tend to be satisfying for long, and then pretty unusually for an existing property it feels like there's no real story to help keep you engaged to see what happens next. Fans who want to beat stuff up as their favorite characters may get a kick out of it but otherwise you'll likely want to move onto something else in the eShop.

Tuesday, May 18

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

Space Commander: War and Trade [7Levels] -
Budget-friendly titles can often tend to be difficult to evaluate when their competition carries a higher price tag and something like Space Commander highlights the problem well. What you’re getting is a reasonably-good space sim that does have a general story but will give you more than one path to follow, with both combat and shipping stuff around being viable ways to get things done… or certainly a mix of both. That said, the interface and space combat are certainly rough around the edges. Dogfighting is not just lacking in visual flair but also in depth as your maneuverability is pretty hamstrung and your aiming to shoot down enemies is a bit too automatic. The result is only moderately satisfying combat, so for space sim fans looking for that sort of thrill there are better options out there. That leaves you with the conundrum of the price, with the general quality of the title fairly matching what you’ll pay. So while there are faults, if you’re on a budget it provides a fair deal.

Rise Eterna [Makee] - Fans of strategy RPGs with a more classic 16-bit style will likely be drawn to Rise Eterna on looks alone, but beware that the vintage look comes with some quality of play issues that also feel a bit out of date. One thing I’d certainly fault is the time it takes to get things rolling, with a lot of up-front time spent on a story that honestly just wasn’t that interesting or unique. We can learn more about the characters as we go, but give me a taste of the gameplay instead of just making me advance more dialogue right out of the gate. In terms of the tactical play I’d consider it below average, simply being less elaborate than its competition but also lacking a spark of energy from unique play systems to differentiate it. All in all if you just enjoy this style of play and want to spend a fair number of hours in this world it’s fine, just don’t expect much more than an overall very vanilla experience.

Fire: Ungh’s Quest [Daedalic Entertainment] - Ungh’s Quest is one of those games that on the one hand I appreciate finding its place on the Switch but on the other it’s hard not to be a bit frustrated by. There’s a certain entertaining family-friendly quality to it, with its point and click adventure nature not being too crazy difficult but also not stupidly simple either. Throw in the cute animated quality that certainly features some elaborate characters and environments and it looks great as well. Where I struggled mightily with it though was its insistence on forcing pointer controls… something that worked far better in the IR days of the Wii but not so well with the Switch. The endless cycle of finding yourself contorting to get the pointer where you want it as it drifts and then having to recenter really highlights one of the system’s greatest failings. Throw on the fact that initially the game really gives you no guidance on what you’re doing or how to play and it’s a good family game that gets in its own way a bit too much to be enthusiastic about it.

Exodemon [JanduSoft] - Fans of the “good old days” of FPS shooting will no doubt raise an eyebrow seeing shots of Exodemon. Running down pixellated halls and killing things always brings out a nostalgic thrill… at least for a little while. The thing is, Exodemon has quite a bit of company where the limitations of that retro style fail to deliver much in the way of longevity unless you’re content to stay in Nostalgiaville for a while. The first time you hit a first-person jumping section you’ll wince a bit, when the level layouts can seem a bit uninteresting you’ll nod in understanding, and when the familiarity of the weapons sets in with nothing terribly new it turns into more of a grind than anything. It’s not necessarily a bad game, you’ll just want to be sure you’re down to put hours into what would have just been a middling FPS shooter from the classic era.

Death Crown [CO5MONAUT] - There’s no doubt that the Switch, in general, is pretty starved for decent real-time strategy games. In terms of visual uniqueness and the cool factor the 1-bit black and white look of Death Crown definitely shakes things up and starts out as being pretty cool. Unfortunately, the honeymoon phase doesn’t last too long due to a small number of issues. The first is simply the scale of everything on the screen on Switch, which makes it pretty well unplayable in handheld mode but fails to take advantage of the space well even on a larger screen. The second is the tendency for your pointer to obscure what’s going on as you move it around. The last is that when you pair the above issues with a pretty brisk pace and it gets to be roughly a visual cacophony of chaos. There can be fun if you don’t mind that, but it’s hard not to reflect on the missteps made in terms of the unique, but not terribly functional, visuals.

