Wednesday, October 6

Mini Reviews: October 6th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Rainbow Billy: The Curse of the Leviathan [ManaVoid Entertainment Inc] (Nindie Choice!) -
Having spent far more time with Rainbow Billy than I would have expected, I’ve become a big fan of its unique mix of adventure, platforming, relationship building, and mini-game driven combat. At a glance anyone can see that it has a very family-friendly look and feel, in particular with a key element of combat being talking to your opponent and trying to always accentuate the positive. Inevitably the majority of the time you don’t so much defeat them as wear down the emotional walls they’ve put up to enlist their aid to help restore color to the world that has been made a dreary black and white by the evil Leviathan. While that makes the combat sound a bit simple, in execution there’s quite a bit you have to consider from a tactical point of view as well. The first character you put into any lane will use their special ability (if you’ve helped develop a friendship with them), and these become critical as the game goes on and foes get tougher, and the more characters you put in a lane the tougher the mini game you’ll need to play gets. The result can lead to a surprising degree of strategy being needed at times, especially since some opponents will really throw you for a loop with special rules you’ll need to figure out and get around to be successful. Aside from being a bit on the saccharine side for the hardcore set the one fault I’d give the game is that its dialogue really tends to go on, to the point that I’ve just begun to skip a great deal of it, since it isn’t hard to glean what’s important in the conversation without needing to go through it all. Perhaps the goal was to deepen the feel for characters and their connections, but for me it more often derailed the momentum of enjoying the gameplay itself. It absolutely won’t appeal to everyone but if you love games that dare to be different and wear their heart on their sleeve I’d consider it a must-have to add to your collection.

Hot Wheels Unleashed [Milestone S.r.l] (Nindie Choice!) - Having spent a fair portion of my childhood playing with the cars, tracks, and quite a few playsets there’s absolutely an element of nostalgia in Hot Wheels Unleashed that comes in waves and puts a smile on my face. I can only imagine what weight this collective love for the property, and the associated expectations it comes with, put on the shoulders of everyone working on this project. For the most part the great news is that the resulting game is quite a lot of fun even without leaning entirely on the many iconic cars and playsets the franchise brings to the table. Perhaps I’d prefer an element like combat to spice things up a bit more, but going the “toy-sized track within a full-sized environment” route does manage to help compensate to a degree for the missing ability to blow up your competitors. It doesn’t completely lack in technique either, as you’ll need to work on your drift turns (which also then fill your boost gauge) and carefully manage any situation where you may catch air or encounter transitions between a real-world surface and the track since those can quickly lead to disaster if you’re not careful. In terms of things that hold it back the almost mobile-esque unboxing system and the seemingly ever-present hard sell efforts for you to buy DLC for the game that just released can rub the wrong way. That said, the main “local play” mode that switches up scenarios for you to unlock gear, online multiplayer, and a track editor all help to compensate with plenty of opportunities to explore, expand your virtual car collection, and bask in the glory of this iconic franchise.

Darksiders III [Gunfire Games] - The Darksiders latest entry has finally meandered its way to Switch to join its brothers, and the results in this case are more mixed than its predecessors. Carrying on the story as the third of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, this time around you’ll be taking on the role of Fury, adding a little distinction for being the lone female of the bunch. More agile than her brother War from the original in the series, and having a different flow of combat from her brother Death in the sequel, traversal using her whip to swing around and more technique-driven combat are what drives this entry. Unfortunately, also moreso than its predecessors, this iteration feels like it is pushing the limitations of the Switch a bit harder, showing some cracks visually and in terms of performance at times, though if you’re game they’re not so bad that they can’t be worked with. While I do appreciate the level design, feeling absolutely full of nooks and crannies to distract yourself with some exploration, the lack of a map is also both odd and, at times, aggravating as it is easy to get lost and burn time simply moving around. It’s a bit of an uneven entry, but for fans of the series it should at least prove to be a good enough time, assuming you don’t have the opportunity to enjoy it on another platform.

The Plane Effect [Studio Kiku] - This really feels like one of those games where people will walk away with wildly different opinions depending on their tastes. If you happen to appreciate games used as a medium for people to compose visually-distinctive experiences to tell stories I would imagine you’ll end up pretty pleased with it, but if you’re looking more from the angle of expecting well-composed gameplay beats that are satisfying to complete you’ll likely be far less enthusiastic. Starting out your main character seems to simply be a working drone who has completed his work for the day and is all set to journey home. After encountering a few oddities, however, you’ll get the idea the world isn’t necessarily a normal one and then that there’s something much more unusual going on. The story and visual style are absolutely interesting, the problem is that the point-and-click style adventure beats that help you progress are hit and miss at best and can sometimes be frustratingly obtuse in the progression of things you’ll need to do in order to advance that same story. It’s absolutely an interesting journey, I just wish more care had been put into making it as engaging to play as to watch unfold.

Teacup [Smarto Club] - Cute and charming games can always be a pleasant distraction amidst the chaos of more intense action-driven games, but moreso than on any Nintendo system to date their abundance has also made standing out in the space more difficult. Teacup’s art style, laid back pacing, and simplicity as your character is just out and about trying to find sufficient tea for an upcoming party she’s hosting no doubt help make it a relaxing affair, but they also struggle to make it a memorable one. You’ll meander around town, generally being forced to move in a very linear path from person to person, backtracking with some regularity, to open new areas and work through periodic puzzles which serve as a means for you to help your neighbors in some way. Nothing is terribly difficult (though you may get hung up longer than expected on a puzzle, depending, but they do have a hint system to aid if you need it) but I can’t say that aside from it merely being pleasant that it elicited any real emotions for me at all, shoving it down among its brethren in the eShop that helped feel more emotionally significant and satisfying.

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