Wednesday, December 8

Mini Reviews: December 8th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Sam & Max: Beyond Time and Space [Skunkape Games] (Nindie Choice!) -
Oh, Sam & Max, I simply can’t resist your weirdo humor, references, and charm. Once again the dysfunctional duo have been unleashed on the Switch to do what they do best: rapid-fire tell jokes about everything and everyone in sight (not all of them hit, but I’ll give them credit for a strong batting average nonetheless), make trouble, and consistently deliver new unexpected scenarios and weirdness. Moreso than even their last set of adventures on Switch the five chapters included here, opening with a confrontation with an unruly Santa mind you, change things up and put them in scenarios ripe with potential for silliness and their trademark hijinks. Certainly there are times where the controls aren’t as ideal using a controller as they would have been with a mouse, and there are puzzles that may involve some funky logic, but the enjoyment is really all about the ride and the tremendously funny dialogue along the way. If you’re in need of a good laugh and don’t mind checking everything in a room just to see what dialogue it may prompt this is a title that will reward your diligence consistently and with a fair amount of amusement.

Unreal Life [Hako Seikatsu] - Starting out as a young woman woken up with the aid of an AI-driven talking traffic light, disoriented, and apparently without any recollection of who or where you are, Unreal Life certainly comes out of the gate a bit weird. With some help from the said traffic light you do begin to piece some fragments together, in part through the discovery that you’re able to see moments of the past by touching objects in the environment. There’s no doubt it’s odd, but then relatively quickly some shocks and glimpses of a terrible incident pop into view and it’s hard not to get a bit hooked. It’s the game’s mixing of oddities like you befriending a traffic light or conversing with a penguin with some regularity but then veering into some pretty dark territory as well that help it stand out, but for those same reasons it won’t be for everyone.

Beyond a Steel Sky [Revolution Software] - Having never played the original, but certainly having played my fair share of old-school adventure titles, Beyond a Steel Sky definitely has an authentic feel consistent with the classic era but with some more modern trappings. Depending on your tastes this is a double-edged sword. If you’re more into the modern flow of things I’d say the pacing here, in particular, feels a bit on the slow to develop side, with a bit more time being wasted on average meandering and trying to determine what you need to do than the average contemporary adventure. The sense of humor is also a bit more understated, reflecting the more traditional adventures that didn’t adhere to the LucasArts mode, and that’s fine if you’re looking for more of the sci-fi vibes but on the whole I think much of the dialogue and characters end up being on the bland side. For people who revere the classics this is an odd amalgam of old and new that may be a thrill, sort of giving you a taste of both worlds at once. If you’re more of a modern fan I’d say it’s more of a crapshoot, and honestly I’d be more inclined to simply go with one of those remastered but authentic originals rather than trying out a hybrid that’s an attempt to recapture that feel to some degree, but not a true old-school experience.

Ever Forward [Pathea Games] - With its interesting mix of both naturalistic and harshly sparse aesthetics, a slowly-unfolding and somewhat sad story of a young girl and her very distracted mother, and unusual and stealthy puzzles Ever Forward does make an impression. More often than not the issue is that from time to time you’ll hit a particular puzzle that you’ll struggle mightily to overcome, and usually not from the execution side so much as being unsure what you’re even supposed to do. Granted, if you would prefer not to have a game holding your hand and want all leaps of logic to come from within this could be a major positive, but what’s usually confounding is that there is so little to work with mechanically that more often than not you’re left to bang your head against the wall as you’re stuck without even having many tools at your disposal to hope to work with. If you love to be challenged or are willing to seek out some help in order to enjoy the smoother patches and the story the game has some positives, but the severity of the spikes in difficulty without any sort of aid to ease them down is tough to overlook.

Castle on the Coast [Klabater] - This is simply an odd title that inspires some feelings of nostalgia for early 3D platforming, which can be a good thing, but that also then feels weirdly out of place as a new game on modern consoles. Adhering more to the old-school collect-a-thon model of level design, with a small variety of items from stars to flowers and more to pick up, I’ll credit the spaces you’re in with being busy and encouraging both exploration and experimentation. That also tends to make you a bit distracted, and it can make what little story there is suffer which can leave your journey, at times, feel a bit aimless. Mechanically the controls would best be described as loose, but in general they’re at least then forgiving, so all things considered it’s not so bad. That said, there are sections or elements you can interact with where they come across half-baked, either poorly implemented, noticeably janky, or simply lacking polish. I could see where this would work well for younger or less experienced gamers, letting them run about and simply enjoy the experience, but if you’re more seasoned it could go either way, inspiring memories of times past you may have enjoyed or would prefer to forget.

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