June in the Nintendo eShop
One of the great things about modern console gaming is the huge number of independent titles that are available to play at a much lower price than their AAA brethren. While it’s great to play the Zeldas and Animal Crossings of this world, some of the best experiences come from playing those little-known games that are hiding in the eShop.
Every month, we at Ultimate Gaming Paradise are going to do some of the hard work for you—sifting through some new titles and seeing what is (and isn’t) worth playing.
With a run of fun puzzle games and some in-depth stories, June doesn’t disappoint.
Game Type: Arcade Platformer
Studio: Chaos Mind Games
Date: 17th June 2021
You can’t stop moving!
Playing a precision-button platformer where your little character-thingy just doesn’t stop moving can be stressful. Luciform doesn’t promise to be a casual relaxing game though, it does in fact say ‘you will fail MANY times’ in its blurb.
It’s not lying.
Get used to the controls and get a handle on the game, and Luciform is great fun. The premise is simple—the character-thingy-rabbit moves along at a steady pace and you have to change its colour to match whatever platform you are on. Red to sit on red rocks, green for green and blue for, well, blue… The concept is simple, the execution is simple, mastering it, is not.
But it is fun, and that’s the key to any indie game. Let the basic graphics and simple level design sit to one side, and just enjoy the fact that time has passed and you’ve been having fun. Either that or you’ve been swearing at the screen about how bloody difficult it can be—but then, that’s its own kind of fun anyway.
Luciform suffers from being one of those games that appear on the eShop that just feels like a mobile game port. There’s nothing here particularly Switch-y, and it could easily be a game you’d find on the App Store or Google Play Store (even though it’s not). As such, it just feels like there could have been a little something more.
Nonetheless, a great addition to the casual arcade library for the price of a coffee.
Game Type: Casual Puzzle
Studio: Manic Hyena
Date: 24th June 2021
Another odd cat game hits the eShop. This one looked like it might provide something unique and interesting, and while it delivered on the former, I just couldn’t get into it enough to consider it ‘interesting’.
The idea of the game is to find (and wake up) all the sleeping cats on an island. You do this by clicking on them with a pointer that would obviously be better if you controlled it with a mouse, proving immediately that this is a port of a PC/Steam game (it is). The problem is that it seems so unlikely that this simple premise is the whole game that I didn’t believe it and kept looking for something more game-like to do.
After a google search, it was confirmed that find-and-click on cats really is the entirety of the experience. There’re some hidden things to find, like barrels to lift the lid off, or doors to open, but other than that, it’s literally see-kitten-click-kitten.
Kind of a Where’s Wally game only without the excitement of a red-and-white-striped scarf.
Summer Paws suggests that it is a relaxing game, and the simple idea means that it may suit younger gamers (very much younger ones), but even this is a stretch. I didn’t feel particularly relaxed playing it, and my six-year-old declared it ‘completely boring’.
If you really love cats and have to own everything cat-relevant, and if clicking on pretty cat graphics to get them to purr and move around a little is your idea of a good time, then Summer Paws is for you.
If you are like the rest of us, then it’s not really worth bothering with, no matter how pretty it seems to look at first glance.
Game Type: Puzzle
Studio: Score Studios
Date: 10th June 2021
Puzzle games come and go. There must be a million of them out there, and each one tries to be attention-grabbing enough to get a download.
Piczle Cells stands out immediately because of its graphics. They are tight, simple, and brightly coloured, but work very well and stop the game from feeling amateur.
The game itself is a merge-type game, where you change the state of some blobs (cells, one imagines, given the title) by bumping them into each other. Two blobs make a double-blob, three blobs make a bigger-blob-type, and so on, and so forth.
The puzzling comes from how you move the blobs to bash them into each other. It’s a simple grid with each piece moving left, right, up or down until it hits something (including wrapping from top to bottom or left to right), but the exact sequence you need to perform to get it right and merge the blobs into one final master-blob is downright fiendish.
It’s hard. Not “oh, this game made me think a little” hard, but “I don’t know if I can do this” hard. Some levels you get through with ease, smile and plough on, but others leave you so stumped you think it’s near impossible to do. And most of them lean towards the impossible.
There’s a great sense of achievement when you do manage to get a level cleared, but it’s unfortunately tempered by an equal sense of frustration when you get stuck, and getting stuck happens more regularly.
Too often it feels like all you are doing is randomly moving the blobs in the hope that it’ll work (it typically doesn’t). Sometimes you plan a few moves ahead, but it’s never enough and Piczle Cells sits smugly undefeated, taunting you with its hidden complexity and your obvious stupidity.
I liked it a lot, but then I’m a glutton for punishment.
7 Years From Now
Game Type: Story
Studio: fumi&room6 / PQube
Date: 17th June 2021
Verdict: 4/10 (as a game), 9/10 (as a story)
When is a game not a game?
Answer: when it’s a story in game’s clothing.
7 Years From Now is an engaging story. A good story, nay a great story with time travel, mystery, infectious diseases, and romance.
What it is not, is a game.
The difference between a game and a pastime is that a game gives the player choices. It provides a true level of interaction and agency for the user. This is why, arguably, Snakes and Ladders isn’t a game—because at no point do you actually have a choice as to what happens, instead you just follow the results on the dice.
7 Years From Now offers a zero-agency experience. Sure, you get to walk from room to room, but nothing you do affects the outcome in any way. It’s not a game; it’s a pastime.
So it has to lose a few points off the score when it comes to being a game.
Remember what it is, though? It’s a story that takes 8-10 hours to play through, and it’s engrossing enough that you will put in those hours. It’s like watching a series on Netflix (with a lot more reading), or, indeed, reading a book or two. You will want to keep going to find out what happens next, and even though nothing you do or say makes a difference, you’re used to that every time you watch a film.
The graphics are cute enough—pixel art type people that bob happily through the locations, the sound is good, and the presentation is nice. None of that matters when your eyes are mainly locked to the lower half of the screen to read the text in an early-90s RPG way, but it’s nice that they took the time to put in the effort.
Get 7 Years From Now if you are a fan of time-travel stories, JRPG narratives in general, or just have a day to spend suffusing yourself in a new tale. Don’t get it if you are after an interactive user experience, because you won’t be provided with one.
Game Type: Puzzle
Studio: Ultimate Games
Date: 4th June 2021
Ah, the joy of a beautiful-looking, simple-to-grasp-hard-to-master, puzzle game based around the seasons. Relaxing, enjoyable, pretty…
Nature Matters has all of that going for it. It’s gorgeous in its presentation, delightful in its soundscape, and provides both a long afternoon’s entertainment or a quick jump-in-for-a-level distraction between bigger things.
The premise is easy enough; walk on the squares to bring nature back to the flat barren environment, but once you’ve done so, don’t go treading on the grass (or snow, etc.). Find the one path through each level, and move on to the next.
There are keys to unlock sections of the grid, little teleport orbs to bounce you from one area to another, and sections where a single pass-over isn’t quite enough to bring life back; all of these combining to give the game just the right amount of depth—complexity without ever being overwhelming.
And there are plenty of levels to keep you going for enough time to justify the cost.
And Many Many More…
The eShop is vast, and each month it just gets bigger. What indie titles have you found that deserve more attention? Why not tell us your favourites and share the love?