Friday, May 14

Mini Reviews: May 14th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Retro Machina [Orbit Studio] -
With a pretty cute protagonist, a generally steampunk look, and a mix of puzzles and combat that at least feel novel, Retro Machina has some things going for it. You'll play from an isometric view, moving through areas, breaking up objects for loot, getting into an occasional tussle, and then either destroying or taking control of enemy robots in order to progress. At times the puzzles can be a little tricky because of the view, with occasional issues with objects being obscured, but at least the approach is novel. Expect some left/right brain challenges in the mix as well, as you'll need to keep both yourself and the robot you're controlling moving at once, sometimes needing to avoid some peril somewhere as well. I'd say the game's biggest weakness, in general, is the combat, which feels a bit stilted and disappointing as you dodge and counter a bit sloppily. An odd choice was also tying your health to the robots you control, making the potential fun of taking one over and then mowing down the other enemies less workable, which feels like a missed opportunity for mischief. It's a reasonably good experience, it just can't quite cross over into the territory of greatness in my eyes.

War Dogs: Red's Return [Mito Games] - Let's face it, though the beat-em-up genre got off to a slow start on the Switch the current roster is pretty great and there are a few treats in the pipeline that will make genre representation even better moving forward. So where does a low-budget beat-em-up like Red's Return fit into the picture against some impressively-crafted but certainly higher-priced competition? Weirdly, if you can overlook some faults it actually fares reasonably well all things considered. You'll play as Red, a pugilist who has come home to find gangs and ne'er-do-wells running rampant, meaning it's time to kick some butt. As always, there's hardly a plot to speak of, but moreso than most the game does attempt to put together some narrative, though I'll admit perhaps to its detriment with a lot of words dedicated to roughly the same outcome as most. Also, par for the course, though there is some nuance to developing your character to customize his look and his upgrades there's no doubt on the whole the combat is a bit of a grind. In terms of the game's worst issue, though, I'd say it's the pretty touchy controls for movement paired with visually being able to discern placement of you and your enemies vertically as you try to avoid attacks. Those factors can definitely be a frustration, especially when fighting quick and dangerous bosses, but for a low-budget title there's more attempt at polish and ambition than you'd typically expect and that's admirable.

Infestor [Woblyware] - Coming over from the mobile space, there's no mistaking the visual simplicity of Infestor. That said, taking into account its budget-friendly price, it gets the job done with reasonably-engaging puzzle platforming and isn't in great need of stellar visuals to do so. The premise is simple, you're a glob that's able to take control of human subjects. You'll move into place and then hop onto their head, allowing you to take control of their body for a brief time and make use of some specific skill they have like jumping higher, shooting, or other abilities. There's a little room for technique, like learning to leap off a ledge and then jump from your subject's head to extend your reach, but for the most part the solutions are very linear and have a tendency to get a bit repetitive even if they require some dexterity to pull off at times. Not bad for a temporary distraction, but don't walk into it expecting much.

Poker Pretty Girls Battle: Fantasy World Edition [EastAsiaSoft] - OK, so when I review games like this the creep factor always tends to come into play and I almost feel guilty for checking them out, but that's what I'm here to do so here goes. Rather than the conceit being a puzzle game of some sort or a shooter as the means to ogle anime art, in this case the base game happens to be Texas Hold'em and I suppose while there's nothing wrong with the play here, it's also pretty bare bones and your opponents don't tend to be too bright, or even remotely aggressive on the whole... if you want to keep things moving you'll definitely need to be the one raising the stakes. The thing is, pairing with the "Just OK" card playing, what baffles me the most is that compared to its brethren in this space the pace of seeing the anime art people tend to get them for is sloooooooow. This makes for a somewhat weak hand, with the gameplay being lukewarm and the ogling intermittent at best. If that sounds like a plan, it is what it promises, just among its ilk it's not terribly satisfying in any direction.

Go! Birdie [PrimeBit Games] - Since I grew up as an arcade gamer from their emergence into the world I'm a fan of, by modern terms, simplistic action play that's simply engaging without a need for a bunch of trappings like story or character development. Go! Birdie definitely taps into that classic arcade action feel, channeling a mix of feels that include Pac-Man, Dig Dug, and maybe a bit of Bomberman. You'll work solo (or you can opt to play with a friend) to collect whatever the stage's item du jour is, avoid enemies, go through warps, and work out the somewhat maze-like stages, avoiding trouble and getting what you need. The thing is, though it's a budget title, the Flash game-ish look and the similarly basic level of engagement really skews the experience towards casual moreso than anything else so unless you're just looking to mess around for a bit with it there's probably not much here for you.

