Mini Reviews: January 31st Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Willy Jetman: Astromonkey’s Revenge [Nindie Choice!] - With so many retro indie titles that have replicated the feel and experience of such a wide variety of classic genres and styles it’s always a bit surprising when you stumble onto one that still feels somewhat unique. Willy Jetman is a surprise budget-friendly platforming shooter that does just that, making you work with your jetpack and a variety of weapons as you progress to complete stages in an alien landscape. Hidden and tough-to-reach areas are quite plentiful, but don’t be surprised when you’ll find some of them pretty challenging to survive as well. Thankfully, for the most part save points are plentiful and well-spaced enough that it generally doesn’t feel unfair, but if you’re determined to find and grab everything in the game be ready for a pleasantly consistent challenge. Whether avoiding a variety of types of traps or taking on some tough creatures, some of which may require a little experimentation and strategy to take down, you should find plenty of opportunity to work for your progress. All in all this is one of those pleasant surprise titles that I didn’t find out about until it arrived in my inbox and I’m glad I decided to take it for a spin, it’s a very retro-feeling treat that should please people looking for a fair challenge!

Bookbound Brigade - As an English major and classical literature nerd of sorts the setup for Bookbound Brigade easily piqued my interest. Work through a Metroidvania by controlling a group of characters from a pretty wide variety of classics and periodically encounter even more characters as you level up, gain new abilities and formations you can work with, and work to solve puzzles and defeat enemies as you go? Early on when running into Don Quixote I was encouraged even further on my nerd side with a great character reference. Unfortunately, in terms of the gameplay itself, it’s more of a mixed bag. The variety in what your crew becomes capable of actually gets to be a bit of an impediment as remembering all of the controls and being able to effectively use them quickly and precisely at times can get to be a bit of a chore. I like a good challenge but when it feels like the game’s own mechanics are one of your obstacles to getting into a groove and enjoying yourself it can be aggravating. There’s no doubt it has some good and original ideas, just I’m not sure it’s consistent enough in quality to get a firm recommendation.

Speaking Simulator - This is one of those titles that is likely to divide people firmly between the lovers and the haters, without a whole lot in between. As the game’s name implies the focus of the majority of the gameplay is in manipulating the mouth of your character, a robot, in order to get it to not just speak but also exhibit some other characteristics within your interactions that would make you seem human. The humor ensues as you go through a number of social situations where you’re trying your best to remain composed as you struggle to get your words out and eventually begin to show visible signs of wear and tear. The question will be whether the novelty of the experience can keep its grip on you as more elements slowly get added, making your undertaking increasingly challenging or hopeless depending on how you see it. It’s a tricky balancing act and it will likely vary from person to person where the needle moves, whether in the direction of frustrating or quirky and entertaining.

Sisters Royale - When it comes to shooters of all types from traditional to modern, bullet hell to roguelike, the Switch has you covered. Unfortunately for developers that also means that in order to make a mark and stand out you’ve got your work cut out for you. In the case of Sisters Royale there are certainly elements, in particular its oddball (though some would say annoying) story beats and overall art style, that make it stand out but whether or not they’ll satisfy will likely heavily boil down to taste. Each of the title sisters does have both unique shot patterns and specials, and attacking the game’s 5 stages with each of them does feel quite different. Stage theming is in some cases more than superficial, though in particular whether you appreciate the slightly slippery nature of the icy level in a game of this sort of title may be a fair question. In the end this game becomes all about high score chasing, which is made a bit more thrilling since an aspect of your score is driven by how close you’re able to get to enemy fire. That may be a big plus for hardcore bullet hell fans, but I wouldn’t say this is any better implemented by its contemporaries with the same mechanics. With a wide variety of both vintage and new wave shmups available on the Switch aside from style and flair I find Sisters Royale struggles to clearly assert itself as a top contender. Some may appreciate its push to be different, a move I can respect, but under the hood without those flourishes it still just feels a bit ordinary.

Not Tonight - The strength of the size of the indie gaming space out there is that you never know what you may run into, and that with some creativity you can game-ify just about anything… even something as mundane as checking people’s IDs at the door of various venues. In the case of Not Tonight there’s more to it than just your menial (though, as things progress, surprisingly challenging) work though, with a world caught up in political turmoil care of Brexit (in this case having already occurred, though now the real world may be catching up) working as the backdrop to your everyday existence. For Americans this may be a bit harder to parse, and for people with greater connections to Brexit (depending on your political leanings) you may enjoy its strident picture of a country gone wrong or find it irritating. Regardless, in terms of gameplay while it stays simple in principle and never really evolves a great deal it presents a solid mental challenge as you try to quickly keep the line moving while juggling an ever-growing list of concerns for who you should turn away.

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