Friday, September 10

Mini Reviews: September 10th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

A Good Snowman is Hard to Build [Draknek & Friends] -
Polished budget puzzlers that come over from the mobile space are always a bit hard to judge critically and fairly when they arrive on Switch. In the case of Snowman there’s no doubt it’s a smart, well-designed, and challenging experience despite what, on the surface, would seem to be a simple premise. Yeah, you just need to get the torso on top of the base and get the head on top of that, but the trick is that every move needs to often be carefully planned, whether to just get each element in place or to use the snow on the ground to make one part bigger to be able to use it. The first very fair critique would be whether or not there’s anything about this being on the Switch, taking on the ability to play on your television and use physical controls, and the answer is not really… this would seem to work just fine without either option whether on your phone or a tablet. The second quibble concerns the overall difficulty, which kicks in pretty quickly. It isn’t impossible by any means, but there’s a risk of getting stuck and without any means for assistance that could be a bummer too. If you like a challenge, clean graphics, and a budget-friendly price it’s a good option, but it may just be more convenient on your mobile device in the end as well.

Hindsight 20/20: Wrath of the Raakshasa [Triple-I Games] - There’s something both exciting and sometimes heart-breaking when you get to play early versions of games and get filled in on what they want to be and then see them finally released some time later. Hindsight 20/20 is such a game for me, one I thought had terrific potential when I saw it at PAX East last year. The concept of needing to make choices both in the story and in how you fight your foes changing the world around you, and even altering the outcomes you can reach, is a smart one that somewhat connects. Where the cracks begin to show is in the game’s combat, though both the more noble blue and deadly red skill sets you can use do have their merits and potential for visual flair. The issue is just that for me there was nothing pulling me to play things one way or another in combat, leaving me to be satisfied fighting in either style that suited me and not terribly compelled to risk anything switching to the other. Even the story beats where you can make a choice of consequence felt a bit flat as I never really felt invested in the game world or the people I’d be affecting. Lay in combat that doesn’t look too bad but gets repetitious relatively quickly and there are absolutely some glimpses at what could be great here, but nonetheless a general feeling of missed potential as well.

Residual [OrangePixel] - While they got off to a bit of a slow start on the Switch, over the years survival games have become more common and some excellent examples of the genre have made their way to the system. Residual, with its “crash landed on another planet and trying to collect the means to survive” vibe, lands somewhere towards the middle of the pack, honestly feeling a bit generic in many respects. That’s not to say that if you’re a fan of the genre you won’t appreciate some of its quirks that give it a little flavor. However, if you’re new to survival games the lack of better guidance to help get you accustomed to the controls, and the way things need to be done, put it much further down the list of titles to take for an initial spin.

Rustler [Jutsu Games] - Billing itself as a medieval Grand Theft Auto (this is GTA2, mind you, don’t get too excited), Rustler is obviously trying to grab itself some attention, but that unfortunately also puts some expectations on it to try to meet. Sure, you’ll tool around either on foot or horseback doing jobs that are generally more on the unsavory or even downright weird side at times… but aside from frequent potty jokes how does it deliver on being an exciting or compelling experience? “Eh” is probably the most appropriate and honest response I can muster. Perhaps it is the really weird Renn Fair cosplay opening of its own action that threw me off from the get-go but for me it all feels a bit off and from another time, and that’s talking in game eras and not history. Maybe a decade or two ago it would all feel a bit more fresh and you could overlook its shortcomings but unless you’re really thirsting for a throwback to simpler (and perhaps a bit more juvenile) times this just doesn’t seem to have the energy to make more than a middling impression at best.

Virtuous Western [Ratalaika Games] - At first glance I was really hoping this would somehow be something cool like a simplified budget game in the vein of Sunset Riders, but alas, it is merely a pretty simple puzzle game at the end of the day. The Western sheriff theme does at least make a little sense with the mechanic generally being that you need to pick up each bullet to either directly or indirectly deal with bad guys, and every few levels or so at least new elements or challenges do get thrown in to keep it from getting too monotonous too quickly. What feels a little surprising, and perhaps may be a bit of a misstep is that it’s not a pure puzzle game. At some point you will need to demonstrate some timing, whether hitting or coming off a ladder, or more critically jumping bullets. That may throw the traditional puzzle crowd off, so if you don’t think of yourself as being good at timing jumps it may not be for you. In the end it is at least a little different, but it really doesn’t do anything to make itself stand out in the heavily-occupied budget puzzler space, at least not in a way that’s guaranteed to be a positive. 

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