Wednesday, December 1

Mini Reviews: December 1st Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Archvale [Idoz, idoz & phops] (Nindie Choice!) -
This is just one of those titles that’s hard to describe in a way that gives it justice, a sort of retro-looking twin-stick slasher/shooter adventure that has some RPG elements, and will involve you needing to periodically do some intense dodging. See, I told you it was tough, I think it’s one of those games that’s easier to describe simply watching it. Your gear is vital to your success, whether purchased or crafted, and the meandering layout of the map will definitely have you regularly warping back and forth between points as you go since it isn’t unusual to find yourself heavily outclassed at the end of a given path or within a dungeon. At times I do wish the game did a better job at providing some guidance, as early on I found myself wondering what I was supposed to be doing or where I was supposed to go, but once you accept there’s not going to be much direction you just roll with it. While perhaps the experience could use some polish to bring it all together a bit more, the reasonably-low price of admission does fit well with its no-frills approach, delivering satisfying twin-stick combat where you can use some pretty diverse and powerful weapons, and generally maintaining a tough-but-fair degree of challenge throughout. A nice change of pace and bit of fun marrying some classic adventure elements with more rigorous and intense shooter-like combat.

Asterix & Obelix: Slap Them All! [Mr. Nutz Studio] (Nindie Choice!) - While the genre struggled in the early days on the Switch, the beat-em-up has proven to be alive and well on the Switch, including some titles I’d consider genre-defining that have arrived over the last 2 years. Asterix and Obelix, taken from the French comic, are characters I’m not at all familiar with so I can’t comment on their use here, though I will note their personalities as well as the unusual characters they interact with in the story, do provide a decent basis for light humor. Gameplay-wise you’ll be dealing with the contrast between the smaller and more precise Asterix and the much larger and brawling Obelix, though since the controls are the same for each at a high level they perform similarly. The play tends to be pretty traditional, though perhaps a bit light on overall strategy compared to some more accomplished titles, but I do appreciate the inclusion of some secret spots on the periphery you can find and that help to encourage exploring the space. Playable solo or with a buddy what strikes me most is that within the genre this may be the most stripped down but still enjoyable titles I’ve played in the space, and with the co-op I could see this being a great title to play with a younger or less experienced gamer, helping to bring them into the fold a bit more gently. It isn’t the most complex or satisfying brawler out there by a fair margin, but there’s something to be said for its sense of humor and accessibility that many of its brethren lack.

Armed to the Gears [Deonn Software ltd] - Who doesn’t like a game where you’re in control of a mech, armed with guns and missiles capable of tearing some stuff up? Well, before getting too excited you’ll want to know this particular title is in need of some parts and maybe an overhaul in places. My first challenge was just simply aiming using the right stick, since I assumed it was just a twin-stick shooter setup… something I could immediately rock with. Nope, you’re instead controlling a free-moving reticle that I suppose works better for aiming your artillery but is more often than not an annoyance when trying to aim your guns accurately. In theory the target lock-on would help but in practice I found it more trouble than it was worth. Once you’ve got a handle on that it becomes a matter of coming to terms with this being a hybrid of shooting action and tower defense, meaning you’ll need to split your time between setting up things like gun turrets or missile launchers, perhaps repairing them as well, before supplementing with your own direct firepower. I suppose once I had a grasp on what I needed to do (noting that the in-game information is limited, making this tougher than it had to be) the game did become more approachable, and had its moments, but the mix just never delivered a sense of destructive satisfaction I was hoping for, more just some challenges to pass the time.

Real Boxing 2 [Vivid Games] - The sheer lack of fighting games on the Switch, let alone games representing boxing specifically, certainly opens the door to opportunity for developers determined to give it a shot. While Real Boxing 2 does a decent job of getting some of the basics down, delivering the jabs, wraps, and uppercuts you’d expect in a boxer (complete with a little room for flair as well) it also struggles a bit in some key areas, keeping it from being a go-to game even with a lack of competition in the space. The main issue, overall, is that everything feels unpolished and rough. The controls take some getting used to, especially since they generally feel overly complicated using both joysticks as well as some face buttons to deliver punches, but it is easy for this to end up feeling muddled when you’re in the thick of things. The mini games for training to get your fighter into better shape are also a bit of a mess, with one stand-out issue being indicators for buttons you’re supposed to quickly press using different colors at times, some of which makes them hard to read against the background of the environment. If you’re hard up for a boxer, with some effort you’ll probably get some enjoyment from it, but be warned it doesn’t feel like a real contender.

Crazy Trucks [Marionette Games] - Before beginning this review I’ll note that, in principle, there’s nothing wrong with an arcade-style racer whose controls are a bit loose and wild… in fact, they can sometimes be fun. With that in mind I’ll note that Crazy Trucks, unfortunately, pushes well past the fun line and into the baffling with its inconsistent physics, somewhat plentiful modes that span too many re-used environments, and struggles to inspire fun. At the core of any racing experience is what it feels like to control your vehicle and the worst sin here is that your monster truck feels almost floaty in the air, turns poorly on most any weirdly-frictioned surface, and can somehow lose a battle in a collision with something as insignificant as a traffic cone. Sure, there can be some liberties with “arcade” racing but it’s the inconsistency here that’s aggravating, and it brings everything down with it. Sure, with some friends there can be some fun since everyone is on the same page, flailing around a track to collect something, knock a ball around, or simply suffer in parallel, but there’s not much to redeem this no-frills experience.

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