Wednesday, September 1

Mini Reviews: September 1st Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Inked: A Tale of Love [Somnium Games] (Nindie Choice!) -
The thing that will obviously grab you with this title is its unique (and quite lovely) art style. From there, though, it’s the thoughtful story and simple but pleasing puzzles that will (hopefully) keep you. With a runtime of only a few hours, the experience doesn’t last long, but I enjoyed the game’s consistent small surprises, quirky moments, and loving story beats that were all handled with a fair amount of care. In some cases there could be a small frustration with a puzzle where you know what needs to be done in principle but then working out precisely how to align things to get it to happen is another matter but for the most part the design is sound. Perhaps the tendency for these story-driven titles to end in more sad ways is a bit of a bummer, but the joy you feel along the way tends to carry the experience and help them still end up being quite satisfying. It’s a relatively short, but creative and well-crafted, treat of puzzle and story mixed together.

Townscaper [Oskar Stalberg] - Not so much a game as an interactive toy, Townscaper is just a different sort of experience that people will likely either adore or hate. Your tools to work with are pretty minimalistic, able to lay down small building blocks in the color you choose or remove them, but as you continue to combine more and more together your creation continues to react and change in what are often small but pleasing ways. It’s really all about trying new things and the discovery of the results, driving you to experiment further as you slowly fill up the space with your distinct creation. While I do wish there was a way to step back and see some virtual people interact with the labyrinthian 3D towns in some way, there’s still something soothing and satisfying in taking the time to build both precise and uniform (to a degree, the grid’s tendency to bend in places will thwart you at some point) as well as unorthodox and perhaps completely impractical structures. It’s absolutely unique, and in its own way satisfying, but also clearly not for everyone.

Mickey Storm and the Cursed Mask [Orange One] - This aquatically-based platformer, which you can play either solo or co-op, is a bit of an odd bird. For the most part the emphasis here is on exploration and trying to use what techniques you have at your disposal to get to a variety of items you’ll want to grab while keeping an eye on the time. Some stages will change up the focus, having you work more against the clock (or perhaps a boss), but most of the time you’ll be in the classic collect-a-thon mindset where every detour or hint at another way to do can lead to new challenges. The main problem, though, is that the execution of the controls and some of the collision detection and behaviors are just a bit on the wonky side. There’s no doubt you can brute force overcome these issues through some grit and determination at times, but there are some moments that are aggravating for all the wrong reasons that are tough to push aside when reflecting on the experience as a whole. It has its moments where things come together and it shines, but it also has a tendency to get in its own way unfortunately.

The Magnificent Trufflepigs [Thunkd] - This is one of those titles that’s very difficult to explain in a way that establishes a decent value proposition for purchasing it but here goes: Only lasting a couple of hours, the “action” is you methodically using a metal detector on the ground of an old farm in search of something. These efforts are then broken up by the real focus, which is an ongoing conversation between two old friends who at one point had some romantic entanglement and are slowly revisiting the topic of what happened and perhaps how they can move forward. Your interest and enjoyment likely will hinge on whether such an exploration sounds interesting, and the dialogue and nature of the relationship is at least handled well and in a way that feels pretty realistic as well. Obviously it won’t be for everyone, but that isn’t to say it isn’t a unique and compelling experience in its own right.

Secret Neighbor [Hologryph] - The creepy Neighbor is apparently back, yet again, to give off his weird vibes and entice people to plunk down some money to join in his latest endeavor… in this case an asymmetric multiplayer experience with a group of kids trying to best him. In theory this can sound like a good time, but, as has usually been the case with this series, in execution it’s a hot mess. The fact that it is a dedicated multiplayer game is the first red flag, as even popular indie titles tend to struggle to maintain their communities, making the sell-by date on this title any time now in all likelihood. But what about the quality of the experience? Does it make a case to keep people playing? In a word: No. Consistent with the entire series it has a problem of having a cool and unique look but offering very little to pair with it in terms of depth, quality of play, and general coherence, but enlisting some random people to try to somehow work together in some way with as well? It doesn’t end well, and it doesn’t feel like it was balanced or thought through sufficiently to have made that a possibility either.

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