Friday, November 26

Mini Reviews: November 26th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Neurodeck [Tavrox Games] (Nindie Choice!) -
While the fact that we’ve been inundated with roguelike deckbuilders over roughly the last two years can make new entries easy to be frustrated with, when they come to the table with a novel approach it can still be exciting. I wouldn’t say that in terms of mechanics Neurodeck does anything all that unique, the setup is pretty standard with you starting out with a set and standard deck, trying to be smart about how you leverage what you have in order to win matches and then add to or enhance your deck for future challenges. What makes the game unique is how the majority of cards you use are related to mental health coping strategies or supports, while the foes you’re up against are phobias or other mental obstacles you are looking to overcome. As someone with family members possessing a wide variety of these issues there’s something really wonderful about the attempt to either educate people who are unaware of all of these issues and treatments, or perhaps just provide some positive reinforcement or understanding for those who are afflicted themselves or have loved ones who may be. I do wish there was some more complete storytelling here to further flesh out the characters you play as, and the troubles they may face, but I respect any attempt to help people better understand mental health issues, especially if they can be challenged and entertained at the same time.

Little Bug [Buddy System] - Possibly one of the more unusual titles I’ve played in quite some time, Little Bug mixes together sometimes-tricky platforming, some physics-based elements where you’re slinging yourself around, and an unusual story involving a girl trying to track down the elusive cat spirit she encounters and calls Roadkill. It takes a little while to get into full swing, first having you simply work on jumping and some puzzles, then having you develop the skills needed to sling yourself around. When it hits its full stride and allows you to control both Nyah and her friend the light source who acts as the tether point for her to sling around with the more satisfying play takes effect, maximizing both the versatility and the challenge as you try to optimize the positioning of both characters to try to ensure you’re going to fling yourself in the proper direction with sufficient force. It’s certainly a novel experience, you’ll just need to have some patience working out the controls and nuance of everything since the game doesn’t give you much help up-front to get you going. Worth at least giving a look if you like physics-based challenges in particular.

Night Lights [Ratalaika Games] - This is simply one of the more unusual puzzle-oriented games I’ve played in quite some time, and that’s both a good and bad thing. Making use of a variety of devices and, more critically, different sorts of light sources, I can’t say I’ve played anything quite like it. It can be fun to have periodic “Aha!” moments as you see the solution you’ve been missing that will allow you to proceed, but there are some frustrating obstacles here to enjoyment as well. Probably the most pronounced problem, though some could see it as a plus, is that it tends to be quite unclear what your ultimate goal is on any given screen. Rarely will you be trying to grab or activate everything in the first pass, more often you’ll get to a particular section and then move somewhere else, to then eventually come back to address other parts of the current stage. This makes assessing progress or knowing what you absolutely won’t be able to get a question mark and it can be aggravating at times. Throw in it periodically being difficult to tell which surfaces will go away when light is shone on them versus ones that will remain and there are some interesting ideas at play, but enough stumbles that I wouldn’t recommend it to just anyone.

My Universe: Puppies and Kittens [Microids] - Ahh, ever since Nintendo released their Nintendogs series, which eventually also included feline friends, there has been a real thirst for another game to come along and pick up that mantle since Nintendo themselves don’t seem to be interesting in doing so themselves. My Universe: Puppies and Kittens gets some details right, including a variety of cute breeds, some toys that can be fun, and experiences that revolve around some key elements of animal care. Now, for people who simply like animals and who’ve never played Nintendogs specifically this may all measure up reasonably well, it’s at least comparable to its other broad competition in the space. Unfortunately, if you’re seeking the Holy Grail of a successor to that well-respected franchise you’ll find yet another title that comes up woefully short in terms of depth and variety in activities. This can be fun as a kick around pet care title but if you were hoping for more it really doesn’t come together as something you’ll likely enjoy past a few hours as you simply get a taste for the different breeds of cats and dogs available to adopt.

Poker Club [Ripstone] - While gambling-oriented games, whether straight cards of some kind or casino, are generally pretty niche I will admit that every once in a while one will stand out and catch my attention. Certainly the look of Poker Club is more interesting, opting to ignore the typical 2D approach and shoot instead for a more “realistic-ish” look. This does lend a sense of personalization to things, with you getting some limited options to give your potential poker champ their own distinctive flair, but the main question is how is the poker playing itself? There are certainly a fair variety of styles of Texas Hold‘em here to engage with, allowing you to at least flex slightly different strategies, as well as ways to play solo or even with others online. While I suppose you could consider the matches more immersive, looking a bit more like real life than your typical presentation, I’m not sure it works in the game’s favor. Ignoring what “Uncanny Valley” vibes you could potentially get, the real problem comes down to the pacing that comes with even minimal animations of people throwing down chips or cards or even reacting. If you don’t mind taking your time and just want to soak it all in, this may be fine, but if you’re just out to get down to business, win or lose, it may be more frustrating than fun.

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