Friday, May 27

Mini Reviews: May 27th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Kao the Kangaroo [Tate Multimedia] (Nindie Choice!) - While there’s no question that the traditional mascot platformers for the most part went the way of the dinosaur quite some time ago, I’ll gladly admit that every once in a while it’s great to take one for a spin when well-executed. Never having played one of the Kao the Kangaroo titles before this one I can’t comment on whether it may live up to or exceed that legacy, but what I am more than happy to say is that despite some issues I had with bugs here and there (which are hopefully all in the process of being patched) this iteration of that classic genre formula feels pretty great going down. One thing I appreciate is that balance it has managed to find in offering up plenty of alternate routes and out-of-the-way items to grab without it feeling like an annoying collect-a-thon, undoubtedly an aspect of the genre that helped put it in the ground years ago. Between that and some solid stages that continue to offer up new enemy variations, traps, and obstacles the game continues along never getting too difficult, making it wonderfully approachable, but not erring too far on the side of being too much of a breeze either. While it may not be fighting in the same class as Mario and some other big-ticket franchises, lacking some of the variety and extra polish that come with them, Kao the Kangaroo is still a colorful and highly-enjoyable romp worth a look by just about anyone.

Gravitar: Recharged [Adamvision Studios] - There’s no question in my mind that Atari has done something wonderful going into their back catalog and rejuvenating what’s becoming quite a collection of their classics. That said, there’s also not much doubt that while there are titles everyone recognizes that have come out in the Recharged series there are also lesser-known outliers, and simply not all of the conversions have clearly been winners. I’d consider Gravitar somewhere in the middle on all counts, not a title I spent much time with back in the day, but one that was at least familiar. The modern incarnation does the original justice, keeping its focus but trying to give it some added dimension as well. Obviously the Recharged visual style suits it well, but while there are power-ups to be grabbed in spots (a staple featured of the Recharged titles), here they’re more sparsely available and generally not as essential. In the end it tends to focus more on your battle with relative gravity, your thrusters, and careful control of your ship. Certainly the obligatory addition of focused challenges help give it more depth, but this is definitely a title where you either understand (and dig) the core action or you don’t.

Touken Ranbu Warriors [Omega Force] - Having been only a recent inductee into the cult of Mosou titles, while I wouldn’t say I’m completely sold on the sub-genre I will agree that there’s something fun to them when you’re in the right mood. Unfamiliar with Touken Ranbu and its characters (which isn’t particularly surprising given its web-based roots from outside the US market) I walked into this intersectional Warriors title a bit on the confused side when it comes to the time-spanning story, but one advantage of this series is that in the end the story plays second fiddle to the action more often than not. Even without having played a great breadth of Musou games it isn’t too hard to see that this is a more basic outing, focusing more squarely on the action and requiring little to no commitment to a big picture strategy to find success. While that may make it a fair choice for newcomers to get a taste of the action I would also argue that its relative lack of variety in the weapons and styles employed by its heroes sells the overall Warriors franchise short by a bit, with pretty much all other titles I’ve played feeling deeper and richer by comparison. If you’re a true sub-genre fan it still may satisfy, but for everyone else I’d say stick to some other more satisfying Warriors titles out there on Switch.

Farm Tycoon [Sonka Games] - While strategy and simulation titles remain a staple in the PC space, more often than not they tend to struggle on consoles. Given the difference in using a keyboard and mouse versus the relative limitations of a controller by comparison it isn’t generally hard to understand why. Most often I’ve found these games on Switch have suffered from cumbersome controls and menus which simply haven’t translated well to a controller, and by far I’d say that’s the best thing Farm Tycoon has on its side as in general its controls and menus feel more accessible than the norm and relatively easy to follow. That said, I think either more depth in the tutorial or perhaps some better language choices for the currently defined tasks you’re given would help to improve the early game. While most of the time it was easy to understand the next early step in my journey to getting my farm off the ground, a few times it took a few incorrect attempts to get it right. I think it goes a bit further than that though as, in general, it just felt like not enough was adequately explained to me to help me towards being a success, and while that may be the intention my stumbles tended to be on simple concepts that felt like they should have been conceptual gimmes. Still, if you’ve been looking for a more traditional simulation or have a soft spot for anything that celebrates farming this isn’t a bad choice.

