Wednesday, June 1

Mini Reviews: June 1st Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Pac-Man Museum+ [Bandai Namco Games] (Nindie Choice!) - Having grown up spending far too much time and money in the arcades of old, the Pac-Man series is near and dear to my heart. The thing is, not only has it had many excellent titles further back in its history, it’s one of the few classic arcade franchises I can think of that has had numerous contemporary classics in its lineage as well. While Pac-Man Musuem+ doesn’t have quite every game classic Pac-Fans would love to see (most notably absent is the iconic Ms. Pac-Man due to licensing complications due to the nature of its origins), it’s still a highly comprehensive collection which demonstrates the full breadth of what one of the world’s most well-known pellet munchers could be. Starting with many arcade originals (some of which I don’t even recall ever having ever seen, let alone played) this collection spans multiple console incarnations as well the very smartly-made mobile Pac-Man 256. With it, you can get your classic fix, some platforming (some better than others), some puzzling, some multiplayer, and even some more unusual variations that demonstrate a consistent drive to keep experimenting and innovating. Capped off by Pac-Man Championship Edition, arguably the best in class with its bright colors, smart design, and intense action, this is a terrific walk through decades of gameplay and is absolutely worth a look for anyone who considers themselves a retro gaming fan.

Jade Order [Tortuga Xel] - Let’s face it, making a mark with a puzzle game in the crowded Switch eShop is a bit of a challenge, and developers need to rely on a creative look, hook, or some X factor to be sure to differentiate themselves. Jade Order somewhat gets things rolling with a stylish pixel art style which continues to evolve little by little the further you go. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the play, which has a focus on you needing to very carefully choose how you proceed through each level, being sure to attack enemies from the sides or the back. Thankfully, more complexity gets added to the mix the further you go, with a variety of powers that you’ll have at your disposal to use wisely in order to advance an enemy unit, allowing you to attack, and some other options as well deeper in. In the end it’s reasonably smart and satisfying, just I’d note that it has a fair amount of pretty similar company out there that it fails to differentiate itself from thoroughly so the choice may come down to price or style preference.

Remote Life [Next Game Level] - It’s safe to say that at this point there’s no shortage of classic shooters on the Switch, which does admittedly make it a challenge for new ones to make a splash. If the focus was merely on looking pretty Remote Life would fare pretty decently, as it has a modern style and some visual polish. Add to that the fact that you’re able to use twin-stick controls to fire and there’s something to enjoy. It’s in terms of overall play and design where things unfortunately fall apart a bit. The best description I’d have for it is inconsistent. Power-ups are haphazardly thrown about, bosses can be a bit jerky in terms of performance and feel overpowered when compared to the other enemies you face, and then things like enemy ships flying through walls and barriers just help further point out a lack of attention to detail. Considering the high level of quality of its competition on the system this simply doesn’t match up.

Coloring Pixels: Collection 1 [ToastieLabs] - Casual gamers have it pretty good on the Switch, its portability and touchscreen capabilities really make it great for on-the-go relaxation. Coloring Pixels is by no means an ambitious title, essentially just offering up the means to interactively do some color-by-numbers, but if that sounds like something you’d enjoy it is at least well-implemented. Starting out with some smaller-scale projects and then quickly jumping up to much larger, and more elaborate, images it manages to strike a nice balance between trying to keep you focused on precision without punishing you for getting a little sloppy, most notably leaving properly-colored blocks alone even when you swipe over them with another color. If you’re looking to unwind it’s not a bad option.

Balloon Flight [Cyberwave] - Sometimes there are games you play on the eShop that give you pause, and that can be for good and bad reasons. In the case of Balloon Flight, sadly, it isn't a positive one. Playing a bit more like a sandbox demo it literally drops you into a space with no meaningful direction and then you’ll simply experiment with what limited means you have to try to take flight and go as far as you can. As a demonstration of some applied physics it can be fun to kick around with for a bit, but for the most part the title’s reliance on the player to generate their own fun without much to work with is a bummer.

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