Friday, September 3

Mini Reviews: September 3rd Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Spelunky [Mossmouth] (Nindie Choice!) -
One of the last OG indie titles to finally come to Switch, Spelunky promptly gave me a nice slap in the face to remind me of just how quickly I could utterly fail in a game. As one of the earliest and most staggeringly popular tough-as-nails roguelikes out there this is a game chock full of things that will gladly kill you, and in the early going most of your runs will be capped off with a “Oh, I’m not supposed to do that” moment as you meet some new enemy or trap type and aren’t quite prepared for the pain it is set to bring. All that said, when you get to a new level or zone for the first time there’s nothing quite like that thrill… right before you discover something new again and in many cases promptly die once more, just to start all over again. While there’s no doubt roguelikes have lunged ahead with newer ideas, to a degree leaving Spelunky feeling a bit dated and perhaps more on the sadistic side than the average, the fact that it’s very easy on the pocketbook at a mere $10 and still has a fair amount of charm to go with its brutality make it a must-own for anyone who loves roguelikes and may never have had the chance to take it on.

KeyWe [Stonewheat & Sons] (Nindie Choice!) - Cooperative games that rely on a mix of careful communication and a fair degree of control dexterity have really come into fashion, when done well, on the Switch. KeyWe may be one of the most unusual ones to date, with you and a friend each taking control of one of these odd birds as they try to use their limited abilities to help keep a local post office up and running. With a handful of mailroom tasks that vary in their details, as well as a number of more offbeat and silly overtime activities to participate in there’s quite a bit more variety than you’d assume to the game since your little kiwi buddies are severely limited in their inherent capabilities. While the game can be played solo, to a degree, that really does rob the game of the majority of its charm, with the goal being to either bring friends together or rip them apart as they struggle to both plan and adapt on the fly in order to keep efficiency up and everything delivered on time. If various forms of food prep have become a bit stale and you and a buddy are looking for a new challenge this provides ample opportunity for some fun and frustration as well.

The Magister [Nerdook Productions] - Pushing the boundaries to further enhance or make existing genres tends to be what indie titles do well, and The Magister definitely falls into that category for better or worse. When you define it as a “murder mystery RPG deckbuilder roguelike with tactical combat” it’s quite a mouthfull, but that would be accurate, and with so much going on it should be easier to understand the challenge of making it all work cohesively. Your first few runs will likely be rough as you come to terms with how things work. You’ll choose among a handful of candidates to play as each time, each with their own strengths and weaknesses that may or may not pay off or doom you in any given run depending. In many situations you’ll have the choice between a purely card-driven challenge using “tactical diplomacy” to calm the situation as a solution or to go for blood which pairs your deck with pretty tense tactical combat. Success and enjoyment, as is the case with many roguelikes, is about having the interest and endurance to weather early frustrations that will help you better understand how to succeed. If you stick it out there’s nothing quite like it out there and it’s a solid challenge, but if you frustrate more easily you’ll want to move on.

Golf Club Wasteland [Demagog Studio] - This is one of those titles where the name of the game may lead you astray, though I will admit that it is generally accurate. Less of a sports title and more of a forward reflection of our world’s demise you’ll play as a sort of tourist visiting the ruins of civilization of Earth to shoot some holes. The majority of the entertainment and opportunities to understand the state of the world come in the form of the local radio station that both plays some tunes and recounts tidbits about what went wrong. The golfing itself is a bit on the simplistic side, though to do well you will need to learn what nuances there are. Thankfully you can opt for one of three modes that will dictate how well you’ll need to do to proceed so if you want to just be along for the ride that’ll work, and if you opt for the toughest mode be ready for some frustrations for sure. Coming in with a budget asking price it’s absolutely a unique experience, just be sure you understand what you’re in for before plunking down to pick it up on the eShop.

Stranded Deep [Beam Team Games] - I’ve pretty much always had a love/hate relationship with the survival genre, though it may not be what you think. I just don’t tend to see many as being “somewhere in the middle”, most typically I really enjoy how they’re implemented or they drive me nuts. In the case of Stranded Deep I won’t discount the fact that it has some deep crafting trees and shows signs of there being quite a lot to do in it for the people who are diligent and dedicated. My issue is that I don’t find much of anything about it to be very unique or inspired and truly the console controls for it are clunky and cumbersome at best. If you’re somehow who is a genre fan and always looking for the next challenge, there may be plenty here to enjoy, but for newcomers or more middling genre fans there are absolutely stronger and more polished examples of the genre on the system.

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