Friday, February 18

Mini Reviews: February 18th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Infernax [Berzerk Studio] (Nindie Choice!) - Retro games looking to take on the rough look and feel of classics like Castlevania are always going to face a bit of an uphill battle. Stay too close to the formula and the experience gets hit for being derivative, stray too far afield and you risk alienating the audience who’s looking for some old-school fun. Somehow Infernax very effectively walks this fine line with an overall feel that hits the NES-era vibes but also has enough variation, personality, and some seriously gnarly enemies and art that it absolutely sets itself apart throughout. Be warned, even on the more casual setting you won’t be spared from some tough situations you’ll need to work through, so much like the games from that era you’ll find yourself starting over a bit as you try to work out how best to survive the onslaught, but then breaking through with success also always feels sweeter in the process as well. If you’ve got a hankering for some unapologetic vintage Castlevania feels in a slightly more modern package Infernax is absolutely going to be your jam.

Dino Galaxy Tennis [Forever Entertainment] (Nindie Choice!) - With the general lack of sports games in the indie space on the Switch you can bet any new titles making an appearance will get an extra look. At first glance, Dino Galaxy Tennis is a bit of an oddity, working out a bit like a modern version of Pong, but once you advance the story a bit you begin to see the potential. The first key challenge is the curve of the surface you’re needing to run across, that actually adds a surprising bit of depth to your movement, and in order to get balls heading for the edges of your side you’ll likely need to make careful use of your dash. Since hitting balls in the air gives you a bit more power, trying to master your jump and the use of the jetpack also adds a layer to things. Then throw in power-ups and other complications that accompany different stages and it takes on even more challenges, though in truth at the core either you buy into enjoying this take on a sport or you don’t, in many ways reminding me of Windjammers. Throw in the ability to play co-op or against friends and there’s some flavor here to enjoy if you’re of the right mindset and understand its limitations for deep variety going in.

Dynasty Warriors 9: Empires [Koei Tecmo Games] - In terms of the crazy and chaotic musou genre I’m still getting up to speed, but I’ll admit that when the action gets into a groove I tend to find it to be a pretty good time. Even with a somewhat limited number of titles in that style under my belt though, specifically with Dynasty Warriors 9 I think I’m familiar enough to see that it has some weaknesses. Whether its some quirks in the performance when too many warriors get onto the screen, the fact this particular mix of fighting action and strategy elements leaves both feeling a bit unsatisfying, or the rocky road to getting acquainted with everything when the tutorial leaves loads of topics unaddressed it’s hard not to feel the experience is lacking in some polish. Worse, the main competitor that feels like it points out many of Empires’ shortcomings comes from the same studio in the form of the much more refined and excellent Samurai Warriors 5 from last year. If you’re a big fan of the style or the series there’s plenty of content here to latch onto, but among the multiple choices available to you on the Switch this feels like it’s in contention for being the weakest as an overall package.

Egglia Rebirth [Brownies] - While I normally think of games coming over to the Switch from mobile roots as being puzzlers or some more commonly-casual genre, every once in a while you get a surprise. That’s certainly the case with Egglia Rebirth, a sort of RPG, sort of board game, sort of strategy title that has a great art style and characters but a somewhat unusual mix of gaming styles. Aside from the relevant question of whether or not there’s any inherent advantage to this being played on a dedicated gaming console and not a mobile device (I really can’t think of any) I think that Egglia suffers from coming to Switch without sufficiently shedding its mobile roots, resulting in a moderately pricey title that’s still hamstrung by timed unlocks and other elements you’d associate with free-to-play fare where they’re trying to needle you for extra cash or get you to watch ads to speed things up. Throw in the fact that everything is on the lighter side to the point that the bite-sized stages and elements for you to work through are without any real substance and it feels like a very attractive but shallow misfire on the Switch amongst far more compelling titles with more robust gameplay.

The Song Out of Space [Ratalaika Games] - Games that are heavily driven by stories can take a lot of different forms and also tend to be a mixed bag. In the case of The Song Out of Space there’s a bit more interest than usual as not only does the story involve quite a bit of brutal violence (though mostly just described or seen in heavily-pixelated form), potentially some aliens, and the FBI… there’s also and a healthy dose of 70’s era misogyny on display as well. That said, for every bullet point in the list that could pull some people in it could also turn others away so it’s hard to say whether there’s a universal perspective on whether putting all of this together is effective or not. I do appreciate the weirdness of it all, and the ability to make some pretty entertaining dialogue choices at times, but there are also times where the formula doesn’t work as well and it can slow a bit or lose its way for a spell. If you’re a fan of brutal mysteries with a twist of The X-Files and some old-school sexism it may be a great fit, otherwise you’ll need to play it by ear.

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