Thursday, August 19

Mini Reviews: August 19th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Curious Expedition 2 [Maschinen-Mensch] (Nindie Choice!) -
For me Curious Expedition 2 is everything I look for in a sequel outing. It delivers a bit more quirk and color in its characters, locations, and things to discover. It has made some small refinements to the dice-based combat and feels a bit more common sense this time around (though that could have to do with familiarity now, but originally in the first it felt like rougher going early on). It gives you plenty of opportunity to make both good and bad moves from start to finish, whether it’s in the composition of your team, taking a chance on a roll in a specific event, or taking a detour to check out a potential landmark along your route and risking your team running out of provisions as a result. There’s no question that the RNG gods can be cruel at times here, but on some runs they can also randomly save your ass so it feels fair. As strategy roguelike combinations go I believe this is one of the strongest, not just providing satisfying play but also throwing in a generous dose of personality and humor to keep you further engaged and entertained.

Mayhem Brawler [Hero Concept] (Nindie Choice!) - When I originally saw the art for this game I’ll have to admit I was a bit put off by its blatant similarities to the recent (and outright excellent) Streets of Rage 4, fearing this would feel like a derivative sort of cut and paste job. I’m happy to say that though it has much in common with that recent remake (though its general depth in the moves department is a fair distance behind), that isn’t to say that it doesn’t take some pains to set itself apart. You’ll choose one of 3 characters to start with, each of them playing pretty differently with a more agile fighter, a brawler, and someone pretty well smack dab in the middle to round it out. Your objective, in general terms, is just to steamroll your way through the underworld, beating down anyone in your way, searching for answers to what’s going down in your city. I will credit the developers with the smart move of setting up decisions at the end of most chapters which give you choices on how to proceed. At a minimum the fact that this gives you an excellent reason to return for multiple runs to see how things work out differently when you make alternative options is a smart move. Status conditions and some great unexpected villain types also raise the game above the likes of the established norm to throw in some unexpected challenges in places, requiring a bit more nuance in your fighting. It may not quite have reliable mainstream appeal, but for genre fans it’s definitely worthy of a look

Necrobarista: Final Pour [Coconut Island Games] (Nindie Choice!) - I realize that more often than not I’m a sort of wet blanket in the area of visual novels, especially those that allow little to no room for player agency. I may just be stubborn but I do struggle with “games” that feel like you’re merely being pulled along for the ride rather than having a part to play with some participation. All that said, there’s something about the tone, characters, and general vibe of Necrobarista that at least sets it pretty far apart from the likes of its general competition… and I respect that. Don’t walk into it expecting to be able to change the course of events it sets into motion, but if you’re willing to sit back and enjoy the ride it at least has an interesting point of view to express in the area of life and death.

Out of Line [Nerd Monkeys] - The great artwork and general puzzle-y adventure beats of Out of Line (as well as a timely multiversal sort of twist to things) almost immediately brought to mind the likes of Limbo, Inside, and some others. One the one hand that’s a compliment for the company its look and feel inspire, but on the other the comparison falls flat a bit in terms of the variety and scope of the story to be told since Out of Line’s overall run time is a mere couple of hours. The construction of the puzzles is smart enough, with you needing to make careful and accurate use of your power javelin in a number of ways, but in terms of the sheer variety of what you’ll face it can also feel a bit more on the one note side. If you’re down for this sort of title and don’t mind the relatively short run time and a lacking overarching story it still has its charms though.

Space Invaders Invincible Collection [Taito Corporation] - As an old-school arcade kid my familiarity with Space Invaders and its iterations over time is quite high. As always with these retro collections the archival aspect of them, allowing you to return to a true representation of what was (no matter how dated these days) is always valuable. What’s more, there are a few oddballs in this collection like Space Cyclone that I can’t recall having ever seen, adding to the level of intrigue seeing things that are even new. It’s a little disappointing not to see added materials like vintage artwork or ads found in other collections of this type, helping to paint the full picture of the times and where they came from but I understand not everyone is interested in anything more than the games themselves. For retro fans it may be a tough choice though, between this edition having the full lineage of games in the series and the cheaper Space Invaders Forever what may lacking most of the older titles, but does include the more engaging modern incarnations which are excellent, Space Invaders Extreme in particular. Of course, for people not as enamored with vintage games or their progeny, it may well be a total miss.

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