Friday, May 13

Mini Reviews: May 13th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe [Crows Crows Crows] (Nindie Choice!) - Among the indie games I’ve greatly enjoyed on PC over the years and have wondered when they would make their way to Switch, The Stanley Parable was one of my last holdouts, so I’m thrilled it is finally here. Not only that, even for people who’ve enjoyed its very unique experience, this Ultra Deluxe Edition has thrown in some further value adds to discover as you reacquaint yourself with its unusual style. The challenge to reviewing the game, and even in showing too much gameplay video for it, is that the best way to experience it is to know as little as possible aside from the fact that its approach is both familiar and unconventional, and if you’re someone like me who takes great joy in defying the obvious flow in games, determined to either find secrets or even break the game if it comes to that, it’s an experience that absolutely has you in mind and will reward you handsomely for those inclinations. If you’re still on the fence I’d say scan the general scores for the game elsewhere, being careful not to read too much, and see that it has many fans and I assure you they’re all well-earned. If you do take the plunge, get ready to laugh, subvert, experiment, and then subvert some more for good measure. This is a unique title that should be on the list of anyone who knows and loves games.

Citizen Sleeper [Jump Over The Age] (Nindie Choice!) - As regulars probably know well by now, I don’t tend to be a fan of visual novels and even sometimes struggle with titles that are too heavily text-driven, but when they’re done right it’s almost impossible not to take notice. Spinning a very future-forward sci-fi tale of fighting for survival in a remote space station, Citizen Sleeper absolutely won’t be for anyone looking for action or who despises games where the majority of the experience is simply focused on reading. The critical difference here is that the story is an original one, full of details and a variety of characters that really come alive as you read on. What then takes things to the next level is the challenge you’ll face in choosing how to make the most of what are usually tough circumstances to string yourself alive and make progress. This won’t be something you’ll master quickly, and at first each roll of the virtual dice you’ll need to make use of to complete critical tasks can feel like they’re working against you. However, as you begin to wrap your arms around how best to make use of the time and opportunities you have and begin to talk to the right people, new avenues ripe with potential will continue to reveal themselves… leaving you the challenging choice of how you wish to proceed. With its very old-school text-based adventure feel, this is a game that really managed to speak to me, and if you’re down to get wrapped up in an often challenging sci-fi world it shouldn’t disappoint.

Eiyuden Chronicles: Rising [Rabbit & Bear Studios] - One of the things that can make it hard to fairly score and evaluate indie games is trying to figure out who they were made for and to be sure to keep that in mind. Rising feels like a title where that’s an important consideration because while it has the look of a pretty traditional 16-bit JRPG I don’t think that’s the crowd it’s meant for either necessarily. Playing out more like a classic side-scrolling adventure, the combat here is action-focused and as you move along and start to use your party’s link combos to score devastating damage it can get more involved as well. It’s one of those tricky sorts of combat, too, where it can feel really easy… until it isn’t, so you’ve been warned. When looking at the story, the cavalcade of characters, and your consistent log of quests to complete to help build up your town from ruin the RPG roots do come through, but in general it stays simpler and more surface level. Consistent with the fact that this title is a prelude to the future Eiuyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes it ultimately just feels like the beginning of something, and while it may enrich the experience once you get to that title it does leave this one feeling a bit lacking. This may make it a tougher call for more traditional RPG fans looking for greater depth, but for the price if you’re just looking for an attractive adventure that has a bit more structure than the norm it still isn’t a bad deal.

Nirvana [RedDeerGames] - At times there are games that I load up in my Switch that I can’t really understand, either that I’m not sure what the developer’s goal was, or who it’s really being made for, among other things. When it comes to Nirvana Pilot Yume you can put me down for roughly all the above. There’s a weirdo sci-fi visual novel aspect to it, though more often than not the lack of almost any nuance or depth in the game’s characters make that a tough leg to stand on. Then there’s the somewhat retro racing aspect, which perhaps could have made it all worthwhile, but the controls aren’t just limited for it, they’re almost a complete mess. With brakes that seem to take an eternity to have any effect and steering that would best be described as poor, the result is a feeling that completing any given course has been more of an exercise in memorizing the course and having the stubborn willingness to keep slogging on more than skill. The result is a hot mess, and though perhaps having some of the female characters flaunting themselves in skimpy outfits and posing may garner interest for some I’d even say that’s a miss. It’s creepy enough to likely put off most but also then doesn’t likely go far enough to satisfy the people who may crave that sort of thing. Even at a low-budget price I’d still consider it a pass.

Marble Maid [Shady Corner Games] - As a long-time fan of the Super Monkey Ball series, which I haven’t had a decent fix with for a little while, Marble Maid is a title that looked right up my alley. In many ways similar to the well-known series, you’ll take control of your tarted up (we’ll get to that) little anime maid trying to work your way around some challenging courses, being sure to vanquish any dust bunnies that you encounter. In principle the gameplay does work, but even a short time spent with the title shows the substantial gaps in smart level design and polish between this and the series that inspired it. Swinging a bit wildly between too basic and weirdly challenging it’s not always the courses themselves that kill you but the clock. From stage to stage the swing in difficulty to get everything collected and to your goal feels inconsistent at best, and there are some where it feels quite unfair as there are multiple reasons you could get held up along the way. This changes the feel from generally light and breezy fun to a variety of frustrations, and it veers pretty wildly away from the path you may be anticipating in that regard. Then there’s the unlockable content… which I suppose you could choose to ignore, but just feels gross honestly. As it is the main character is pretty needlessly sexed up but the art goes so much further and really ends feeling like compensation for deficient gameplay.

