Mini Reviews: January 23rd Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

198X [Nindie Choice!] - As a child of the 70s and 80s who spent an enormous amount of time in the arcades there’s no doubt 198X was made for me. I’m just getting my bias out of the way so you can take into account how it may color my generally positive perception of the game. In essence the game is a blend of the beginnings of the story (it is meant to be the first chapter in a bigger narrative) of Kid, a teenager approaching life’s crossroads and feeling the limits of the town they’re living in. With the discovery of a local arcade, and through the exploration of 5 different retro-styled games, that perspective begins to shift, providing confidence and vision of new possibilities. While perhaps it’s a bit frustrating how briefly you’ll be able to enjoy the title’s loving recreation of multiple classics and genres there are moments I had playing through them that helped me reconnect with the wonder of the experience of the arcade, not just as a collection of games to play but as a physical place that was somehow special. I’m absolutely looking forward to what is yet to come in future chapters and I would imagine anyone with a long-standing connection and affection for games will enjoy this celebration of arcade culture.

Stories Untold - Though I’m old enough to recall, with some fondness even, the days of playing purely text-based adventure games the likes of Zork and others I can’t say I was initially thrilled at the prospect of returning to that style of play. Thankfully, it doesn’t take long for Stories Untold to reveal itself as being much more, whether with some odd meta moments, strange visions of aliens and/or monsters, etc. While mechanically some people may find the gameplay itself to be a bit of a drag, checking through manuals and operating varied equipment as the situations demand, the mystery of what’s happening managed to suck me in completely and hold my attention through the completion of the game’s fourth and final chapter a few hours later which brought everything together in an unexpected way. Perhaps it’s more of an overall experience more than a thrilling game but Stories Untold did manage to deliver the unexpected, and that has some merit in a crowded eShop.

Robots Under Attack - Budget puzzlers may be a bit of a dime a dozen on the Switch but it’s always nice to see ones that offer up something different. Robots Under Attack fits that bill, with a nice hand-drawn art style and quite a number of physics puzzles that will challenge both your brains and your dexterity. For the most part your means of interacting with the robots and other elements in each stage will be a bow which you can fire a variety of arrows from. Depending on your obstacles you’ll need to carefully choose the right type for each job but that’s only half of your challenge. In addition, you’ll then need to carefully fire your arrows from the designated space to hit your targets, sometimes within a time limit, so combining those two elements it stacks up to a decent challenge that keeps you thinking and on your toes. While it may be lacking in bells and whistles and a great deal of variety, for a low price it will keep you occupied for a few hours and stands apart from most of its peers in the eShop so that’s something.

Lydia - Over the past few years in particular there has been a movement towards using games as a vehicle for telling semi-interactive stories as opposed to using more traditional forms of media. The power of doing this can be a stronger connection to the game’s protagonist, which then can enhance the experience and make the message more powerful. Lydia, in its admittedly brief runtime, tells a real-life story involving a little girl, her party-hard parents, and the fantasy world she tries to escape to in order to insulate her from the awful situations she finds herself in. The strengths of the game are its unusual hand-drawn art and the challenging arc of the story, while the weakness is what constitutes “gameplay” and perhaps the heavily-repeated baby sounds that are used for dialogue. However, if you’re down for putting yourself in the shoes of a child in challenging circumstances you may find it enlightening.

Red Bow - With a visual pixel art style that does have a creep factor but has elements reminiscent of the developer’s previous release, My Big Sister, I found it hard not to have a bit of deja vu playing this title. Unfortunately, another thing it has in common is the very rote path you’ll move through the game in, exploring and solving puzzles without much interest or challenge while simply advancing the story. I suppose if you like the base art and are intrigued by the creepy base nature of the folklore-driven story it could satisfy but as an adventure it’s quite shallow.

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