Nintendo Switch Indie Games – August eShop Review
Tens of new titles come to the Nintendo eShop every day. Some are hidden gems, waiting to be found and enjoyed, and others are painful experiences that seem to have taken your money and given very little back in return.
Here at Ultimate Gaming Paradise, we take a monthly look back at the Nintendo eShop and pick a few titles worth your time (as well as warning you off some of the real mistakes!).
Game Type: Puzzle Platformer
Studio: SkrollCat Studios
Date: 24th August 2021
Price : £13.49
I was excited to see Hoa ever since it popped up in our UGP News some months ago. With absolutely beautiful graphics, it looked like this relaxed platformer was going to be something special.
And it is.
Hoa is a fantastic game. It’s utterly delightful in tone, with truly inspiring artwork and a delicate soundtrack that adds much to the sense of relaxed exploring. There’s nothing particularly mind-blowingly new in terms of mechanics—it’s a platformer game based on collecting things and exploring locations. Where it shines is in the delivery. Everything is perfectly thought out, and fantastic to look at. As a small bug-sized little creature, you walk through the wood, jumping on logs and leaves for the main part, but getting help from the bugs that are nearby. Hard-shelled beetles are there to provide movable platforms (just convince them to follow you), and soft squishy creatures give you that extra bounce to reach higher platforms. It has a subtle way of zooming in and out, too, which means that you can always see exactly what you need to see to work out where to go.
Hoa is a soft game, perfect for younger players but equally enjoyable by adults. There’s nothing negative anywhere, and the forest locale is perfectly realised. My biggest complaint wasn’t actually with the game, but with the Switch itself. The screen on a standard Switch simply doesn’t have the brightness to do this verdant and vibrant world justice, and I found myself (for the first time) wishing for an OLED Switch just to see what this would look like with a few more nits (that’s screen brightness, not headlice, although the latter wouldn’t be out of place in the game!).
The puzzles aren’t hard (at least, not as far though the game as I played for this review), but that’s not a problem, as this is a game very much more about the journey than the challenge. Great stuff, and highly recommended.
Game Type: Arcade Platformer
Studio: D-Lo Games
Date: 16th August 2021
Price : £7.70
On the other end of the scale, we have Chess Gambit. Obviously, I knew going in that this was going to be just a chess game, but I felt that these standard offerings need a bit of attention, too. I’m a great fan of chess and have played many computerised versions over the years.
This is one of the worst.
From the outset, it suffers because it is difficult to see which piece is which. They are great in terms of graphics, nicely done and well polished in that sense, but there’s not enough difference between the pieces to differentiate them, especially at certain angles. Move the camera to a top-down view and I challenge anyone to tell a knight from a bishop, or pawn from a rook, and that’s a huge failing for a chess game. There’s no option to switch the graphics set to anything else (multiple sets are usually a standard feature of computerised chess games) and you are stuck with the cute little knights and soldiers defending their castle.
A chess game where you can’t work out which piece is which, is never going to succeed, but then Chess Gambit goes further down.
It is slow. So slow that I want to put a lot of os into the word. Sloooooooooow. That slow. Slower. Make a move and watch as the little AI chunks and churns before finally making its response, and that’s the case even when it’s not at a complicated stage of the game—basic openers should be instant, for example.
Ramp up the difficulty and it gets slower. I started at five (out of nine), to see how it played, and ramped it right up to nine soon afterwards. At five it was slow (and made some very dubious moves), at nine it was unplayable.
I have apps on my phone that play chess at a higher level and their responses are close to instant. I see no reason for this snail-like AI.
It’s worse though, because even when it does finally make a move, the animation of the move is just as dragging! You have to watch as the queen plods across the board, one square at a time, before an animated strike and little whimper of death comes from her victim. In 1988, when Battle Chess came out, it was all very exciting and innovative to see animations like this. Thirty-three years later, it’s just taking up time I’d rather spend playing.
Sorry, Chess Gambit, but despite some nice looking graphics, there’s nothing here of worth.
Inked: A Tale of Love
Game Type: Puzzle Adventure
Studio: Somnium Games
Date: 26th August 2021
Price : £3.79
I will keep getting caught out by pretty looking puzzle adventure games, as every month another load get dumped onto the eShop. Inked: A Tale of Love offered fantastic arty graphics, made to look like they were drawn with a ballpoint pen, and some in-game mechanics to match.
It failed on both.
The pen-sketchy graphics are delightful in screenshots, but as soon as you move the character (or a block) you see that they don’t actually work. That sketchy look doesn’t move with the object, but it’s living in a layer underneath, so when the man crosses the screen the lines making up the shading change unrealistically. It’s such a shame because it takes the graphics from a major feature to a subtle flaw, and ruins the whole effect.
