Friday, October 8

Mini Reviews: October 8th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Lost in Random [Zoink!] (Nindie Choice!) -
Full disclosure, up front I’ll admit that I’ve always tended to be fond of games from the Zoink crew, in particular finding their off-beat sense of humor to be great fun. In the case of Lost in Random I really think they’ve stepped it up though. Taking on an ambitious visual design that borders on being Burton-esque in many ways and mixing it with a terrifically dark and distinctive story would already have made me quite happy. However, what really won my heart was the game’s fabulous melding of strategic deck-building and brawling action, resulting in an overall feel of combat that I found utterly unique and that I can only hope to see occur in even more games down the road. I’ll admit that my enthusiasm for those battles, getting to test out my carefully-selected combination of cards, tended to make the more story-driven adventure beats in between feel a bit more bland in comparison, but that’s also where the developer’s trademark humor and quirky characters tended to help keep me happy even as I lusted for more combat. Undeniably distinctive, even if not always perfect, this felt like a perfect compliment to the coming holiday season with its darker tone, and I’d hope that even people who have come to dread seeing the term “deck-builder” would see how its pairing with consistent action makes all the difference.

Jack Axe [Keybol Games] - Tough-as-nails platformers have legitimately become a thing over the years, and in my experience with a few exceptions that break through to more mainstream success (looking at you Celeste and Super Meat Boy, in particular) people’s appreciation of them tends to vary pretty wildly. Jack Axe is sort of a no-frills take on things, locking things in pretty quickly with your somewhat limited jumping abilities mixed with a capable axe that you can throw and then dash to grab. Basically everything in the game then leans on how well you’re able to execute on those abilities, making tough jumps and surviving a gauntlet of consecutive sections as you try to reach the next checkpoint to save. What’s really odd about it though, aside from not really having any story to speak of, is that once you get started there’s really very little giving you direction, you’ll just sort of wander around to find new areas in search of gems and coins that you can then use to unlock other new areas, sometimes encountering a boss fight to conquer as well. It isn’t bad, though getting to the point where you “master” the diagonal throw consistently can be troublesome, it just feels weirdly incomplete somehow, bringing the ideas and action together in some way to give it a sense of direction, or at least personality, to take it to the next level.

No Longer Home [Humble Grove] - Contemplative games are always a bit tough to review as I’ve found that where you are in life and what challenges you’re currently facing (or have faced in the past) tend to drive the appreciation of the stories and ideas they’re trying to share. No Longer Home definitely falls firmly into this category, on the surface being a point-and-click adventure, but really being far more about two friends at a crossroads in their lives on multiple levels. The more you identify with their struggles and their thoughts as the story unfolds, the more you’re likely to appreciate the whole experience. However, if you remove that affinity from the equation, and don’t identify with their fears as they try to figure out how to move to the next stage of their lives, the more the picky and somewhat unsatisfying trial and error clicking about trying to advance the story will be. This is definitely a better story-driven experience with a message as a whole than a game, so the degree to which you’ll appreciate or enjoy it will likely vary wildly from person to person.

Creepy Tale 2 [No Gravity Games] - There’s no doubt that with the month of October upon us interest goes up in games that are a bit on the darker and spookier side. Obviously, based on the game’s name, Creepy Tale 2 is here to capitalize on that sort of interest having been released when it was. In terms of living up to expectations though? Not so much? There are a few more threatening things you’ll encounter and situations you’ll work through but the majority of your point-and-click adventure tends to be concerned with far more mundane things like hunting and pecking for the specific item or interaction that will allow you to try to keep the slogging pace of the game moving. If you were a fan of the original or enjoy simpler indie adventures it may have some appeal, but it unfortunately lacks in things to excitedly share about.

Takorita Meets Fries [Ratalaika Games] - OK, so on the one hand I’ll at least admit this visual novel is at least weird enough to maybe be of some mild interest. That said, it runs in a straight line from its start to its end and you’re merely along for the ride. You’ll perhaps giggle at some of the odd culinary jokes, the mocking of Takorita’s poor guard, and some literal fish out of water humor… but you could just as easily decide it’s a bit low-brow and easy for the most part. Even amidst other titles in this non-game genre I generally don’t dig, I’d consider this to be one of the lower points of those I’ve perused.

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