Friday, August 5

Mini Reviews: August 5th Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Digimon Survive [Bandai Namco Games] (Nindie Choice!) - When you’ve got an established franchise with a recognizable name, making the decision to swim against the current and make something very different within that same world takes some guts. Generally forgoing the critter cultivating and fighting that is normally associated with Digimon (though it still does play a role, just very much in the back seat), Survive is instead dedicated to the attempt to deliver a compelling visual novel experience, complete with the drama and need to make decisions along the way that tends to come with the territory. Aside from the mix of solid storytelling and periodic tactical battles, what's most notable about the game is simply how gorgeous it is for the most part, bringing the various beasties to life with often vibrant colors and great details. If you’re not open to a mostly story-driven experience you’ll likely walk away disappointed by this offshoot effort, but if your interest is in occupying this world and experiencing it in a very new and different way you’ll likely find it quite agreeable.

South of the Circle [State of Play Games] (Nindie Choice!) - Telling stories that intertwine with history isn’t something you normally see much of, but in the case of South of the Circle the use of real world events as a backdrop to a fraught love story helps make it more notable. Your somewhat limited level of interaction at decision points can take some getting used to, and certainly demonstrates the limits of how differently you’d be able to play things out, but it also keeps things moving and works well enough. You’ll need to remember what sort of response/decision each symbol and color represent in order to exert as much control as you’re able to influence how things play out, though in truth most of the time it feels like there’s only so much you’re able to do to change the course of events as fate has laid out. Whether this all leads to a satisfying conclusion may also be a fair question or possible complaint, but credit to the developer for giving the game a distinctive look, generally using solid voice acting, and trying to do something a bit different in the space.

MADiSON [BLOODIOUS GAMES] - Oh, horror games, how mixed my feelings tend to be about you on the Switch. I will admit that at least MADiSON seems to have helped me break out of what was feeling like a depressing streak of titles that had little more to offer than periodic jump scares injected into dull walking simulators. That said, it would be incorrect to say that it doesn’t have any warts. First, while you can thankfully adjust the brightness and contrast I’m never a fan of games that don’t get that addressed up front as by default it’s damned near impossible to see anything. I understand that you want it to be dark to help with the atmosphere, but when you can’t make out much of anything very well it’s also annoying. Second, though granted this may be a “me” issue for the life of me I couldn’t understand what I was supposed to do to rotate an object in a puzzle right at the start. The on-screen help symbol actually confused me quite a bit, and since it felt like there were plenty of available buttons to use, the decision to make you use the D-Pad felt bizarre as it was literally the last option I would have assumed would have been chosen. If you can get over those issues and survive what are sometimes vague puzzles that will require you to scrounge around in the hopes of stumbling onto a solution by accident there’s no doubt the experience features a solid creep and scare factor, something its competition doesn’t always deliver, just be aware it’s not all positives.

Kokoro Clover Season 1 [Hikoteru] - Credit to the team behind this unusual title, it has a style all its own and an almost saccharine positivity that wants to win you over. Feeling almost as determined to entertain with its quirky story cutscenes, commercials, and colorful characters as with gameplay though that’s where some cracks do show. Finding the right level of difficulty for your game is no doubt a serious development challenge, but while the relative ease seems to suit the generally kid-friendly vibes the game exudes from every pore there’s no mistaking that most of the action is quite simplistic. Weirdly you do have quite a number of abilities, cards, and helper characters you’re able to leverage, which lends a feel of personalization and variety, but given the lack of creativity and variety in the stage design and so much of the action being pretty basic those skills don’t feel very necessary. Throw in the problem that if you’re really here for consistent action the presentation-heavy nature of everything may ice your enthusiasm from stage to stage. It’s absolutely its own thing, and that’s something I appreciate in a title, but I’m also not entirely sure who the target audience necessarily is given its generally dull gameplay.

LootLite [Isoca Games] - Budget-friendly games that deliver a decent experience are always appreciated but figuring out at what point the base expectations for them feel sufficient is a tricky proposition. In principle LootLite shows some promise, with a pretty classic arcade feel as you move around different zones taking out bad guys, trying to get lucky with some decent upgrades, and last as long as you can with a variety of classes you’ll slowly unlock. In execution though the lack of more differentiation in how the game plays with these other classes feels a bit more minimal than hoped and repeated runs don’t themselves inspire a deep need to keep pushing further. If you’re hurting for that classic play style and keep your expectations in check it may suffice, but there are so many better roguelike actioners out there that periodically go on sale and make a far better value proposition than this.

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