Thursday, June 2

Mini Reviews: June 2nd Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Souldiers [Retro Forge] (Nindie Choice!) - Originally impressed by my time with it when I played the demo for it from Steam Next Fest, Souldiers is a Metroidvania I’ve had my eye on without a doubt. Upon release on the Switch, while I’m still a fan, I won’t lie and say that it isn’t without some concerns and issues. Starting with the good, this is absolutely a solid, attractive, and mostly well-made title, featuring a variety of options to cater the difficulty and play style to your liking. I’ve found that the genre-standard slashing feel of the Scout is the easiest to find success with, followed by the capable Caster whose homing shots can be a big help when dealing with more pesky enemies like the small spiders that come at you all at once. The archer I found to be the trickiest to master, as I didn’t feel like the trouble to accurately aim was rewarded with quite enough damage. That tricky aiming leads to my first concerns, which concern the controls which just feel a bit flaky/touchy somehow, triggering diagonally up or down very easily in a way that could be annoying. Thinking that going to use the D-pad instead would help, I was then disappointed to realize that the joystick is the only option. Hopefully both of these issues can be remedied. A second concern is that a few times it felt like I was able to essentially trap myself into a dead end I couldn’t get out of. Whether because I somehow made a beeline to a place I didn’t yet belong or it involved some sort of action puzzle I didn’t understand, needing to decide to go back to a save point wasn’t a great feeling. Last, particularly when you save but at other random times as well the tendency of the action to stutter periodically was also a bummer. The thing is, even with those concerns (which I’m banking on being remedied), this is still an engaging and solid Metroidvania that provides a challenge, it just feels like it’s stumbling a bit out of the gate.

Silt [Spiral Circus] (Nindie Choice!) - Too often in the indie space I’ve found that games that bill themselves as being horror in some way have generally failed to deliver, or at least deliver in a convincing manner. Silt, on the other hand, may not truly be a horror game and yet its dark mood, sometimes monstrous creatures, and periodically fatal outcomes managed to give me far more thrills than most. Playing out like a puzzle-driven adventure, your goal is to keep moving and defying death through the dark and murky depths. Your main tool for survival is the ability to take possession of some sea creatures, employing their various abilities to get through the obstacles that you’ll find in your path. Careful observation, experimentation, and often some degree of stealthiness are the keys to survival as you never know what may be lurking around any given corner. While not everything about it may be perfectly smooth in execution there’s no doubt that the game’s atmosphere can’t be beat and it’s a terrific change of pace from the usual in the eShop.

Wonder Boy Collection [Bliss Brain] - When it comes to collections of retro classics it’s always a bit hard to know how to score them. Fundamentally older games like these, especially at its origin coming from the classic arcade era, don’t have the technical prowess to make an impression so more often than not nostalgia tends to be the biggest driver for success. In the case of the Wonder Boy series, while I remember playing a few from the franchise I also never remember being terribly enamored with them, and this collection is a reminder of the middling but not necessarily amazing play they offer. To the credit of the people behind it, watching the slow evolution from a much simpler (but at least colorful) arcade action game to something more of an action RPG of sorts over time was cool to see, though I’ll admit that aside from the graphical upgrade the third and fourth entries in the series here don’t differentiate themselves greatly. If you’re a Wonder Boy Fan(boy) this will probably be an easy one to pick up, but outside of that crowd unless you simply appreciate retro games it may be a tougher sell.

Buck Bradley 2 [WERDERA SRL] - With its comic book style, big swings at filling its adventure with humor, and some unusual characters and situations, Buck Bradley 2, much like its predecessor, can’t be faulted for not trying. When the jokes connect they work well enough, and it isn’t fair to expect everything to be a winner so I’ll credit the team behind the game for simply going for enough quantity that it generally sustains a fair level of fun. Where the game struggles though is with everything mechanical around the “playing” of the game. With issues ranging from the interface being inconsistent and downright clunky when trying to interact with items in the game, or even when trying to navigate from location to location there tends to be a steady enough stream of seemingly needless frustrations that it really saps the energy out of the experience. Too often I’d know precisely what I believed I needed to do, would then try to do it using an item or simply interacting with an element on the screen, and would end up being a bit baffled what I was supposed to be doing. I think the attempt to “keep things simple” and not use too many buttons actually had the opposite effect as I often found it hard to convey what sort of action I was trying to execute. There’s some fun to be had here, just the level of clarity and polish falls quite a ways behind most of its more refined brethren in the genre.

Biomotor Unitron [SNK Corporation] - It has been pretty fascinating to play a variety of titles from the very apparently mighty retro portable, the Neo Geo Pocket Color. While most of the time these titles have been either some sort of fighter or an arcade-style port of some kind, it’s nice to see some other more unique offerings come along here and there as well. Biomotor Unitron is one such title, and with its solid pixel art and attempts at telling a more grand story it was probably a well-appreciated turn-based RPG that helped flesh out some variety in the platform’s library. That said, thrown into the very crowded waters of the Switch eShop it’s no doubt flailing to keep its head above water, as there’s nothing so unique or distinctive about it that it can overcome the obvious gap in time and technology its experience represents on a modern console. I’d imagine people who originally had it may get a great nostalgic hit from it, and can respect that, but for everyone else it’s likely going to be a pass.

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