Thursday, November 4

Mini Reviews: November 4th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Unpacking [Witch Beam] (Nindie Choice!) -
Usually when you think of casual games puzzles and the like are usually what comes to mind, or perhaps something akin to a visual novel. With Unpacking it’s clear there are other avenues to tap though, at least when the game is laser-focused on a very specific objective… in this case something as simple as unpacking some boxes and carefully organizing their contents. These activity-based games tied to tasks most people abhor doing in the real world are a bit of a mystery. What makes it so satisfying to organize and perfect a virtual world while more often than not the mess you’re sitting within playing it remains untouched? I don’t think this game has the answers to that conundrum but there’s no mistaking the sense of satisfaction in devising the perfect drawer for putting your socks in, perhaps taking the extra step to also organize them by type or color as you go… just to make them perfect. As you progress through the game the scale of your effort continues to grow to multiple rooms as your character’s life progresses to new stages. That’s where the other magic in the title lies, the reflection on how we grow and change, and to see what special items continue to endure while so many others prove to be disposable. The result is absolutely wonderful if you’re looking to calm your mind and simply take joy in a productive task.

Bloodshore [Wales Interactive] - It has been fascinating in the last generation or so to watch the FMV genre not only return to the fold, but really make a stab at legitimacy as well. The trick with them tends to be whether or not you’re down with the story, and given the recent success of Squid Game the reality show Battle Royale format feels at least somewhat timely. One thing I do appreciate is the satirical lens the game views society and the entertainment industry through, actually reminding me a little of RoboCop’s tone at times. The acting, for the most part, is reasonably good throughout. If anything, the somewhat extreme cliches people have been asked to represent are more the source of some cringe, and I can respect most of the people simply going for it. Among the other recent titles in this vein I’ve played I’d say the transitions in video at decision points aren’t as seamlessly smooth, breaking the illusion a little more than usual, but I’m not sure that’s a technology problem as much as perhaps the editing. If you’re down for a lightly interactive deathmatch game show experience this will manage to entertain, and there are enough decisions you’ll need to make that replaying should at least provide some variety. It’s not best in class, but it’s at least a reasonably good time.

Demon Turf [Fabraz] - Sometimes you play games where you can’t help but be frustrated by their missed potential. On many levels Demon Turf has things going for it ranging from its visual style to its solid dialogue and voice acting to its cool soundtrack. The shame is that at the end of the day this is a 3D platformer at its core, and in that particular area it struggles, as you can gather pretty quickly by an oddly lengthy tutorial that mostly covers areas stronger games can take for granted as almost intuitive. In particular, the ability to drop a mobile checkpoint flag that you can return to in the level feels like an admission that mechanically the platforming can be problematic. I don’t doubt a part of the issue is the use of 2D figures moving on 3D backgrounds, something that gives the game a unique look but that greatly complicates depth perception, putting a round shadow on the ground below you or not. Whether reflecting on Mario titles or even indie contemporaries the platforming here is comparatively troublesome and the combat is generally underwhelming. I have no doubt that determined gamers who’ve exhausted their other options will adapt and plow through, likely enjoying themselves in the process, but if you’re less versed and looking for a rock solid indie 3D platformer there are several that I would consider stronger overall already out in the eShop.

Super Sami Roll [Sonzai Games] - This is an odd one, as on multiple levels it strikes me as a title that isn’t sure what it wants to be. Taking influences from a variety of well-known franchises in its look, feel, and play style it simply feels like a sometimes unwieldy amalgam of them all. From another angle there’s the fact that at first glance it looks colorful and kid-friendly, but then very quickly it becomes clear that it would be far too difficult for those same kids. Is the goal to speed run the levels as quickly as possible (you’re given a score based on time), but then what about the coins and the hidden fruit on each level? It simply feels like a lot of ideas and inspirations thrown into a blender with a hope that in the end it would come out somehow equivalent to the originals but it doesn’t work out that way. There’s no doubt that there’s an effort here, and there are absolutely worse 3D platformers on the system, but for a variety of reasons this one is a bit of a head scratcher.

Bloody Rally Show [Kodo Linija] - Given my love for classic top-down racing, as well as a bit of rough and tumble weapon play and carnage, on paper Bloody Rally Show would be right up my alley. In execution, though, I’m not quite sure what to make of it. The ambition is absolutely there, from the dynamically-generated tracks with a variety of surfaces to contend with, to the unexpected twists in the story while often paired with added race objectives, to the fact that while it takes getting used to the feel of the swervy racing does work. The problem is that with more repetition and play you tend to progressively see more and more cracks. Deciding to try to burn a race and just work on technique for an objective, after wasting a substantial amount of time I was still able to place reasonably well in the race as my opponents somehow never capitalized fully on my being distracted. The weapons end up being very random, and in a few cases hard to even understand their effect is, yet when used against you they feel unusually effective. There’s some merit here to the experience, and the wild unpredictability from race to race at least keeps you on your toes, but even for racing fans it’s hard to recommend with much enthusiasm.

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