Wednesday, June 22

Mini Reviews: June 22nd Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge [Tribute Games] (Nindie Choice!) - Having played the game already at PAX East this year where I was blown away, this review was a bit of a foregone conclusion before I got more time to put it through the paces on my own. Simultaneously a love letter to the beloved arcade beat-em-up and a pretty major overhaul in terms of both the visuals and the depth of the moves and controls, Tribute Games has really outdone themselves with this retro update. If you’re looking for one of the best games to break out with some friends when they come over, you need look no further. Supporting up to 6(!) players at once there’s no doubt that co-op is absolutely the best way to play this game, without question, and if you don’t have anyone over locally you can pick up some assistance from folks online with connections generally being smooth and easy to pick up (though since I’m not positive this is cross-platform, for how long may not be easy to know). If you’re just looking to play solo, you can do that as well, whether with the more quest-like Story mode where you can find various hidden characters, challenges, and goodies to add to the fun, or just hitting the game old-school with Arcade mode. There’s no doubt that this absolutely belongs at the very top of the beat-em-up pile, probably even being the best overall in class for co-op play. For the overall I’d still give the edge to Streets of Rage 4, but it’s certainly a close call depending on the feel you’re looking for, they’re both fantastic representations of the genre.


Neon White [Angel Matrix] (Nindie Choice!) - Right out of the gate, the highest compliment I can pay Neon White is how quickly its tight controls and smart design can make stages that initially look utterly impossible become satisfyingly complete. I won’t even try to explain the story which involves a group of angels enlisting the aid of lost souls to slay demons with the hopes of gaining (temporary) access to a much happier afterlife… just suffice it to say that it’s a bit odd. That said, the game is really all about speed, tight execution, precise shooting, and optimizing your path. The game’s unique card system is central to it all working so well, and while at first it can take a few beats to get used to, once you’re in tune with it there’s no question that it’s a great idea that’s very well implemented. Each card has an attack associated with a weapon of some kind, though you’ll need to be careful not to take too many stray shots since their use is limited. Where the craziness typically kicks in is with the discard power each has though, which will provide you the means to launch yourself in various ways to get yourself through each stage. Speedrunners should love the opportunity to match their times against the world, but even just trying to knock out your friend’s best time can be fun. If you’re really looking for a challenge though, you’ll want to locate and figure out how to grab gifts that are hidden on each level since they’ll allow you to both advance the story with other characters and unlock hidden side quest stages that REALLY amp up the difficulty, typically by altering the normal formula in some way while asking you to get through what often feel like insanely-hard level designs. The thing is, with persistence and some patience it’s all possible due to the game’s impeccable controls and performance. Even if you’re not a challenge hound this is absolutely a fantastic game well worth a look.


Horgihugh and Friends [PIXEL Games & Entertainment] - Ah, retro-styled arcade shooters. It’s a joy to have such an embarrassment of riches on the Switch, but it no doubt makes the task of cracking into the upper echelon of them on the system a challenge. Horgihugh, for me, is a bit of a mystery wrapped in a conundrum. Visually it’s very bright and cute, but in terms of play it’s decidedly more in the hard core direction. I don’t mind tough shooters, but it’s the feeling of how it gets there that I have some qualms with, a few of which seem unnecessarily cheap. The first is that your “free” power-ups are dropped off to you in what feels like an enormously inconsistent way. It feels like the positioning of your courier is meant to somehow be relative to your position but in execution it can be maddening watching them get flung into spots that you either can’t get to or that are covered in a flurry of enemy fire. Add to that how you’re incredibly fragile, exploding on any hit and losing whatever you have, and it feels a bit too stacked against you, but in a more aggravating manner. That leaves me a bit uncertain what to make of it, finding it hard but not in a high-concept (see Ikaruga) or high-intensity (see most any crazy bullet hell title) way, so conquering it doesn’t carry as much of a sense of accomplishment. It’s by no means terrible, and it certainly has appeal on a few levels, but some key design and balancing choices just leave me feeling cold on it.


Autonauts [Denki] - As someone who enjoys creative sim games as well as programming (I’d hope I enjoy it, it’s how I spend my days) in theory Autonauts would be a home run for me. I absolutely love its charming look and cute characters, and I do appreciate what really feels like an earnest attempt to make programming concepts accessible through immediate “real world” application and a pretty basic core interface. Where the problems really cripple the experience though is in trying to wrestle with the controls, in particular with simply managing to contextually keep up with the user interface. The shame is that I have no doubt that on a PC with a mouse and keyboard you’d likely be in pretty good shape, and it could even be intuitive. With a controller though? Ugh. In particular needing to constantly shift between the D-Pad and the left joystick moving into and then back out of other modes, for me sucked the life out of the experience as I’d get sort of “stuck” without being able to tell what was going wrong or what to do since visually there weren’t any clear cues helping me out. If you have the patience, this serves as a pretty light and fun mix of a survival sim combined with some automation, just be warned that it’s no an ideal experience on Switch.


Oxide Room 104 [Wildsphere] - Oh, horror games on the Switch, how you can be so frustrating at times. With Oxide Room 104 there’s good news and bad news. The good news (perhaps great news, considering how often games in this space have been very constrained when it comes to any actual violence and grossness) is that if you’re looking for something that delivers some gnarly violence and genuine WTF moments, this game has you covered. The less great news is that, admittedly consistent with many of its peers, the mechanical gameplay of it all is pretty generic and consists of you simply needing to check every object, nook, and cranny of every room you go into in order to find what you need to proceed. Sure, this isn’t so unusual to find in pretty much any adventure, but being in a first-person perspective and using a pretty sensitive pointer to aim at anything you want to activate can be more tedious and aggravating than it should need to be. All said, the experience isn’t terribly long (very dependent on where and how many times you may get yourself stuck) but if you’re feeling the need for something a little more ghastly as we move into summer, with Halloween so far away, it may be just what you need to get that vibe going early this year.


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