Friday, June 17

Mini Reviews: June 17th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

The Big Con: Grift of the Year Edition [Mighty Yell] (Nindie Choice!) - Maybe it’s the 80s kid and 90s twenty-something in me, but I’ll admit that when a game features a slice of life from my own heyday, made clear by your character working in their mom’s video rental store, it can quickly get my attention. With your mom backed into the wall by a mafioso lon shark you decide it’s time to hit the pavement to gather up enough money to save the day… the only issue is that it’s going to take a boatload of cash to do so. With no simple solutions in mind, when you run into a slippery fellow in town, a new plan is hatched… to hit the road with him and get the cash through less savory, but undoubtedly effective, means. What follows is a mix of road trip fun, weird characters, and generally upbeat and fun classic adventure play. Sure, you’ll be periodically going around and picking pockets (via a pretty simple mini game, though the more you’re trying to grab the tougher it gets), but for the most part otherwise you’ll spend your time talking to people, resolving issues, and exploring every nook and cranny at every stop you make to look for your means to success. Clocking in a very reasonable handful of hours of playtime it’s a very colorful, generally light-hearted, and undoubtedly odd adventure that’s worth a look.

Barn Finders [MD GAMES] (Nindie Choice!) - It’s always a pleasant surprise when a game that looks and feels in line with titles you’ve struggled to enjoy in the past breaks through by delivering the goods in some way, and that’s the best way to sum up how I feel about Barn Finders. First-person repair sims, walking sims, and mundane activity sims just have never cut it for me, getting too monotonous or hyper-focused on minutia for me to find any joy in them. The first move I think works with Barn Finders is that it dabbles a little bit in all of these sorts of areas but generally tries not to linger in them too long. You’ll find things that need to be cleaned and some that need to be repaired, but you won’t burn much time on those duties. To be certain you’ll be doing a fair amount of walking around different environments in search of hidden treasures, but there’s just enough variety in the places you’ll visit, and the puzzles you’ll need to work out when you get there, that it comes together pretty nicely in that area as well. Oh, and I forgot to mention the best part, the game is just freaking oddball and at times inappropriate, serving up aliens, bodily functions, MIB-style G-Men, and all sorts of plain oddities you’ll gather to resell to people after trying to haggle the price up. By no means is it rocket science, and saying the controls can at times be wonky is absolutely a valid complaint, but for the very first time I felt it important to note that this sort of game has managed to chip through my wall of cynicism (well, and actual negative experiences) to prove there can be flavors of these oddball sorts of sims out there that even I could appreciate as worthwhile for a diversion.

Taqoban [Ratalaika Games] - Ah, the classic box pushing puzzler, a flavor I’ve become quite familiar with over the years but, and not always for good reasons. The good news in the case of Taqoban is that it appears to be determined to add a bit more to the mix than average, combining in a few other aspects like the ability to shift parts of the stage around as well as a number of elements that can have varying effects you’ll need to take into account. It will certainly give you pause at times and make you think, perhaps experimenting a little bit as well. About my only major complaint about it is that it appears to require you to get all stars on each stage in a group before the next one is made available, or at least it doesn’t indicate how many you need to move on. Getting a “perfect run“ in some cases can be a bit of a pain, especially since the controls can feel a little loose with some interactions, and there’s no room for error if you want/need to ace them all. That said, if you like the intellectual challenge, and don’t mind perhaps needing to work a little harder to move on, it may not be a big deal.

Spacewing War [Pneuma Games] - While there are plenty of retro arcade shooters out there, many of them quite good even, I’ll at least give Spacewing War credit for going in a direction that sort of sidesteps the competition by going full-on Gameboy with its look and feel. As a proud OG Gameboy owner back in the day I was actually reminded more than once of how many games looked and felt on the system by little touches in terms of the visuals and how things played out. There’s pretty limited screen real estate to work with, and sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s a barrier and what isn’t as you try to navigate through some tighter spaces, but for the most part it works and the built-in ability to shift between a few shooting styles to match your current needs really helps the game feel nicely tuned. It’s not terribly diverse in what it offers and its deep cut retro style may not appeal to everyone, but it’s a great option for retro shooter fans to pick up in order to give their collections some real variety.

Cloud Gardens [Noio] - This is one of those titles where it’s a bit of a struggle to know how to feel about it. Less intended to be a formal game, but instead a sort of interactive toy or simulation, its focus is on a sort of emergent art when nature overgrows our material world. You’ll place seeds as well as various objects and watch as vegetation overtakes those things you’ve laid down, budding to create new seeds and so on. It’s pretty Zen and can be relaxing but, oddly, what I didn’t like was that I couldn’t get to a consistent understanding of its underlying “rules”, and would repeatedly get close to the score I needed to complete a level before everything would fall apart… without really understanding why. I understand the intent is to sit back and relax as you take in the beauty, but when frustration arises because the game’s mechanics aren’t more clear it sort of hits a wall in its own intended design.

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