Tuesday, February 15

Mini Reviews: February 15th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

OlliOlli World [roll7] (Nindie Choice!) - Given the overall lack of sports-oriented titles on the Switch in general, let alone from indie developers, it’s always a blessing to get something new to check out on the system. OlliOlli Switch Stance was a great reminder of the well-known series, delivering crisp and challenging play, but also feeling more like a satisfying appetizer than a real meal. With World, it feels like roll7 has decided to really swing for the fences and create something that marries its rock-solid and satisfying core gameplay with higher-end production values, design, and diversity… and for the most part they really knock it out of the park. Sporting a thoroughly stylized and unique look, a great soundtrack, and challenges to your board skills, reaction times, and sense of creativity everything really comes together to hopefully help propel an indie darling to greater mainstream success. I will note that the animations in the cutscenes and dialogue at times feel a bit janky somehow, and I’m not positive that’s intentional, but thankfully when you’re hitting the pavement to play everything is as tight and smooth as ever. There’s no doubt a certain well-known major franchise available on the Switch is still the king, but it’s impressive how quickly the OlliOlli team has worked to close the gap, sporting plenty of personality and fun to accompany the satisfying play they’ve always had a firm grip on.

Ocean’s Heart [Nordcurrent] (Nindie Choice!) - When you’re looking to emulate a known quantity, especially when it’s a Nintendo franchise on a Nintendo system, you know the risk you’re taking. While many indie titles get pretty beat up in their quest to do their inspirations justice, others like Ocean’s Heart instead come out with some scrapes but proving to be a joy in their own right. If you’re familiar with the likes of the classic Link to the Past there will no doubt be some moments of deja vu playing this title. To its credit, while it may lack that revered first-party polish in terms of the visuals and overall play style, the emphasis here is a bit more on a simply pleasant overall experience that will throw some decent combat, exploration, discovery, and puzzle-solving your way. Throw in a self-assuredness in the quality of its own lore and sense of flavor that manage to feel pretty fresh and it’s a very affordable action RPG that should be a joy for retro fans.

PowerSlave Exhumed [Night Dive Studios] - Retro shooters are always a bit of a challenge to evaluate through modern eyes, especially when they’re ones you didn’t happen to check out back when they were in their heyday. Though I played and enjoyed quite a number of FPS titles back in the day, many of them with elements similar to what I found in Exhumed, there’s just something buried in the details of how it executes that doesn’t speak to me. In terms of the fluidity of the conversion bringing it to Switch the good news is that it controls well and mechanically seems to be fine, though no in-game instruction on the controls did initially make for some needless confusion since the scheme wasn’t quite intuitive. With that in mind, if you were a fan of the game back in the day you’ll probably be quite pleased with how it has turned out on the Switch. If, however, you aren’t a built-in fan of the original I’d exercise some caution since it feels to me like the game made some design choices that range from a bit odd to sometimes baffling. An abundance of small and annoying enemies jumping about fail to generate excitement, I’d consider the level design a bit on the odd side, and just on a general level I don’t feel the intensity and clever beats of other old school shooters that did a better job of hooking you early so you’d be sure to stick around for the rest of the ride. If you were a fan back in the day I don’t doubt the conversion will make you happy but for everyone else I’d say it’s more likely a miss.

KungFu Kickball [WhaleFood Games] - I’ll admit that the promise of this game had me quite intrigued when I first saw it. With some cool character and stage art, slick tunes, and the thought of mixing a bit of fighting with sports it seemed to have quite a bit of potential. Unfortunately, in practice, while the element of cool is still there the gameplay really comes up short with a marked lack of variety and nuance. With the likes of Windjammers and even Dodgeball Academia out there, boasting a strong set of moves, some marked differences between characters, and tight gameplay, KungFu Kickball comes across as a bit dull with its pretty large arenas that are unfortunately also quite empty. Pair that with your pretty limited move set that is almost entirely identical across characters and pretty quickly it feels like you sort of hit a wall in terms of variety in gameplay. Granted, the different arenas at least do a solid job of providing some challenges with their different layouts, but in the end it still doesn’t bring enough to the table as a whole to be memorable against some deeper choices out there already.

Broken Blades [Golden Eggs Studio] - The roguelike has certainly come into its own in this console generation, slowly moving from the fringes with a smattering of attempts in different genres to legitimacy now with a host of top-tier titles… but getting the formula right isn’t always an easy task. Broken Blades plays more like an early roguelike, sort of in the vein of the likes of the classic Rogue Legacy in terms of raw gameplay, but also stripped back pretty significantly in terms of complexity and polish. I suppose challenge fiends on a budget may dig into the very rough early stages as you come to grips with the limited control scheme and difficulty in attaining upgrades that will be preserved past the current run, but more often than not it feels like an experience with an abundance of stick but no real carrot in sight. Things do improve as you progress but the barrier to getting there without much in the way of variety, just the ever-present sting of failure (and, frankly, dullness), makes this a tough one to recommend.

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