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.