Thursday, July 8

Mini Reviews: July 8th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Boomerang X [DANG!] (Nindie Choice!) -
With indie titles I’m always tickled when I encounter something just a bit different that feels fresh and challenging, and for me Boomerang X (though perhaps a bit on the short side overall) fits nicely into that groove. Quickly acquiring the said boomerang, which I prefer to imagine as the legendary Glaive from the movie Krull (yes, it has one less prong and looks different, but this is my Colwyn fantasy!) you’ll very consistently be given some new move or technique and then a series of trials that will push you to show mastery of that new skill. Once you’re rolling you’ll be dashing, floating in slow-mo, and picking off enemies who get increasingly challenging like a pro… though each new and tougher variant you may need to puzzle over before understanding how to take them out. Perhaps the rough handful of hours you get is appropriate, as it keeps the title from overstaying its welcome, but I still would love to see a few more levels of craziness to really push my skills tacked onto the end just to give the solid design its full and fitting due. If you’re a fan of accurate shooting while on the fly and some quick-moving traversal this should satisfy you pretty much completely.

PiCTOOi [Atooi LLC] (Nindie Choice!) - The Switch has had quite a 3 (or 4, depending on how deep you’re looking to go in the roster) way race in the Picross puzzling space, with each series having their own flair. I would have thought that meant the space was completely full and in need of no further options but now PiCTOOi has arrived to set me straight. The core gameplay is still the same, featuring various pictograph images of varying sizes that you’ll need to use your savvy as you look at the numbered patterns on the horizontal and vertical axes to plot out carefully. Now, to be clear, while some competitors feature multi-color puzzles this is more old school with only one set, so its complexity is lower. This really has more of a purist feel with less focus on trying to provide feedback to help you complete puzzles in the interface, giving it more of a Sudoku feel where you’ll need to grit your teeth and carefully work out which spaces get a colored block and which should be disabled. Somewhat in that vein the other major feature is its Brain Age-esque presentation, complete with a little robot (I reject him being a lightbulb!) who’ll gladly give you supplemental info about each puzzle, and a calendar feature so you can track your consistent play as a mental exercise towards your health. Fans of Mutant Mudds (and some other Atooi franchises) will also likely be tickled by a diorama mode that will reveal a number of game art pieces bit by bit as you complete collections of puzzles. About its only weak point is what feels like a painfully long pause as you close each puzzle to go back to the menu but in general I’d say Picross fans now have 4 legitimate contenders for the crown that will likely see a winner tied more to personal tastes as each has their own distinctive flavor.

Crash Drive 3 [M2H] - While hardly a top-tier racing game this stunt racer, though sharing perhaps a bit too much in common with its predecessor, somehow managed to grab me longer than I would have expected. Whether playing solo or online, which feels more like you’re participating in parallel with other users than with or against them, the focus here is on exploring, performing some stunts, collecting coins for unlockables of various kinds, and participating in a small collection of somewhat random events that will run continually in the background and that you can opt to join in or ignore. It’s not high art by any means, and I’m not particularly a fan of the lagging camera that doesn’t do well with sudden turns or turning around specifically, but even in its simplicity there’s a certain charm to it with its large open spaces with loads of stunting opportunities almost everywhere. If you’re just in the mood to poke around and have some fun for a bit it isn’t a bad option… just keep your expectations in check.

A Tale of Synapse: The Chaos Theories [Souris-Lab] - An utterly odd hodge podge of styles and concepts, Synapse kind of throws ideas out there in relative abundance but the result doesn’t quite come together sadly. You’ll be doing some action platforming, puzzle solving, you can play co-op with someone controlling your helper character (or do it solo with the right stick), slip between realities in order to sometimes get some insights in how to solve puzzles, there are shapes and math in places… it’s a lot. The problem is simply that none of it feels polished or compelling, especially where the action is concerned. There’s no doubt that the look and setting are unique, and it seems to be trying to push its little world as you meet new characters… but in the end the bread and butter gameplay just isn’t enough to maintain a steady interest in continuing on with it.

Super Destronaut DX-2 [Petite Games] - Arcade shooters are something I’ve been enjoying since their infancy in the Space Invaders and Asteroids days, and I’ve really enjoyed the modern retro movement in the indie space that has embraced classic looks and play styles and given them some modern flourish. The trick is to take on the look and feel of the classics while bringing something fresh, and perhaps unexpected, and I’ve definitely seen the results vary from title to title. Very much in the same vein as its predecessor, Destronaut DX-2 takes a bit of a kitchen sink approach in terms of the specifics of the rules in each of its modes, as well as bringing some welcome color to the table, but it would be a stretch to consider any of it inspired in any way. There are modes to play with, and some challenges to conquer if you’re so inclined, but it all falls flat and feels too generic to give it more than maybe an hour of your collective time before you’ll be itching for something a bit less bland.

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