Wednesday, July 14

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

Unavowed [Wadjet Eye Games] (Nindie Choice!) - When you think of the classic point-and-click adventure title visions of classics from LucasArts with their signature sense of humor and weirdness tend to be the first to come to mind. Back in the day there was more representation than this, with adventures featuring everything from police work to medieval fantasy, but within the current indie adventur-aissance there isn’t typically oxygen for titles that don’t embrace humor. The darker and more grim nature of Unavowed is thus pretty refreshing, not necessarily lacking in humor, but certainly having it play a back seat to supernatural characters and circumstances, and sometimes some pretty disturbing circumstances you’ll need to work your way through. I will say that I find the mechanics of the interface to be a bit quirky with a controller, and perhaps it would best be played using the touchscreen but that isn’t to say it’s in any way unplayable, just that there are plenty of competitors that do it better. If you’ve been itching for something that’s a bit different and surprising, but still retains some familiar elements of a classic adventure, Unavowed should definitely be considered for your list.

The Sisters: Party of the Year [Microids] - Let’s face it, when it comes to mini game collections and their quality on Nintendo consoles there have been franchises like Mario Party or WarioWare on one end of the spectrum (though Mario Party has had its troubles, without a doubt) and pretty much everything on the other extreme end that simply don’t work well. While PoTY may be lacking in some of the refinement and features that could make it more capable of contending with those first-party powerhouses for more than a round or two I will say that among the category of “everything else” it shines unusually brightly, especially if you’re looking to play with your family of all ages. Most of the events and challenges are simple enough, and many are also very relatable involving household chores or activities and that helps add to the fun. What also shows some extra effort is a competent single-player adventure version where you’ll play as one of the title sisters, competing all around town to have the honor of throwing the said Party of the Year. While maybe a bit rough around the edges, if you’re a fan of Nintendo’s party titles but are looking for roughly the next best thing out there this may be the strongest secondary choice out there.

Anna’s Quest [Krams Design] - Certainly an adventure game with a bit of a dark and humorous turn on classic fairy tale tropes isn’t bad to work with as a base, and I think that’s the greatest strength of Anna’s Quest. The problem is, especially in light of so many outstanding point-and-click style indie adventures being out there, outside of the story and characters too many elements simply aren’t as polished or fresh. The interface can be a bit cumbersome amongst its brethren, some of its puzzles perhaps a bit too drawn out, and just lacking in that sort of magic touch that brings the game together in a way that inspires exuberance when describing it. Perhaps earlier in the Switch lifespan it could have been more of a force, but at this stage it just falls a bit flat.

Beasts of Maravilla Island [Banana Bird Studios, LLC] - While the original Pokemon Snap wasn’t particularly well executed, the idea it brought to the table was at least a novel one. Perhaps somewhat fittingly released roughly in the same window of time as the newest title in that series, we have a more budget-minded outing in the same vein in the form of Beasts of Maravilla Island. Drawn to this mysterious place by the passing and encouragement in letters from your grandfather your character has set out to explore this magical space and to try to capture its unique flora and fauna on film to share with the world. While I appreciate the fact that this take on this style of play isn’t fully on rails and allows for an element of exploration, for the most part outside of that distinction it just plays as a less polished and compelling version of the Nintendo franchise. If you’re into photography and composing your shots perhaps there’s an angle for enjoyment to be had here but otherwise it’s just a pretty linear walk through the forest photographing everything you can but with no real spark to make it memorable or exciting.

Bai Qu: Hundreds of Melodies [Ratalaika Games] - I’ve typically been pretty tough on visual novels but my struggle is with them being released on dedicated gaming hardware more than for whether they have a place in gaming in general. There are titles out there that do it better than others, and certainly a fair variety in terms of how interactive things may be, but most of the time I can at least see or understand the narrative hook that should show up very early in the story to help hook you so that you’re compelled to stick through things to the end. This is an area where I find Bai Qu really struggles, as throughout the early time in the game I was plainly bored and unsure what it was that was supposed to make me care about the characters or anything happening. A ton of dialogue without much focus and a struggle to really make a compelling case to give the game hours of your time when so many more clearly engrossing narratives are already out there makes this one especially tough to recommend.

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