Wednesday, August 3

Mini Reviews: August 3rd Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Azure Striker Gunvolt 3 [Inti Creates] (Nindie Choice!) - While to date the Azure Striker Gunvolt series has always made a strong impression with its impressive visuals and generally unique style of play it has never truly clicked with me overall, usually feeling a bit too limited in its combat style to command my interest. While in general it absolutely stays true to those roots, the addition of some new elements and a fresh splash of variety propel the third title in the series ahead into much more rarified action gaming air. While Gunvolt remains just as powerful (and full of visual flair) as ever, it’s the introduction of Kirin who has some similarities in her play style but is different enough that takes things to a more varied and exciting place. The visuals in the series have always been over-the-top and gorgeous in their representation of electricity-filled chaos and certainly this entry doesn’t disappoint, if nothing else offering up a new set of visuals to go with new moves and attacks. Putting together frantic and pretty crazy combat and often pretty smart traversal puzzles that will challenge you to execute the right moves with the right timing to grab extra goodies, Azure Striker Gunvolt 3 delivers the goods that should satisfy fans of the series as well as people looking for something unique to take for a spin.

Train Valley: Console Edition [Flazm] (Nindie Choice!) - Who knew that a train management game could quickly get to be so tricky and compelling?!? I know I didn’t! When you first start out it feels a bit like a cute little sandbox simulator, with you working to connect stations and making sure to manage the switches on the track to get the right trains to the proper destinations. But oh how quickly it gets to be so much more and, honestly, quite addicting. Part puzzler, part strategy, part management sim you’ll be pressed to be smart about how you lay out your track, where you create your junctions, and very often how you manage the timing of different departing trains (while you’re still able to control them) to maximize your efficiency and profits while avoiding any nastiness like collisions. While giving off much more innocent overall vibes this is a pretty serious challenge of a game that took me by surprise!

Bright Paw [Radical Forge] - For me this is just a thoroughly odd title. Partly telling the story of a cat and the quest to understand what has happened to his owners who’ve apparently been hiding some massive secrets, partly presenting you with bite-sized stages that will at least mildly challenge your puzzle skills to move through each one safely, and partly a “find the things to click on in every room” hunt and seek it’s an odd bird. Truly, the switching to using pointer controls to find what are almost always random and generally worthless objects that simply have basic descriptions and typically do nothing to improve your situation or provide added insight into the story are a mystery to me. Well, aside from just being a feature to check off a list, but the way it’s implemented this feels like a massive missed opportunity for adding depth. That leaves you with the mix of the story which is odd but moves quite slowly, and what are (more often than not) pretty simple puzzles with you determining how to use a series of specific movements in the right order to get from the entrance to the exit. The result isn’t bad but doesn’t really rise to being great either, two puzzle pieces that you can sort of force together but that never really feel cohesive either. Just an odd bird, though there’s some quality here if you don’t mind the disconnect.

Avenging Spirit [Ratalaika Games] - Considering the fact that I love retro throwbacks AND games that have something unusual or creative about the way they play, the character-possessing run-n-gun-ish platforming of Avenging Spirit would seem to be a great fit for me. I love the challenge of understanding which enemy types are the best to possess and why under what circumstances, and I love the “this is what I’ve got, and I’m going to have to make it work” nature of how much of the game is played where you can’t control when you’re going to need to possess someone new. All that said, there’s something about the general construction of the levels and many of their elements which doesn’t match up to the quality of the idea itself so the play experience comes out as undoubtedly novel but not necessarily compelling for any length of time. If you’re game for something that simply does things its own way this is a great title to give a look as it undoubtedly forges its own path, just be warned that there’s an unpolished quality to the experience that is a bit of a letdown.

Animal Rivals: Up in the Air [Console Labs] - One of the titles in the extended Nintendo stable that I wish would make a return is PilotWings. The Switch really hasn’t had any real alternatives that deliver that feel well, and in truth there’s only a small handful you could even say lean in its direction in the first place. When I took an initial look at Animal Rivals I was getting a little bit of that vibe and had some hopes, though understanding that this is ultimately an aerial racing game, I was just hoping there could be some of that polished flight play that was at the intersection of fun and skill. Unfortunately, Up in the Air really struggles to get off the ground in multiple areas. The layout of the tracks, which are dictated by rings that are suspended in the air, is almost immediately a noticeable problem right off the bat. Struggling to understand where you’re supposed to be flying is a consistent early problem, and the relatively close proximity of the rings exacerbates the problem considerably. The next problem is simply in the disappointing controls and general feel, most notably the fact that it seems that gravity is practically non-existent in the game, with you decelerating your plane generally lacking the expected pull of gravity to complicate you simply “hitting the brakes” as you try to make tight turns. Last is just the all-over-the-place feel of the various power-ups that range from simply difficult to use, to overpowered, to simply uninspired in general. Your best hope of getting something out of it would be playing with friends, but even then this game is a low-budget mess overall.

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