Mechanic Battle [MobilWay] - While I’m one of those people who would almost argue that there can never be enough racing titles on the Switch that doesn’t mean that I’m on board with any that happen to show up. Though there are some worse racers that have come along on the system, without a doubt, I’d say the main characteristic that defines Mechanic Battle is its sheer blandness. Buy your starter car, run some races, upgrade your parts, run some more, advance to a new class with more selections and tracks… lather, rinse, and repeat. The actual time you spend on the track is by no means terrible, though the turning does take getting used to and feels a bit awkward honestly. I do appreciate the inclusion of hills on the tracks, and how that does at times legitimately help to add in a little flavor, but the sometimes unusual physics of the cars do detract from that value as they begin to roll or weirdly struggle when landing sometimes. In the end this feels a bit like a value-added version of many mobile racers I’ve played over the years looking to kill some boredom on my phone. On a dedicated gaming console with quite a number of far superior choices to pick up instead though? It’s a pass.

Wednesday, May 25

Mini Reviews: May 25th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

OPUS: Echo of Starsong [SIGONO INC] (Nindie Choice!) - As a fan of the previous OPUS titles, each of which offered up their own unique sort of world with rich characters and story elements to engage with, I expected something along those same lines with Starsong. Weirdly, I sort of got a little of column A and column B with this new entry, which certainly has a very story-focused experience and somewhat simple but quite beautiful art style… but a story that feels mostly disconnected from what has come before aside from its general tone. The good news is that for anyone unfamiliar with the other titles you shouldn’t hesitate worrying you’ll be at a disadvantage… I was initially just as lost as you may be getting to know the situation in the story here. One consistent element is the smart periodic use of pretty unique puzzles, in this case making wonderful use of the title Starsongs in a pleasing way. It’s just a nice experience to get lost in, and once you get past the hump of trying to get your arms around what’s going on in this world and what you’re trying to accomplish it manages to take you on a wonderful and satisfying journey if you don’t mind its generally laid back pace.

They Always Run [Alawar Premium] - Having played quite a number of action platformers at this point, many on the Switch, I’ve begun to feel sometimes like developers are running out of new ideas. While perhaps not possessing a full-blown revolutionary concept, I’ll at least give They Always Run credit for doing something a bit differently with the addition of your character’s third arm and some of the things that it brings to the table along with it. I’ll note that getting used to having it there to work with feels a bit awkward at first, both in terms of controlling it while in the midst of some excitement or even simply thinking of it, but you do get into the groove pretty quickly with some repeated use. In general it’s that arm and smaller elements like scanning enemies for outstanding bounties on their heads that gives you just enough that works differently to be of interest. In terms of the level design perhaps it isn’t quite as fresh, with alternative routes and hidden areas adhering a bit more to what you’d expect, but at least taking those detours tends to pay off in various ways. It isn’t a perfect title by any means, but it does set itself apart from its competitors with a feel all its own, which at least makes it worth a look.

Regular Factory: Escape Room [mc2games] - If you’re unfamiliar with the Escape Room series, or escape rooms in the real world, the intention is to generally present you with diverse and pretty challenging puzzles, typically spanning a number of disciplines, that you’ll need to solve in order to make your way out of the area you’ve found yourself trapped within. Each of these games has had its own setting, and while the factory assembly line environs in this title may seem a bit generic more often than not I think that helped work to this iteration of the series’ advantage. Whether the puzzles themselves were a bit simpler, or I was simply able to latch on to the clues peppered around the area more easily, each puzzle presented to me felt solvable and more often than not careful observation of the environment tended to provide all of the clues I needed for success. Granted, this isn’t a series that’s really evolving or even iterating, but the core experience is still a solid one, especially if you haven’t partaken of any others in the series yet.

Arcade Spirits: The New Challengers [Fiction Factory Games] - I tend to be up and down on more heavily narratively-focused titles, probably disliking them more often than loving them, but there have been some stand-out exceptions. The original Arcade Spirits was mostly in the positive column in my mind, bringing some fun characters and interesting decision-making into the mix to help hook me early and then keep a decent pace to keep my attention. Unfortunately, either that flavor from the original has faded in this sequel or I’m simply not as enamored with it this time around. I think my biggest complaint here is that within the first hour I didn’t really feel hooked by what I was reading or by the choices I was being presented with… it was just thoroughly OK. I suppose for folks who loved the original or enjoy the game’s sense of style that may be enough to make it worth a look, but for me it just doesn’t have that spark I’m looking for in a narratively-driven title.