Thursday, May 5

Mini Reviews: May 5th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Eastward [Pixpil] (Nindie Choice!) - When it comes to pixel art action-adventures the normal standard that is compared against would be The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. What’s typically more impressive is when games forgo the comparison, simply delivering a fantastic experience with their own sense of style. That’s what Eastward has really done, somehow feeling familiar with its smart two-person puzzle designs, evolving character capabilities, and consistent surprises as you make your way along your journey. If you’re interest is mostly in keeping things moving and full of compelling combat you’ll likely be a bit disappointed, as there’s a very slow and deliberate pace to the game, but if you keep moving along your patience will be rewarded with consistent quality in the form of engaging puzzles and what’s often a touching story. While I’ve played a fair number of well-made action adventures that have helped several hours pass with solid play, Eastward really stands out above the bulk of that crowd as something with more ambition, polish, and an essence all its own that makes it something special in the eShop.

Arise: A Simple Story [Piccolo] (Nindie Choice!) - While my fondest memories of great Switch titles tend to focus on games that are more on the more gameplay-focused side there’s something to be said for the ones that instead leave a contemplative mark. What’s terrific are those titles that manage to do a little bit of both, keeping you engaged with smart and well-executed gameplay while pulling at your heart and Arise most certainly accomplishes that. Mixing smart and typically quite creative puzzle platforming that often rewards you for straying from the obvious path to find hidden memories with a touching implied story, the blend between the two manages to effectively ping pong back and forth at a satisfying pace that keeps you sucked in and consistently deciding to give it just a few more minutes. While some could argue it doesn’t linger quite as long as they’d like I’d say it’s still a very satisfying and well-executed bite of excellence that knows how to tell its story effectively without overstaying its welcome.

Get Packed: Couch Chaos [Moonshine Studios] - The Switch certainly has its share of local co-op games to sort through if you like playing with your family and friends and, truth be told, in many ways my family and I have found getting new ones to be exhausting more often than not since so many of them fall into common and predictable patterns that struggle to satisfy. While Get Packed may share some DNA with the excellent Moving Out, what surprised us was how well it managed to deviate from that same course by inserting far more silliness into the mix, ultimately making for what was often a more chaotic and laugh-filled time. Sure, you could try to focus on getting out all of the traditional furniture in a careful and responsible way… but why not just go full-speed, forgetting about the damage, simply hoping that quantity over quality works out in the end. But it’s really some of the bonus objectives like trying to load a car for moving, which takes some real work, but also immediately had everyone in my family committed to the task, cheering when we somehow managed to get just enough of the front-end into the truck for it to count. It’s really those moments, as well as one that cropped up in the multiple oddball mini games, that made this relatively modest investment multiplayer game a winner, even if it also left us wishing there was more content to enjoy.

Wildcat Gun Machine [Chunkybox Games] - As a massive fan of twin-stick shooters in their many forms on the Switch, or anywhere else, any new entrant into the arena is always met with some excitement. With a certain sense of visual flair, Wildcat Gun Machine definitely has some appeal when you look at its art or even at gameplay in screen shots. In action? Well, maybe not as much. Granted, perhaps my bar for intensity and excitement in the genre is a bit on the high side but honestly there are so many solid ones out there on the eShop I’ve sort of come to take that for granted. Wildcat Gun Machine simply operates on its own gear, at its own pace, and for me that left me antsy as I was playing it for more. Yes, even with the slower pacing it can get to be challenging, especially since you’ll get to the point where you’re needing to evade shots from a number of directions at once, but while that may suit people who aren’t as accomplished in the genre I would imagine most die hards will find it on the dull side. Throw in the fact that at times the isometric 3D view can work against it, with characters or action being obscured in certain spots, and there’s a certain lack of spit polish even to what’s otherwise a stylish presentation. If you’re newer to shooters or normally find them a bit overwhelming this may be worth a look though.

Ravenous Devils [Bad Vices Games] - As a fan of morbid humor and the movie Sweeney Todd, the devilish and somewhat brutal Ravenous Devils has some appeal to me. While you may have seen or played time management sims before, I assure you nothing has quite had this sort of flavor to it, at least in the theming. You’ll control a fiendish couple who has set up shop in a new city, managing a pair of businesses, a small eatery on the ground floor and a tailor above. Given the scarcity and cost of resources this industrious pair has found that the best path to financial success simply requires a little murder. With the husband making kills, and then salvaging their clothes to repair and resell, throwing the body down to his wife in the basement to grind up and prepare to serve, they’ve got quite the system going… but it appears that someone is on to them, which makes for a bit of a suspenseful story thread to try to prop up interest. The one issue is that while you will have opportunities to refine, expand, and make your endeavors more efficient there’s not much you can do to avoid what gets to be a bit of a grind flipping between each person, kicking off a task, and then going back to the other to try to maximize every moment you can. If you don’t mind the repetition the theme and story will help reward your efforts, but otherwise your interest may be short-lived.