Friday, January 28

Mini Reviews: January 28th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Kinduo [Ratalaika Games] - Budget puzzle games are a bit of a “dime a dozen” proposition on the Switch eShop these days, but when they’re made well and with a decent hook they’re still able to grab my attention. The teamwork required in Kinduo between your one electrically-powered character and your stumpier block-pushing one may not be completely original, but it’s hard to deny that it’s generally easy to understand and it simply works well with its slow-and-steady difficulty progression. The fact that you’re then able to either split the duties between you and a friend, or just as easily tackle it solo, is definitely an added perk as well and simply makes this humble offering all the more appealing if you’re a fan of puzzle titles and don’t have much to spend.

Luminous Avenger iX 2 [Inti Creates] - More than anything else with the Luminous Avenger titles, you could never say they aren’t visually stunning with their pixel art. It’s hard not to marvel at it as things get rolling, and there’s even a fair amount of excitement initially when you start wielding your buzzsaw-like weapon and bisecting your enemies with a vengeance. Throw in a mix of quick dashes, some tricky traversals at times to get at secrets, a powerful auto-targeting attack you’ll need to get well-acquainted with, and a powerful and somewhat cinematic special and there’s no shortage of flair to be found here. Challenge though, aside from simply trying to max out your rank and score?!? Not so much. The ever-present ability to heal at any time is a bit weird, and actually feels like a bit of lazy design where the stages weren’t tuned well enough to place heals a bit sparingly and push players to do well enough to earn them. Nope, you can request a heal at any time, even if it does ruin your combo multiplier. Then there’s the pretty limited amount of overall content, allowing you to plow through in less than a handful of hours yet even within the first hour or so you’ll really start feeling the lack of variety as you dispatch more and more enemies without much room for changing things up and keeping them fresh. Folks who are more fond of sexy visual flourishes and style over gameplay substance may still get a kick out of this, but if you prefer something a bit more meaty and satisfying it will likely leave you feeling under-nourished.

Vagante [Nuke Nine] - Roguelikes can be really tricky to evaluate as their often inherent challenge is an addiction for some but can obviously put others off. I’m not averse to being challenged in the least, but there’s something to be said for finding a balance in things with some risk / reward and great character capabilities that can help you cut through that with diligence and skill. Vagante is a tough one, and not always in the best way. The combination of scale of your character and the action and the somewhat dark dungeon settings in particular make handheld play quite impractical, but even on a larger screen the low-res details can be hard to make out and that can be problematic. That issue then sort of cascades into a bigger complaint I have and that’s the abundance of insta-kill traps that are peppered about, and will stop your run cold no matter how well you may be doing. Mix this issue with the lack of visual clarity in places and makes for quite a crippling combination. I also had smaller, but still irksome, complaints like it not being very simple to do something like switch your class intuitively between runs, but those are obviously less critical even if aggravating. On the whole challenge fiends may still dig gritting their teeth through some tense runs but for everyone else it’s probably a bit too cruel for consideration.

Warshmallows [You Run Ltd] - Indie developers and the Switch have definitely revitalized the local multiplayer space over the years, but the challenge has been for titles in that wave to differentiate themselves. Competitive multi-platform shooters have been one of the fun variants, but it in particular has been plagued with many titles sporting similar mechanics. In this particular area, to its credit, Warshmallows manages to set itself apart (at least somewhat) with a fair variety of moves, weapons, and specials that help matches from being so predictable. Where I think it runs into some trouble, though, is a few areas where it saw opportunities to do something new but the result may not have been so hot in practice. The first is that because it features larger-than-normal arenas the camera tends to zoom in and out during the match, trying to optimize your view. This can be as much of a hindrance as a help though as action, including people randomly shooting in your direction, is still happening out of your immediate view and strategically it can make setting plans in motion tough when you can’t see where everyone else is. The other nice feature that sort of backfires is a slowdown which happens when bullets get close to a character, of course needing to happen in parallel for everyone. This can get distracting when the action is intense, affecting the jumping or shooting plan you’re in the middle of, and seems to have as many negatives as positives. Credit to the developers for swinging for the fences to be different, but its successes aren’t without their downsides.

Jack ‘N’ Hat [2Awesome Studio] - This is one of those indies where I can appreciate what they were setting out to do but the final implementation just doesn’t quite deliver the experience they’d aimed for. In several areas feeling very inspired by a classic platformer that will not be named, the bones of the design may be derivative but they’re at least familiar. One issue with choosing an inspiration so iconic though is that it has a tendency to get people to up their expectations for the overall experience, and though Jack ‘N’ Hat at least tries to innovate some to spice things up, there’s no mistaking that the pacing and general controls simply come up short. There’s a sluggishness and bit of imprecision to the controls, and while you can get used to them on some level they never really click in as great. In addition, some of the more interesting abilities you acquire take some time to get to, so while they do present more compelling late-game challenges the road to get there is, by comparison, more bland and unsatisfying. If you have the patience to get to “the good stuff” this isn’t a bad budget platformer overall, but there are enough missteps that it’s tougher to recommend with enthusiasm.

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