Goetia 2 [Moeity] - Whether it’s point-and-click classic adventures or puzzle games there are varying levels of difficulty out there for folks, and that’s great. I remember the original Goetia as being a bit more on the challenging side, and the general experience being moody and atmospheric with puzzles that more often than not felt vaguely explained and aggravating. Weirdly, my time with this sequel feels like a case where the developers doubled down on most of what I didn’t enjoy in the original while seemingly shortening the grace period it had to open and warm you up to the experience before throwing you into the deep end of ambiguity and frustration. It actually took very little time before I felt like I was stuck in a dead end, and truthfully I’d interacted with and seen so little that made it all the more aggravating. Perhaps if you don’t mind playing with a guide or have the patience to scour a few mostly plain screens for any piece of minutia that may give you some hint it could be a challenge, but for me it gave me next to no carrot before beating me over head with some stick.

Friday, May 20

Mini Reviews: May 20th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Galacticon [Radin Games] (Nindie Choice!) - As a big fan of retro arcade games, and someone who has sunk innumerable hours to continuing to enjoy them over the years, I’m always very curious about new titles that attempt to capture their feel and make a modern game that plays like one of their contemporaries. Having played quite a few that simply haven’t made the cut I’ve also become quite aware of how much of a challenge that must be. In the case of Galacticon, though, they make it almost look easy… in this case blending elements of the classics Joust, Defender, and a variety of others to create an experience that truly looks and feels like a title I pumped far too many quarters into back in the day. Now, keep in mind, much like many classic arcade titles there are only a few phases to the game, and once you complete them all you’ll be starting right back over… just always a bit harder. That said, with a variety of tantalizing (but more risky) ways to grab more points as well as some hidden secrets you’ll need to uncover to further up your score, that isn’t to say it’s a shallow experience either. I’m not quite sure why they didn’t implement an in-game global leaderboard, though when you get a high score you’ll be able to use a QR code that will let you see where you’ve placed in the greater pantheon beyond your own console… as well as often picking up new hot tips on how to play the game more effectively. It may not be terribly deep but it has an authentic look and feel, a budget-friendly price, and if you’re an old-school arcade fan it’s absolutely likely to put a smile on your face.

Deadcraft [Marvelous Inc] - I think among the genres of games I’ve generally not found to agree with my tastes, pure survival games rank pretty high on the list. While I don’t mind the challenge, or even crafting systems, too often I find the experience a bit too repetitive, tedious, and lacking in excitement… though there are exceptions of various kinds on the Switch. Deadcraft is an interesting one, and since it’s set in a zombie-filled post-Apocalyptic world I tend to find myself comparing it to Dysmantle which came out earlier this year which has a few similarities but plays very differently. The biggest difference, and one of my quibbles with Deadcraft is that the map in Dysmantle is truly massive, leaving you a pretty big world to explore and discover. By contrast, Deadcraft plays more in a fishbowl, and you’ll find yourself mostly treading in the same spaces for hours upon end. However, the strength here is in the action and crafting, in particular with an exploration of unique abilities imbued on your character by his half-zombie nature. While I’m not sure the system is perfectly implemented, by consuming different foods and/or drinks you’ll swing which nature your body is favoring. More zombie-like and you’ll have access to some powerful abilities and added health, but that comes at the cost of interacting with the people around you comfortably. Being more human leaves you less powerful, but the game compensates with some gnarly weapons you can use to cut (in most cases, literally) through the competition. If you like farming, not only will you get to grow some staple crops, you’ll also become a zombie farmer, taking corpses to then raise them into zombie units you can use in a variety of ways to augment your power. A little more variety in the setting and quests you go on would have gone a long way to make the experience more broadly accessible, but if you’re a true survival fan and have been looking for a fresh take on the genre it should certainly be satisfying.

Source of Madness [Carry Castle] - While I’ve played quite a number of roguelike shooters and slashers on the Switch, I’ll gladly admit that there’s nothing I’ve encountered on the system quite like Source of Madness. Inspired by Lovecraftian lore and imagery, the monstrosities you’ll face down in the game don’t look or act quite like anything you’ve likely seen, constructed of odd limbs, tentacles, and teeth, shambling and flinging themselves at you menacingly. As a wizard from one of several classes (most of which you’ll need to work to unlock before they’re available to you) your goal will be to venture into hostile and procedurally-generated territories in search of items, new and powerful spells, then once you succumb to the forces of evil going back to power yourself up to hopefully do better the next time, choosing from a pretty massive set of upgrade options that will help you unlock new skills that will best suit your style. Combat tends to be best done on your heels, hurling spells at your enemies and keeping your distance, but a quick dash and jump is often necessary to get by them and move in the other direction before they’re able to corner you. I particularly like the fact that I could dive into some more dangerous areas with imposing monsters, nimbly dashing over and by them to steal their treasures before going over them again to escape (hopefully) unscathed. The visuals and feel of play are absolutely unique but I’d also consider that to be the game’s Achilles heel, as the very detailed art style doesn’t always lend itself well to clarity for where you’re meant to go in particular. For those gamers who mostly play on the go these issues could be particularly pronounced, making it a poorer choice for portable fans. Still, if you enjoy roguelikes and have a taste for something different this will absolutely fit that bill.

