Wednesday, February 23

Mini Reviews: February 23rd Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Sol Cresta [PlatinumGames] (Nindie Choice!) - If you’re an old-school arcade shooter fan the Nintendo Switch was already bordering on a dream console. Now, with the addition of Sol Cresta, yet another pretty unique piece of a surprisingly diverse picture representing the genre has continued to make it even better. My exposure to the series is pretty limited, while I’d played Moon Cresta way back in the day it didn’t really speak to me. After having the entire Cresta series lineage laid out to open I feel sufficiently caught up in terms of the series surprisingly-rich lore (though let’s face it, arcade shooters pretty well never had any) so that left me to grasp the gameplay element that makes it unique, namely the ability to reshuffle your 3 ship types and recombine them for different effects. This makes for a pretty intricate and interesting ballet of trying to keep up with shooting enemy ships while trying to grab every potential power-up and opportunity to score, shooting and switching out ships so you can match the colors of boxes, rings, or shielded enemies you can encounter. It’s a bit overwhelming at first but pretty quickly it feels surprisingly intuitive, if always a bit awkward when you’re trying to do it in a rush. To the game’s credit, though the root experience is pretty common with different shot styles, enemies swarming through in different formations and flight patterns, and challenging bosses, this stacking mechanic absolutely makes it stand out… for better or worse. If you enjoy classic shooters but are looking to kick the challenge up a notch with an added layer of craziness to take into account Sol Cresta absolutely delivers that. If you’re more casually into shooters, even though you can adjust the difficulty, it may be a bit too intense compared to other options in the eShop.

Zorya: The Celestial Sisters [Madlife Divertissement] - The Switch has been a real boon to fans of co-op gaming with the convenience of the joycon baked into even the base console, and that has yielded some interesting and very different experiences. Zorya is a bit unique in many regards, really feeling like a story-forward experience and placing a real emphasis on helping to define the game’s two main characters, their world, and their history. Honestly, the lengthiness of the stories in between stages really put my wife off, though I would imagine this could be considered a plus to others. In terms of the play, first unlike many other co-op games there’s currently no option to go it alone, controlling both characters. Given the need to do things in parallel as you progress this does make sense, just keep it in mind when considering the title. You do have the option to play with someone locally or online, which is a plus, though given the intricacy of the necessary coordinated movement at times I would imagine not having someone right there with you could really turn the game into a struggle. One character controls the sister associated with the night, Aysu, while the other named Solveig will take somewhat limited control of the sun, casting different shadows on the environment as you shift in the sky. Getting the hang of this, and then working together to avoid tragedy, may be a bit harder than you’d think. Specifically you don’t have full control over the placement of the sun in the sky, usually requiring a bit of trial and error as your friend tries to wait patiently for you to work it out. It’s absolutely a different and more involved co-op game compared to the norm, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a home run of a choice either.

Gem Wizards Tactics [Keith Burgun Games] - I’m not sure that in any other generation before now I’ve ever seen a greater number of or variety in tactical strategy games. Whether going the more elaborate route in turn-based RPGs, more minimalist with deckbuilders of certain types, or simply more stripped down to focus more on the combat than story there has been a fair amount of variety. Gem Wizards Tactics sort opts for the stripped down approach, though with a battlefield a bit larger than the likes of something like Into the Breach. To its credit, the selection of different units you’ll work with and against feel a bit different than the run-of-the-mill sort you might typically run into, and that does make for some cool challenges. That said, there’s just something about how you interact with the interface with your controller that isn’t quite right and can be a bit aggravating as you try to get accustomed to it that is more problematic than I can recall in other games in the subgenre. If you’re a real tactics fan it may have some real appeal for its slightly different approach to things, but I wouldn’t recommend it for people looking to give the genre a try or who are just occasional fans, in the end I’d consider it missable for the average gamer.

Red Colony 3 [Shinyuden] - The Red Colony series has never really been known for subtlety, but if you’re into zombies, dinosaurs, B-movie plots and dialogue, and heaving bosoms you could certainly entertain yourself with them. Rather than simply stick with the same setting and general feel of the first 2, the third in the series puts you into a bit of a new situation, though in principle the gameplay remains the same. Try your best to avoid altercations, scavenge what you can for weapons or health, work out puzzles to progress, and watch your character’s clothes slowly get shredded off of her as she jiggles, shimmies, and crawls through tight spots and tough situations. The tough part is when it comes to the value proposition. If you’re a fan of the first 2 this may be a fun pick-up but keep in mind that aside from some details very little has changed, but if you never thought the games looked appealing before there’s absolutely nothing here that’s going to pull you in. Definitely a very genre game made for what is no-doubt an appreciative, though probably pretty narrow, audience

Pendula Swing: The Complete Journey [Valiant Game Studio AB] - While I’m thrilled that the classic point-and-click adventure has made a roaring comeback in this generation, in particular the implementation of controls when you’re not making use of a mouse has stood out as a visible challenge for developers. Pendula Swing, in principle, has an interesting start of a premise with your character who has lost quite a bit in life and trying to cope in an unusual world reminiscent of the Roaring 20s but with a bunch of fantasy beings of all sorts instead of only humans. Where it stumbles, and unfortunately it does so in a pretty crippling way, is in the implementation of the controls. Movement is a bit awkward in feel but the killer issue is that highlighting people or things to interact with is a horrible mess. Other games have opted for using the triggers or a dedicated button for letting you see or cycle through anything you can interact to try to cope with this problem in a constructive way but unfortunately here you’ll find yourself moving back and forth or in circles just to get the highlight to show up and then hope you can stop before it disappears. There’s promise here but this technical issue is a tough one to overlook due to the frustrations it causes regularly.

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