Thursday, December 30

Mini Reviews: December 30th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Lacuna [DigiTales Interactive] (Nindie Choice!) - I’ll admit that I tend to always be excited to check out an adventure with a noir sort of flavor, even if in the case of titles like Lacuna it happens to be mixed with a bit of futuristic sci-fi flavor. The main point of interest in the game, and what will likely either make you an instant fan or a bit turned off, is that the focus here is on making decisions and then really having to live with them. There’s no provision for quick-saving or loading an old save, so you’ll need to be much more mindful with the moves and accusations you may make, for fear of there being some negative repercussions for you down the road. While this works well to a degree, for me there’s also an element of aggravation with it, mainly because it makes it extremely hard to gauge which decisions may have had what influence on later events… and often I’d find myself questioning if there were any choices I’d made of real consequence at all. It’s a great conceit when you can feel the sting of a bad decision, but aside from loading it up from the start again and tracking your new decisions carefully it can make the road to outcomes a bit muddy. Trying to step away from my concerns in that area I do appreciate the attempt here to streamline the traditional point-and-click adventure experience, and it’s great for keeping things moving. I could see genre purists feeling a bit thrown off by the deviation from the norm. Overall, if you know what to expect going in, and are open to the challenge, it’s a compelling narrative adventure worth checking out though.

Gardener’s Path [Viridino Studios] - Considering the staggering number of indie budget puzzlers on the Switch, I don’t doubt trying to make one that stands out is a challenge. On the visual front I’ll at least credit Gardener’s Path with going to the effort to visually stand out with lush pixel art. In terms of gameplay it’s a bit more down the middle, not necessarily breaking ground with its mechanics, but at least throwing in a variety of objects with different behaviors that will regularly force you to change up your overall strategy. One critical flaw I'd say is that because it doesn't make great use of the screen real estate, with too much empty space around the edges, it does make the detail a bit of a pain to see in handheld mode. However, if you’re a fan of this style, it’s among the better overall implementations out there, but I think more than most tastes in the genre this one’s not as popular overall.

Horatio Goes Snowboarding [EastAsiaSoft] - Since the Switch has been pretty thin in the sporting games department, to a degree it’s exciting to see anything athletic coming the system’s way. Horatio Goes Snowboarding, unfortunately, isn’t going to deliver much of anything in terms of depth, but fans of more arcade-like experiences can still take solace in the fact that the basic gameplay it does offer is at least diverting… even if not likely for very long. Your goal is mostly straight-forward, simply wanting to get to the bottom of the hill you’ve been airdropped onto, and you’ll garner some extra points and prestige for managing to go between the periodic flags that have been set up or for weaving a little closely to obstacles like the trees that are procedurally laid out on the slopes. It’s not bad, and the further you manage to go the more complicated it will get to avoid wiping out, but sadly aside from simply trying to score higher on the leaderboard there’s really nothing else that it has to offer. Not bad for some cheap budget fun, but that’s about it.

Family Vacation 2: Road Trip [Ocean Media] - Some credit to the people behind this hidden object adventure of sorts, they’re at least trying to throw some variety into the mix. Rather than just statically move from area to area to find a simple list of objects the game throws some object collections (that don’t strictly tell you what to find, simply giving you a theme and silhouettes), small hidden areas, and connective tissue that’s a bit more like a point-and-click adventure at you. It’s a nice change of pace, but the implementation is also on the rocky side, especially where the more adventure-y elements come in, leaving you to sort of blindly move through their house trying to figure out where to go and what to do without much guidance. I could see how this could put off people who are simply showing up to find hidden objects, and the complications in simply doing so could be an impediment. Perhaps an option to streamline and simply work on the puzzles, or not simply letting people wander around would help out, but “as is” the game does work, but it’s just somewhat needlessly in its own way for being a casual title.

Pawn of the Dead [Forever Entertainment] - Not merely settling for being just a Chess simulation, I can at least respect Pawn of the Dead for trying to spice things up. By including a story, some zombies, and a campaign built around creating scenarios you must solve rather than just having people play endless games against the AI it does try to go the extra mile for value. Unfortunately, it’s also hard not to see some flaws and missed opportunities as well. Having been a fan of the classic Battle Chess waaaay back in the day, which made the game a bit more fun with its varied animations for different pieces taking each other out, the lack of any real in the animations here is a major letdown. More critically though is just the dark and pretty muddy presentation to everything. If you think the strategic hook sounds like fun though, and are willing to live with the warts, it’s at least unique on the eShop.

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