Cotton Fantasy [Studio Saizensen] - There’s no doubt that the Switch has been a system blessed with some very strong retro representation, and a specific genre that has seen a lot of great titles come out of the woodwork has been shooters. Cotton Fantasy, which will feel very familiar to gamers who checked out the successful Cotton Reboot, is a title that walks the line between the older and newer eras of shooting, offering up a pretty classic play style but steeped in colorful and pretty gorgeous visuals, bringing the best of both worlds to the table. In particular one thing I liked about Fantasy was the variety of characters to choose from whose shooting styles tend to differ quite a bit, and though most are in line with typical old school shooters, there’s more at play here than just the firing pattern so you can really feel the pro and con in each character for the most part. While I’d say the asking price is a bit on the aggressive side, if you have an appreciation for well-made arcade shooting action there’s quite a bit of goodness to enjoy in this package.

Gibbon: Among the Trees [Broken Rules] - There’s definitely something to be said for games that have their own unique style and point of view, and in those areas Gibbon does itself pretty proud. Helping to relay the plight of species whose habitats are being encroached on and threatened by industry, there’s no doubt that the title helps to foster a level of understanding with what they face. In terms of gameplay, for what there is, I’ll credit it for trying to get the most out of its somewhat limited means as it can. It takes a little effort and experimentation to get to be a master of momentum and swinging effectively through the trees, but for the most part outside of integrating small touches like a boosting backflip there’s not too much to gameplay, the experience tends to be more about seeing the gorgeous scenery as you swing around. If you appreciate the environment and the conservation movement this game has its charm, just be fully aware of its limitations walking in.

Wednesday, May 18

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

Monster Hunter Rise [Capcom] (AAA Choice!) - It’s best to open with honesty, and in this case I’ll admit that to this point the Monster Hunter series has always intimidated me. I’ve dabbled in trying it out a few times in the past, but the sheer volume of what people would tell me about it mixed with what you’d read about the various aspects to manage on the way to being a successful hunter always tended to leave me feeling overwhelmed. Now having devoted quite a few hours to Monster Hunter Rise I definitely have some thoughts. First, though I understand that this has been characterized by people more familiar with the series as the most accessible Monster Hunter to date, I’ll still tell you that it’s a bit of a hill to climb. Watching a few YouTube videos to get yourself as ready as you can be definitely seems to be the best plan for success. Though there is in-game instruction I wouldn’t consider much of it helpful in a practical way, videos breaking things down is a tremendous improvement. That said, give it some time and as elements start to come together it isn’t hard to see why so many people really dig this franchise.

Finding the weapon that best suits you, and then understanding some nuance around how best to make use of it, is what I’d consider the foremost predictor of enjoyment. Weapons that don’t fit your play style can tend to be painful, but when you get a handle on one and start taking down formidable beasts (even if slowly as you’re trying to get over the pretty substantial learning curve) there’s absolutely a thrill to be had that I haven’t felt in many other games, especially ones on the Switch. Now, tackling these beasts solo does work, but there’s also not much doubt that working as a team, even if only one other person, is where the game really shines. You’ll certainly need to be on the same page, being sure to stay out of each other’s way, but especially if you each have a distinctive weapon and you’re both using them effectively each hunt can be a pretty unique thrill. This is a big, brash, and unapologetic game that is obviously not terribly interested in dumbing itself down for you (well, perhaps some of the simplifications Rise has implemented). The expectation is that you’ll know its pedigree and will invest the time and effort to “git gud” and meet the reasonably high bar it has set for you. As someone who has finally muscled up to the bar and invested that critical time I must say that it’s hard not to walk away impressed, and would encourage people who’ve been like me on the fence to this point to seriously consider taking the plunge… the water’s fine once you get over the initial shock.