Tuesday, May 11

Mini Reviews: May 11th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Flowing Lights [gFaUmNe] (Nindie Choice!) -
As someone who celebrates games that take chances to do something new, to a degree Flowing Lights feels like a game made just for me. Mashing together the unlikely pair of a shooter with a puzzle game, I’ll admit that initially I found myself caught a bit off guard as it was showing me the ropes. That said, once it clicked, I became a fan, enjoying the challenge of some bullet dodging and strategy mixed with the challenge of dealing with curved surfaces and how the bullets’ paths will bend with the landscape. Certainly the look is a bit bare bones, though I enjoy the light neon-lit TRON vibes so I didn’t mind, and the concept won’t likely work for everyone but I applaud the effort to swim against the current and chart out new territory. Throw in the inclusion of leaderboards for each level, incentivizing you to work harder to come up with better ways to beat each level and the old school arcade fan in me really dug this unique, and often challenging, experience.

Mom Hid My Game 2 [hap Inc] - Taking the baton directly from the original quirky point-and-click puzzler released some time ago, Mom Hid My Game 2 definitely adopts a policy of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and that’s both a good and bad thing. With its budget price and unique sense of humor you can, no doubt, play through it and simply enjoy yourself for a little while but if you load up too much expectation on it you may well be disappointed as well. Each scenario has you moving through the same few rooms and trying to find your handheld gaming console while avoiding your ever-disapproving mother or some other type of threat. If you’re caught it’s no big deal, you’ll just start over and know what to avoid the next time. The puzzles aren’t terribly complex for the most part, the joy is really just in the suspense of wondering where Mom could be (she’s very tricky and can be found in unlikely places, ready to pounce and catch you) and in working through what goofy thing you may need to grab, stack, or move in order to find and be reunited with your beloved GameBoy. For a few bucks, if you’re game, it can make you laugh, just keep in mind it’s a very bare bones experience.

Super Glitch Dash [David Marquardt] - While usually associated with mobile gaming, the endless runner (in all of its variations) has at times proven to be worthy of console play as well when handled correctly. The fact that Super Glitch dash is played in first-person perspective helps to make that case, being a bit more visually interesting than its side-scrolling brethren. Gameplay involves you needing to duck, jump, and dodge between lanes to avoid obstacles and traps while attempting to pick up items, some in plain sight and others hidden, along the way. For the most part the play is straightforward and can be satisfying if you’re even a moderate fan of the genre, and if you’re determined to find and grab even the toughest items on each level you’ll find that it can be challenging to get the timing down. It won’t be for everyone but it does a fair job occupying some time and keeping you engaged.

Angels With Scaly Wings [Radical Phi] - For all of you dragon lovers out there, this may be the game for you. You’re playing in a world where contact through a portal has been made with a world of sentient dragons and you play the role of only the second human to go through, with some adventure, mystery, potential danger, and perhaps romance (depending on some of your decisions) awaiting you on the other side. While mentally I tried to play along I will note my amusement that in this world full of what appears to be larger-than-human dragons who obviously have very different anatomy (you know, wings) and likely different movement the buildings and everything other than the dragons look identical to what we humans have built… but I digress. As these sorts of titles go I’ll credit the environment and situation to at least be more distinctive than most but I’d say unless you’re a really big fan of imagining yourself in a world full of dragons, who exhibit quirks similar to what you’d find in humans, it may not quite pique your interest enough to be worth a purchase.

Train Station Renovation [Forever Entertainment] - While many people look to games to provide out-of-this-world experiences, there are also those who enjoy getting away from their own lives even if only to complete real-world tasks. Task-based life sim titles like The Sims, Animal Crossing, and others manage to capture some essence of fun even while generally concerning player activity with what would usually be considered mundane tasks. Somewhat in that same vein we have Train Stations Renovation, a first-person take on that style of play but, unsurprisingly, focusing on the clean up and restoration of train stations… surely something on everyone’s bucket list. There’s a certain Zen rhythm to wiping off graffiti or breaking down old doors and windows, but there’s also a real clunkiness to things, especially with a controller. Precision when trying to pick up smaller objects like bottles and cans is trickier sometimes than it should be and while there’s a scanner to try to clue you in on what still needs to be completed, the overall lack of direction the game gives you for often simple tasks makes it feel sloppy in the end.

