Nintendo Switch Indie Games – July eShop Review
Tens of new Nintendo Switch indie games 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 Switch indie games worth your time (as well as warning you of some of the real mistakes!).
Pets No More
Game Type: Arcade Sport Multiplayer
Studio: Purple Tree Studio
Date: 26th July 2021
The excitement of playing air hockey is pretty limited even in real life. Unless you are really drunk or with a huge group of friends who have organised some sort of league, a couple of games tends to be enough. So, have the makers of Pets No More (a truly awful title for an air hockey game) managed to add enough to the experience to make it worth investing in? The answer is both yes, and no.
In the yes camp, there are plenty of additional extras to move this beyond simply ‘air hockey on the switch’. You are playing as amusing zombie versions of animals, each with their own somewhat over-energetic special move; there are additional blocks and destructible walls dotted around the place to make the levels a little more entertaining than simply open space; and the game cheats enough (yes, it’s my opinion that suddenly turning it from 1v1 to 1v2 to 1v3 when you start to win comes under the umbrella of ‘cheating’) to give it some edge.
And in the no camp, this game has the same somewhat random feel that air hockey has in real life. Unless you are some sort of maths-angles savant, you really don’t know where the little puck is going to go next and it all seems a lot down to luck.
It is fun, let’s make that clear. The game is nicely polished for an indie title, with decent graphics and a good sense of production, and it does what it sets out to do, which is provide a fun version of air hockey for a home console, but drill down through everything, and it’s just playing air hockey.
There’s a bonus when you realise you can play up to eight players, which means getting those drunken friends around is going to be a great giggle for an hour or two, and I’m sure the really competitive out there are going to want to really get good at it, but for most people, it’s going to be too much of a stretch to be worth owning. Ah well.
Ayo the Clown
Game Type: Arcade Platformer
Studio: Ayo the Clown
Date: 28th July 2021
I didn’t expect too much from Ayo the Clown. It comes in as an expensive Switch indie game, at a £15 price point and I loaded it up expecting it to fall flat based on that alone, but I was pleasantly surprised.
That money has been spent on production. This is a game that could easily masquerade as a full-priced title with a box and everything based on its polish. The graphics are good, the sound is tight, and the controls do what they are supposed to do, making the overall effect very pleasing.
Where it loses points is that it is, after all that, just another arcade platformer. I don’t know how many of those there are in the world today, but it’s more than a few. The sheer competition in the area is insane, and if I was asked ‘does the world need another side-scrolling platformer’, I’d definitely respond in the negative.
That all said, this is good. That polish I mentioned earlier means that the game is as impressive as many other things on the market. I was immediately reminded of Little Big Planet, the original of which is over a decade old but still stands as a strong not-quite-classic of the genre. There are good level designs, some clever mechanics, and some skill needed for occasional pixel-perfect jumps etc. It is, at its core, a great platformer game.
And, if you want another one, this is definitely worth a look.
Game Type: Arcade Platformer
Studio: Game Nacional
Date: 16th July 2021
I took a look at Scribbled because of the very rough art style. Rather than try to hide a lack of graphic design skills behind some rudimentary graphics, the developer has decided to just go all out there with ‘I scribbled the graphics with a pencil and paper, that’s what you’re getting’. I admire the audacity.
But does it work?
Actually, you find yourself forgetting about the graphics (or lack of them), within the first few minutes of the game. It’s a run, jump, slash type of arcade game where you have to cut your way through enemies (snails, fish, frogs in the first level) and pick up the odd $ sign to get extra points. The graphics are fairly irrelevant.
Sadly, so is the enjoyment.
There’s nothing particularly wrong with Scribbled, certainly not its visual style, but there’s nothing particularly right either. It’s unapologetic in its collision detection and kills you with cheery regularity. Each run through has to be just right if you plan to make it to the end, and completely perfect if you want to pick up everything on the way. For the latter, money is particularly annoying, as it disappears from the screen really quickly and if you’re not running full tilt, you’re going to miss it—this makes getting the money and killing the fish and snails without missing one a job for the hardcore and heavily invested only.
