Tuesday, October 5

Mini Reviews: October 5th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Unsighted [Studio Pixel Punk] (Nindie Choice!) -
Unsighted is interesting to me, in part because at just a casual glance, or even just a very short play session, I believe people will severely underestimate its ambition and execution. Its look and play style can certainly feel familiar, but it is the sheer volume of features and surprising elements the game brings to the table that help it stand very much on its own. Mixing a sense of open-world-ish adventure (you can tackle “dungeons” in any order you wish, and even choose your own moral path), challenging and rewarding technical combat (really gotta master the parry and counter), and a ton of ways to enhance your character with perks, gear, and even accessibility options to tone down the difficulty in a variety of ways, there’s no question of the effort that has been put in to making this satisfying for everyone. Once you’re a few hours in, and your true adventure is underway, you’ll find that the phase where you’re comparing it to other titles has passed and you’ll be immersed in this distinct world which is full of surprises and challenges. It’s a wonderful surprise, simultaneously familiar but undoubtedly unique at the same time.

Death’s Gambit: Afterlife [White Rabbit Interactive] (Nindie Choice!) - Beneath the veneer of this very attractive side-scrolling Metroidvania-ish action RPG beats the heart of ambition… though in measuring the results you could argue the degree of success may vary. Right from the get-go the good and bad of the depth of the combat systems presents itself with more than a handful of classes you’ll be able to work with. While you can see some general info on them and do a sort of mini test drive with them this is both great (since it opens the door to multiple playthroughs and tastes in combat) and a bit too much too soon as you have yet to really get a feel for the mechanics of the game that will be paired with it. I think that the thread of the developer working so hard to provide for player choice and variety is woven throughout and how people will respond to that may vary wildly. For the hard core set it will likely be a godsend, and when paired with the generally challenging (please, I hate calling things Souls-like, I usually consider that a bad sign when in marketing material) combat everything will come up roses. For people who were hoping more for a well-structured Metroidvania with rock solid combat, mechanics, and a satisfying and well-defined upgrade path… it can all seem to be a bit much. Whether the game is for you likely rests on that central question. It looks great, is challenging, and while I wouldn’t consider its mechanics “perfect” they’re better than the average… but depending on the investment you want to put into needing to hone your character and experiment there may be less overwhelming options out there that will be a better fit.

Gearshifters [Red Phantom Games] - This is a game that really has me emotionally split in two, making it a challenge to review. On the one hand I absolutely love the idea behind it, and there’s nothing else like it on Switch. Depending on how much of a “seasoned gamer” you are you may see elements of the likes of Spy Hunter, Road Rash, or even just classic arcade shooters this side-scrolling combat racer. You’ll be hitting the road with loads of enemies out there trying to stop you, and your key to survival will be doing quite a lot of failing and then upgrading your ride with the spoils of your runs to add new and better weaponry and support equipment, finding the mix of gear that helps you be your destructive best. The problems? I think the fact that it locks you into a zone once you reach it, not allowing you to fall back and grind where you’ll be more successful, backfires. In a way it feels like it is penalizing you for any early success, then dooming you to short runs where you’re really underpowered and that’s frustrating. Last, while I usually don’t make a comment on the price point, when it seems pretty seriously out of whack it’s hard to ignore it, and the current price feels quite high when considering the regular price of many strong indie titles out there for half the current price (and that generally are far stronger, even if not in the same genre and style). If just these two issues were resolved I’d probably be singing the game’s praises far more, but right now it feels like a “wait for a sale” proposition unfortunately.

Aeon Drive [Critical Reflex] - If you’re a big fan of fast-moving and often intense platforming action Aeon Drive will likely have some appeal for you. With only 30 seconds to finish each stage, though you do have the power to prolong your time limit if you collect enough gems, it definitely has an emphasis on execution. What’s a bit odd, though, is that there are absolutely things to the periphery, encouraging you to experiment with the paths you take, but I’m just not sure the need to explore and take chances is incentivized enough beyond the mere fact that you know things are there to collect. As you progress you’ll absolutely need to work out paths that are more efficient, typically involving some precision throws of your dagger that will allow you to teleport to it once it sticks in a surface, but once you survive aside from returning to shave off some seconds or try to collect things for giggles I’m don’t see a clear big picture incentive to expend the effort. It does make for a twitchy time, I just wish it had taken a step to take it one step further towards greatness.

Bonfire Peaks [Corey Martin] - One genre that has been blessed with a wide variety of great titles from indie developers has been puzzlers. Bonfire Peaks brings a mix of challenge and some charms to the table representing another strong option for genre fans, and for good measure throws in a pretty effective voxel-based look to boot. While I certainly credit it for slowly but surely adding elements to the mix to keep the puzzles feeling fresh as you progress through the 200-ish levels (you don’t need to complete all of them to keep moving forward, a blessing if you find yourself stuck) and maintaining a consistent and relaxing overall tone, there are element of it that I’m less enamored with as well and that could represent roadblocks for some. The most critical, for me, is the pretty persnickety nature of the controls. You’ll have to learn quite a few techniques that involve needing to pivot to control which direction your box is facing when moving and though you can get used to how this is handled at times it can feel like you’re fighting to get the game doing what you intend and it can wear you down. The second is the lack of any sort of net or hint system, which at times really would be helpful since there are times the real core problem is you’re lacking the proper technique to conquer an issue, which could mean you’ll struggle in other levels as well since understanding every tool in your arsenal is essential to success the further you go. If you’re looking for a challenge, it will deliver, just be ready for some potential frustrations, some of which feel self-imposed.

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