Friday, May 7

Mini Reviews: May 7th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

The Colonists [Codebyfire] -
Strategy titles come in all sorts of varieties, and while the genre’s representation on the Switch isn’t quite as strong as I’d prefer there’s at least some diversity to be found. The Colonists adds a bit of more casual-friendly flavor to the mix with a blend of relatively low-stress civilization building and some cute robots who’ll be doing the grunt work. Through the main campaign and the sandbox mode you’ll get a fair amount of content, though I’ll admit that the interface is a bit much to take in at first and the organization of buildable elements isn’t perhaps as intuitive in a few cases as I’d like. Aside from that it plays pretty well, though I’d say there are some choices like forcing roads to be a certain minimum length that feel arbitrary and put in place just to be a bit of a pain. All in all though if you’re a more casual strategy fan or enjoy building things up it should be a solid choice.

R-Type Final 2 [Granzella Inc] - There’s a real art and challenge to making new entries in classic arcade series. On the one hand you need to be careful to attempt to capture the spirit and essence of the originals, but then you also need to make some changes that are deeper than mere cosmetics to help show an evolution from titles that may have originated decades in the past. The thing is, on a base level, R-Type Final 2 absolutely accomplishes both tasks, borrowing very obvious elements and inspirations from the ship, weapon, and stage layouts of the original titles while adding new elements of ship types that change things up a bit with new weapons and play styles possible that you can experiment with. Where things get a bit more dicey is in the realm of polish though. There’s no doubt that visually everything looks pretty great, but prolonged time with the title shows some rough edges in terms of performance in places, some instability, and perhaps not quite enough overall content to justify its price tag when compared to many of its contemporaries already on the system that do more with less, though obviously lacking in the pedigree of the series. True arcade shooter fans will likely enjoy this, but aside from a sale more casual genre fans may want to hold out on this one in favor of a cheaper and likely still comparable alternative.

Nongunz: Doppleganger Edition [Brainwash Gang] - Roguelikes… the tendency is you’ll either love them or hate them, and I’ve been on both sides of the fence, sometimes against the popular grain even, when it comes to the category. While at a certain level I can appreciate the simplicity and brutality of Nongunz, as well as the promise that with persistence and maybe some luck greater truths and interest will arise… even as a roguelike fan this title feels like it’s asking a bit too much on faith of a payoff without enough of an early taste to get me invested. Really, for me that’s the most critical thing to the roguelike experience, a vision of what is to come even if it is out of reach. Instead, the path this game takes is more wrapped in mystery, which can be fine, but if you’re not willing to make a chunk of an investment to even grasp what it is the game will offer if you can get around the corner this will be a title to pass on. If you’re all about the challenge though? It seems to be a great fit for that taste.

Skate City [Snowman] - When I think of skating titles, flashes of things like Tony Hawk or the X-Games come to mind. Loud music, sick tricks, in general a load of intensity and coolness coming through your screen and controller. In Skate City, sure you can do some nice tricks, and the dual-stick control setup is at least novel and workable, but in terms of the presentation and energy it’s more like an insurance seminar. The limited locales you’re able to visit are nice enough but will loop, the tricks you can do are fine but hardly get the blood pumping, and the general lack of overall variety in what you’ll do and how just fails to make a serious impression. This isn’t just about unfairly putting it up against bigger development efforts and licenses, even among its indie brethren while Skate City is OK to visit for a while I wouldn’t recommend living there.

SpongeBob Squarepants: Krusty Cook-Off [Tilting Point] - Ah, licensed games… Though in more recent history they haven’t been quite as much of a scourge as in generations past they have a tendency to either be a surprise, making terrific use of the property, or what feels like a thin coat of familiarity to slap on an otherwise lacking experience. Unfortunately, as quirky and silly as SpongeBob may be, Krusty Cook-Off doesn’t put a very good foot forward on multiple levels, making for a pretty overpriced but underwhelming experience. Very clearly showing its mobile roots with different in-game currencies to earn, a shop for cosmetics, and general mechanics from the free-to-play space, that this isn’t even a budget game is already tough to swallow. Throw in that there’s no voice to make more than cosmetic use of the license and that the cooking management gameplay skews on the simplistic side, with many competitors already on the system that are more engaging and fun, and this title is half-baked at best.