Mini Motorways [Dinosaur Polo Club] (Nindie Choice!) - Whoever out there would say that simple games, or at least ones that at a glance could be “casual”, are always trash has obviously never played the likes of Mini Motorways. Undeniably basic in its presentation, don’t let that fool you. Below that beats the heart of a diabolical and cruel game determined to steal your minutes, hours, and possibly at some point your sanity as you attempt to manage the highway infrastructure of a steadily-growing metropolis. There’s absolutely a learning curve here, and if you’re not experimenting with different layouts and methods of using each of the infrastructure tools offered to you there won’t be much progress. The fact that each time you load up the same city the layout and circumstances will be different prevents you from getting lazy and having a pre-set formula for success, and more often than not it’s right when you think you’ve got it all worked out that the game will throw a new mall at you that’s currently inaccessible and you’ll begin to scramble to figure out how to get people there before everything goes to crap. Simple but spectacular, frustrating but fantastic, Mini Motorways is a top-notch timesink that beyond the core diverse cities continues to provides new challenges daily and weekly to push yourself with, and it’s absolutely worth checking out.

Soundfall [Drastic Games] - As a fan of both multiplayer twin-stick shooters and rhythm games, a title that tries to find the sweet spot where the two intersect is, in principle, a great idea. In practice, I’d say it’s a bit more of a complicated answer. First of all, before saying anything else, I wanted to be sure to compliment the amazing variety and superb quality of the game’s musical tracks. From jazz to classical to pop to metal, the game’s music really is a major part of what makes it engaging and fun. How well the gameplay holds up is more of a mixed bag. Before doing anything else, I’d say that calibration is an essential piece of getting the most out of the experience. As sensitive as the timing for the beat can be, (though there are some in-game options to help alleviate that a bit) and as vital as being on rhythm is to success, don’t risk fighting with the game because you’re fundamentally out of synth with it to begin with. The weapons can get pretty diverse as you get further in, and new characters also help to open the door to everyone being able to find a style of play they like, whether using more short-range weapons complimented by some melee or keeping a distance and going for devastating precision. With the damage you inflict being doubled for being on the beat though, the effort to keep in the groove is vital… just there’s no question that it can be quite a challenge as concentrations of enemies make for a massive distraction. At the end of the day I think this ends up being more of a niche novelty than a break-out experience because of its commitment to trying to stay at the intersection of both styles rather than more clearly favoring one over the other. How you’d tweak the formula differently would be a fair question, but it’s not hard to imagine average gamers being quite frustrated, rather than excited, with the experience it ultimately offers.

Rifftrax: The Game [Wide Right Interactive] - Having enjoyed quite a number of games in this general vein with the family on Switch, I want to be clear that this is a pretty competitive space as a whole with a fair number of options to choose from. With that in mind, differentiation is a challenge between this, Use Your Words (which has additional game options), and What the Dub (by the same developer) aside from the addition of the Rifftrax name and some entertainingly-read options you’ll have to work with. Everything here revolves around some very short clips taken from a variety of (generally bad or weird) movies, with your job being (depending on which mode you choose) to either choose a pre-made line (similar to Cards Against Humanity) or fabricate your own to go with the scene. After a vote, points are awarded for whoever manages to be the funniest in the bunch, and this proceeds for a few rounds before an overall winner is declared. Games are generally quick, entertaining, and potentially side-splittingly funny… but I’d say much of that hinges on who is playing. While the pre-made prompts can be fun for how they’re read, nobody in my family really liked that mode since you’re so constrained by what random phrases you happened to draw, being put on the spot to try to turn on the funny was much more engaging. Overall, this is still a very reasonably-priced option, and if you love the Rifftrax folks that’s undoubtedly a value-added bonus. That said, whether having become more jaded with the formula or for any number of other reasons, this just didn’t stick with my family as hard or as long as some of its peers in the space.

Best Month Ever! [Warsaw Film School Video Game & Film Production Studio] - Choosing the gaming medium in order to tell complex, and in the case of Best Month Ever, some pretty gnarly stories is definitely a double-edged sword. If your interest is in exploring a story with complex and some seriously broken characters, being forced to make decisions along the way that will carry a variety of consequences, there’s no question this delivers on that promise. I think where the issues arise is in the extremely inconsistent gameplay aspects throughout, which often left me wondering if streamlining to simply provide options and see them play out would have been preferable. I wouldn’t want to ruin anything more about how screwed up things get beyond the video but I’ll give the people behind this credit for tackling some dark material, something more of a rarity on the Switch. I just wish as a whole package it worked more cleanly and consistently.

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.