It challenges you to play again, and there’s something about a game like this that makes you think ‘just one more’, which is a successful trait, but a few goes in you realise time is ticking and you’re getting nothing out of it.
It’s smooth enough, it looks fun enough, it has all the right elements to be good, but somehow it fails to be so. Instead, we’re presented with a very generic run-jump-slash game where the unique selling point is that the developer didn’t bother with real graphics.
CLOSER – anagnorisis
Game Type: Puzzle / Adventure / Stealth
Studio: 2P Games
Date: 29th July 2021
Closer is one of those Switch indie games that the scene is all about; arty, black-and-white titles that owe more than a little to Limbo from back in the day. In truth, Closer isn’t very much like Limbo at all, but now the comparison has been made, it’s hard to undo.
In Closer, you play a young woman who seems to have no idea where she is or what’s going on (the feeling is mutual). She’s very white on a field where the basic feature is a sprinkling of black trees. It looks very winter, as well as very arty.
So you run. You pick up clues as to what the hell is going on by running over some little sparkle-crystal things and then you quickly spy a monster.
This demonic creature is black (of course) and once it sees you, it comes running, arms outstretched, to drain you of your life force. Try again.
There are white patches for you to hide in (white on white is hard to see), and a little later there are walls to put between you. Monsters upgrade from the basic runner to suicide bombers and beyond, quickly turning the game from a slow pure stealth-action game to an action/puzzle/stealth piece. Working out how to get the monsters to disrupt each other so that you can pick up the previous sparkle clues is rewarding when it works (and equally frustrating when it doesn’t).
The story starts to slowly develop, as magic and mystery are dropped in the frame. There are cutscenes between each major level change, but other than that, information is drip-fed through the few sparkles in a rather enticing way.
Each level adds something new to the mix—walk slowly through the water, for example, to not alert the nearby creatures—and there’s a nice learning curve as your skill and understanding improve. The whole thing comes across as strangely enticing, a bit eerie, and often intriguing.
There’s no doubt that those who master the game quickly aren’t going to take too long to complete it, but it’ll be an engrossing few hours. For those of us who simply can’t play games that perfectly, there’s a lot of entertainment here in a game that will keep you coming back for more.
Game Type: Roguelike Dungeon-Crawler RPG
Studio: Spellbind Studios
Date: 15th July 2021
From the very beginning, Rogue Wizards looks the part. It has some wonderful cartoony graphics that are as detailed as they are colourful and a smooth sense of animation that is typically missing from indie titles. Like a few on this month’s list, it shows a level of production values and polish that many Switch indie games lack, and that’s great—especially for a game like this.
Rogue Wizards is, as the title may suggest, a rogue-like dungeon crawler game where magic plays a fairly substantial part. There’s nothing mind-blowingly original about anything it is doing here, but everything it does is very well crafted and the results are very pleasing.
As with every RPG, there’s a background story to Rogue Wizards that you’d tell all your friends is subpar, clichéd and obvious, but which you are secretly enjoying and keen to get through. Here it’s something about some scrolls and a wizard’s guild and… oh, you get the idea. It’s fun though and adds to the overall package to bring yet more of that high-quality feel.
That’s what Rogue Wizards does very well; it exudes quality. Yes, we’ve all played games before where you enter a procedurally-created dungeon and wander around, filling out the map while killing random monster encounters on the way. Yes, we’ve all enjoyed adventures where you pick up far too many items, sell 90% of them to the in-game shop and obsessively care about whether your shield is +71 defence or +73 defence, and if the bonus it gives to air magic is worth the two-point difference. Yes, we’ve all given our time to RPGs where we start off an unknown who’s surprised at his powers only to grow into those same powers and become the saviour of the entire world.
But, outside of some very well-regarded AAA titles (Diablo, for example, or maybe a Final Fantasy game), it’s rare to see it accomplished with such a shiny sheen.
Rogue Wizards is just a rogue-like, but it’s one I’ll be coming back to.