Tuesday, May 4

Mini Reviews: May 4th Edition [Nintendo Switch Edition]

Legend of Keepers: Career of a Dungeon Manager [Goblinz Studio] (Nindie Choice!) -
In order to keep things fresh developers have a constant challenge to mix and match genres and play styles in new ways. Sometimes this game alchemy can go awry, but with some luck they can result in glimmers of hope in the form of something unexpected and fun. Starting with the mold established by titles like the glorious Dungeon Keeper 2, a great first step is that you’ll find yourself on the other side of the coin, working to thwart heroes in their quests for glory and protect your amassed horde of riches. From there it charts its own path pretty much though, and the result is a blend of strategy, a bit of tower defense, turn-based combat, and resource management. Now, at first this is a bit rocky as you’re let loose with only a moderate level of direction, and your first run will likely show growing pains as you not only try to understand how to make effective decisions, but even some fundamentals around what pitfalls to avoid and where to spend your resources most effectively to suit your preferred style. Being a roguelike, unpredictable circumstances will make this a challenge but thankfully the game’s humor and bits of originality help it to distinguish itself with plenty of flavor to enjoy for strategy fans.

Fly Together! [Northplay ApS] (Nindie Choice!) - While perhaps not the bread and butter of the typical Switch gamer’s library titles that have a bit more of a casual feel can be a great way to unwind. Fly Together, as its name implies, even ups the ante with its value by throwing in support for multiplayer which is really where the experience shines the brightest and distinguishes itself from previous games of this type. It’s a game all about controlling the flight path of multiple planes between multiple color-coded airports. While this starts out simply enough, as you keep adding in more flights to manage at once, one that move through your area that aren’t under your control, and some unpredictable weather events, it gets to be a challenge if you want to keep earning all your stars. To help you’ll slowly amass a load of aircraft that are crucial in different conditions for optimizing your success. Solo or better with friends, this is a casual strategy game that delivers some fun without letting the stress level get too high.

Devil Slayer Raksasi [GlassesCatGames] - When you’ve got a crowded eShop first impressions can be everything, so when you struggle with a title right out of the gate it can be tough to recover. Raksasi does end up delivering a decent enough roguelike top-down slasher experience, but warming up to it can be a challenge since you’re pretty quickly left to simply figure out what to do. Certainly roguelike fans will understand some of the way things work without too much info, but for folks who are still getting acquainted this may not be an ideal title to get the introduction with. Once you’re locked into what limited skills you have to work with you’ll get your dodge and weave down, though you’ll need to be mindful of how differently a variety of enemies change up their attacks to challenge your skills with. A variety of characters and weapons can then be unlocked to then spice things up a bit and help you develop more of a style your own, but since the base combat never gets much more elaborate beyond biding your time and dodging attacks before effectively countering genre fans with plenty of exposure may find this one runs out of excitement a bit too quickly.

Bamerang [LuLuLu Entertainment] - Local multiplayer is certainly back with a vengeance on Switch, but for developers an unfortunate side effect of this fact is that even in the budget space you need to bring an “A Game” experience to make an impression. While mechanically Bamerang delivers what it promises, a game where you’ll work to hit your enemies with a boomerang and try to pick up the most gold, there’s also a marked lack of ambition here. Pretty quickly while playing the collective family question for me was: “That’s it?” Perhaps with some more modes, stages, or some real variety this could have been a more successful title but as it is there’s more of an extended play mini game within a larger collection vibe that’s hard to shake here.

Trails and Traces: The Tomb of Thomas Tew [Because Because Games and Music] - Having been a gamer all the way back to the days of Zork and text-based adventures I’m a fan of games that evoke nostalgic charm. I do believe there’s an art in trying to make games that emulate the look and feel of titles from that era, but the tricky thing is unless you really nail it the result can just be a bit of an ugly mess. Sadly, for me, the alliterative Tew falls into the weird camp of genuinely trying to capture the limited visuals of roughly the Commodore-64 or NES days but only getting it partially right, which makes the unusual 3D movement on 2D background attempts among other issues distracting. Throw in writing and puzzles that are merely middle of the road and while it’s available at a budget price it simply struggles to feel worthwhile.