The in-game mechanic is a bit of a cheat too, it’s just block manipulation with a bit of flavour. It works, and it makes you smile to see it, but it’s not actually offering anything new.
So, two strikes so far. What about the rest?
Thankfully, Inked starts to score points once you get past these initial disappointments. The puzzles are solid and enjoyable—nothing we’ve not seen before, but done well. The story builds nicely and is compelling enough and some of the touches are utterly fantastic. I cannot praise enough the animations for the character of the wife, with her little umbrella propelling her around the landscape in ways her husband can only dream about. There’s a nice sideline quest in collecting pictures with a little magnifying glass that’ll appeal to completists out there, and despite the issue with the shading it does look stunning.
It is a good game. It could have been a great game with a little more attention to detail, and innovation, but such is life. For the price, it’s one to get for anyone who likes this sort of thing.
Game Type: First Person Shooter
Studio: Bethesda Softworks
Date: 19th August 2021
Price : £7.99
OK, I’m cheating. Quake is definitely not an indie game. It hit the eShop store this month from Bethesda, who are part of Microsoft—hardly indie developers. But it’s priced like an indie game, and as this rundown is meant to offer some of the best titles for those on a lower budget to get for the Switch, it felt reasonable to include it.
Either that, or I just wanted to play Quake again, twenty-five years after its initial release.
This is an old game. For those who don’t know, Quake is the 1996 follow up to Doom, the grandfather of FPS games, but many eShop titles like to position themselves as ‘retro’ so again, it’s fitting to be here. Old doesn’t mean ‘bad’ though. Quake is still as addictively enjoyable a quarter of a century on.
It has been excellently ported here. It’s extremely fast (sometimes too fast!), and looks perfect. There’s a lot of content included with every expansion and additional chapter they could dig up shoved into the package, so you get a lot for your money here.
And it plays brilliantly. Sure, if you are used to modern triple-A FPS games of today, Quake is missing some standard features—I kept trying to use Zl to aim up, for example—but this is where the whole genre really starts, so it can be excused for that.
Importantly, I didn’t want to put it down. I kept promising that I would, but it was one more go, after one more go, and then ‘I’ll just check out some of the alternative play modes’ and then one more go and… if addictive titles are of interest, then look no further. It’s always a great test of a game to see how much you want to come back to it.
It should be noted that Quake comes with an 18 age rating. While I don’t think it necessarily still requires that, with graphics that don’t exactly scream realism, there is a lot of violence here and all of it is gratuitous. I’d be inclined to let teenagers play it, but keep it away from little ones.
Game Type: Arcade Side-Scrolling Platformer/Shoot ‘Em Up
Date: 19th August 2021
Price : £4.49
Side-Scrolling Platform-Based Shoot-‘Em-Ups (now there’s a genre title) used to be all the rage. Step into the late 80s/early 90s and you couldn’t walk through an arcade without seeing at least five different variations of the theme, and every console and home computer was home to twenty or so more. From Double Dragon to Streets of Rage to Ikari Warriors, Turrican or Metal Slug, there was a lot of side-scrolling gun-toting or karate-kicking fun.
Metal Commando follows in their footsteps. What it avoids though, quite nicely, is trying to pay homage too much by sporting retro graphics or cutting back on features. This has plenty of modern sensibility to it while remaining squarely in an overlooked, and very fun, genre.
The idea is simple. You play a big beefy guy with a machine gun, who walks from left to right along the screen shooting everyone and everything, and hopefully not dying in the process. It’s completely unrealistic, and just as completely fun.
There are three modes; normal, hard and crazy, and you have to complete one to unlock the next. Normal really is quite easy. You can stride along with a sense of vulnerability in the early stages, ignoring the fact you are being fired upon and just enjoy the carnage. Hard does ramp it up some, and after the first few levels you find yourself having to be careful, but the real challenge comes on crazy, where the game turns from mindless shooting, to a real balance of tactics and skilful moving, trying to avoid bullets to get to the end of the stage. Crazy really felt like a different sort of game, which was another bonus.
Being a modern game, you get a good range of options to upgrade your stuff. There are weapon upgrades, a skill tree to beef up your character, and plenty of things to unlock. If there’s one complaint, though, these are a little hard to get, especially if you just use the rewards from normal mode—you will need to have some patience. Just getting the next gun along takes about an hour of saving up coins from the standard missions—in the beginning you are taking home around 2000 coins from a level, and the next gun costs 55,000! That’s almost 30 levels before you’re seeing that unlock.
It’s wonderful to see a good example of an overlooked genre. Metal Commando is a lot of fun, and has more depth than you’d expect from a first impression. It might not be the star of your games collection, but is very deserving of a spot.