Friday, November 5

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

Where Cards Fall [Snowman] (Nindie Choice!) -
Considering the abundance of puzzle games on the casual-friendly Switch, including many from the mobile/tablet space it’s getting tougher to find something that feels new and unique. That’s precisely the case with Where Cards Fall though, which debuted in the mobile space first, but doesn’t show too many of the usual signs of bumpiness in getting it converted for console enjoyment. I will admit that the controls did take a little getting accustomed to, and perhaps aren’t perfect, but once you have the relatively short list of things you can do down, from there it’s all just about working your way through over 50 puzzles that keep layering in new tricks and degrees of complexity. Throw in visuals that help it to clearly stand apart from its competition and some great tunes and it’s a treat. I do wish the coming of age story that advances as you progress provided a little more clarity on everything that’s going on though, just because what you’re able to see feels good and not knowing a little more detail does make it feel like you’re missing out on something that could have helped take the game to the next level.

Circa Infinity [Kenny Sun] (Nindie Choice!) - Simplicity in games is always a bit of a double-edged sword. Making something easy to pick up and play is great, but that can oftentimes make it hard to provide depth or a significant challenge. Somehow Circa Infinity manages to thread the needle on a high level though, keeping things simple with just left/right controls and a jump, while also continuing to up the ante level after level in terms of its challenge. The simple goal is to continue to jump in order to land on the next ring, continuing to do so until you get to the center. The challenge comes in the form of a small variety of foes who you’ll deal with in different combinations as they test your timing and skills. I’ll admit at first I was thrown off trying to control my character thinking in relative terms, but once I got my brain to lock in to it just being right and left I got right into the game. Great for kicking around only a handful of minutes at a time, this is a nice and challenging arcade-style retro romp.

The Smurfs: Mission Vileaf [OSome Studio] (Nindie Choice!) - Whenever approaching a licensed property, especially one associated more with kids, veteran gamers are going to come to the table with a healthy amount of earned skepticism. The Smurfs, in particular, have been featured in many games through many generations over the years, but I’d say few have been notable. Mission Vileaf, for me, is a pretty refreshing break from the mold, offering up a great opportunity to explore their three-apple-high world and save the day. The family-friendly 3D platforming is broken up by reasonably simple combat and use of your ever evolving Smurfy gear, clearing the infected vegetation and dispatching corrupted critters. Difficulty is thankfully defined up-front to allow for a wider range of skill levels, and the ability for someone to join in co-op style to lend assistance makes it a terrific option for gamers in training. It may be lacking in overall complexity, and it won’t go toe to toe with the best the genre has to offer on the system, but it’s still a Smurfy good time if you’re open to the experience.

World War Z [Saber Interactive] - Since it has been quite some time since Left 4 Dead and its sequel were released way back when, people like me have been jonesing for something more modern that could attempt to scratch that itch. Given that the Switch shooter ecosystem is limited to begin with, up to this point people without access to a PC or another console have really had few choices available to them. Finally, World War Z (yes, based on the world from the movie) has shown up to try to satisfy the need to blow away the flesh-eating undead and… it’s OK. Since I’ve played hundreds of hours of Left 4 Dead and its sequel on PC and now Back 4 Blood as well, cutting back my expectations to look at a more humble attempt on the far less powerful Switch has been a challenge. There’s no denying that visually everything is a bit pixelated and muddy, which is disappointing, but I’ll at least note that for the most part the frame rate at least feels pretty decent, even if the general pace of the game being slower to begin with probably helps in this regard. My biggest complaint is just the lack of oomph to things, especially when it comes to the weapons and their sounds. The sounds of explosions and super-powerful weapons are plain anemic and I didn’t understand how much that adds to the experience before playing this compared to the other franchises I’ve enjoyed. That said, if the Switch is your only gaming option, and you’ve got some friends who are ready to join in on the fun, it’s a very tight race between this and Earthfall: Alien Horde (each having their own merits) for which is the best on the console.

Stilstand [Niila Games] - Life is hard, there’s no question. While usually games are a terrific escape to help you forget your problems, Stilstand instead steers right into the slide to share a vision of someone who is hopefully having a tougher time than you are but can likely sympathize with. Suffering from a mix of anxiety, depression, and what feels like an inherently self-destructive nature, you’ll follow the main character’s struggles through a few different social situations and try desperately to help steer her away from trouble as much as you can. Her periodic discussions with her inner self are often insightful and interesting, but given the pretty brief runtime (likely less than an hour for most people) unfortunately it’s all over right as you’re getting invested in her struggles. Absolutely unique, and for some people possibly quite relatable, it’s an interesting but brief slice of life with someone saddled with real issues.

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