Hello gentle readers, and welcome to the SwitchArcade Round-Up for March 5th, 2019. In today’s article, we’ve got a review of the latest ToeJam & Earl game, some news on a couple of interesting ports, summaries of today’s many new releases, a list of sales information, and more. This week is going to be a little quieter for new releases than the last… several, but I’m sure like today we’ll find plenty to talk about anyway. Let’s get into it!
‘Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization Deluxe Edition’ Launches May 24th in the West
With the PlayStation Vita more or less officially dead, there has to be a new home for portable versions of B-tier RPGs, and the Switch is it. While I’m personally not a huge fan of the Sword Art Online games, they do have a following. Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization already came out a few years ago on PlayStation 4 and Vita, and saw a re-release on Windows a couple of years back. This latest Deluxe Edition version includes all of the DLC and added content, and you’ll be able to pick it up on May 24th in both North America and Europe.
‘Friday the 13th: The Game’ Hits Switch This Spring
But you know, maybe cute girl warriors with heaving bosoms aren’t your thing. Maybe you prefer a stocky zombie with a goalie mask on his face, a machete in his hand, and murderous intent in his heart. Don’t worry, you’re covered, my unusual friend. Friday the 13th: The Game will be coming to Switch this spring in a special edition that includes all of the DLC and extra content. Hunt your friends! Be hunted by your friend! So many possibilities! Just be careful about engaging in pre-marital sex. I hear Jason hates pre-marital sex.
ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove ($19.99)
I think to be a ToeJam & Earl fan, you have to be a fan of the characters first and foremost. Not just because they’re the most charming aspect of a surprisingly disarming series of games, but mostly because said games have varied so much from installment to installment that the characters really are the only consistency. Well, that, and plain weirdness. ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove finally breaks that pattern, going back to the gameplay mechanics and overall set-up of the cherished original. It’s a wise move that pays off quite nicely.
ToeJam, Earl, Latisha, and Lewanda are cruising through the galaxy in their friend’s borrowed ship. Big Earl accidentally sucks the Earth, the ship, and the crew into a black hole after hitting the ship’s Black Hole Generator. It’s all regurgitated as a bunch of flat planes filled with various stuff and people from Earth, and the only way the gang can escape is by collecting all ten parts of the ship so that they can fly out of there. Each level may or may not contain a ship part, but at the very least you can look forward to a lot of good and bad things as you scour the surfaces. Wacky nasty Earthlings, wacky helpful Earthlings, presents with mysterious contents, elevators that chew you up and drag you down a level, elevators that blast off into the sky to the next level, weird doors to the FunkWorld, and more are sprinkled about, and you have to learn how to deal with all of them if you want to win.
Being creatures of a relatively peaceful disposition, our heroes can’t do much to defend themselves against the more malevolent things on the field. In fact, you can’t do much by default except shake objects or search the immediate surroundings. You’re not helpless, though, as you can find all kinds of things to aid or hinder your quest by opening presents. You won’t know what any given present type will contain until you open one, but afterwards you can be assured that all similar-looking presents in that playthrough will have a similar effect. Maybe you’ll get some wings that let you fly around. Perhaps some rocket skates that let you zoom away (and probably off a ledge to your doom). Maybe you’ll just get gas. You can ignore presents if you’re worried about tripping something bad, but you’ll have a harder time getting home without them.
Luckily, the other ace up your sleeve comes from enlisting the help of the more beneficial Earthlings. They can identify presents, fix broken ones, follow you around to protect you, and so on. Of course, they usually don’t work for free. You’ll need some cash, but it’s just laying around everywhere. Finally, almost everything you do will earn you experience points. Gather enough and you can move up a level. You start as a wiener, but play your cards right and you may end up as a FunkLord. Each level grants you some randomly-selected stat upgrades. Even slow Earl can end up speedy if luck is on his side.
If this is all sounding rather Rogue-ish, well, that’s what it is. It’s a bright, colorful, accessible roguelite, to be sure, but it is indeed of that family. Perhaps less so in the tutorial and fixed worlds, but once you venture into the random worlds, the flavor becomes quite noticeable. Still, even though we can affix some sort of label, ToeJam & Earl remains a very odd example of such. It’s action-based rather than turn-based, but it’s also very slow-paced. Finding the exit to each level is still important, but not so important as making sure any stray ship parts are recovered before moving on. It has a lot of weird little mini-games, and the whole vibe is just silly. I feel like ToeJam & Earl was a hard game to pin down back in the day, but the fact that it’s easier to recognize what it’s doing now doesn’t make the new game any less unique.
You can have good fun with Back in the Groove playing on your own, but as was the case with the original, it’s even more fun with a friend. Or friends, in this game’s case. Up to four players can join in this time around, which can make for a pretty hectic experience. To accommodate this number of players, there are actually a handful of new characters you can unlock and use. So if you want Big Earl’s mom to tag along on the adventure, that’s a thing that can happen. Besides characters, you can also unlock special presents, adding to the game’s variety on each subsequent playthrough.
All in all, this sequel is certainly going to please fans of the original. It doesn’t dramatically change the gameplay, choosing to add content rather than alter anything substantially. But that’s fine, isn’t it? After all, this is the first time the series has actually gone back to the well on any of its designs. And the new content is certainly worth the trip. That’s without even mentioning the gorgeous visuals, the awesome soundtrack, and the nicer user interface that this sequel brings. If you haven’t played the original or have no particular affinity for it, I think you’d still probably enjoy Back in the Groove. It’s not the most exciting or challenging roguelite on the Switch, but it’s got so much character and charm to it that nothing else feels quite like it. To be so quirky in such a saturated genre is a compelling feature all on its own.
SwitchArcade Score: 4/5
Unknown Fate ($14.99)
This is a story-driven first-person adventure game, and it seems like as long as you come into it with that knowledge in hand, you shouldn’t have a bad time with it. Reviews of its release on other platforms were mostly positive, if not overwhelmingly so, and it seems like it at least has an interesting mystery to unravel as you go along. The set-up is that you get sucked into a weird surreal world that seems to be composed from scraps of your character’s memories. In order to escape, you have to learn more about this weird place, but are you ready to really know what it’s all about? Well, I’ll let you decide that one.
R.B.I. Baseball 19 ($29.99)
For such a well-established brand, R.B.I. Baseball sure has had trouble with its quality in recent years. Sadly, baseball fans don’t have a whole ton of choices these days when it comes to video game versions of their favorite sport, so all one can do is hope that this developer finally gets it together. At a glance, this does seem to be better than last year’s version, but I’m not sure how much that really says. I’ll have to let someone who knows the sport better than I do have a proper go with it to say much more than that. But I guess if you want a baseball game on your Switch, what else can you buy?
Pillar is an interesting game that unfortunately just isn’t very good, in my opinion. Basically, it’s a psychological game of sorts where various types of personalities take the forms of minigames. Each mini-game is specific to a particular personality, and you can see heavy influence from the well-known Myers-Briggs test specifically. Certain characters aren’t good with certain things, so they have to go about things in different ways. I don’t know. Like I said, it’s an interesting idea for a game but it’s just a bit too abstract and dull for its own good most of the time. There’s a nice a-ha when you figure out how each game proceeds but other than those moments, it’s just sort of bland.
Beat Cop ($14.99)
Well, this has already been out on a number of platforms and isn’t exactly an unknown quantity at this point, but let’s run through the description anyway. You play as a police officer who has been framed for a murder and busted down to the rank of beat cop. Well, there’s the title. In your new role, you need to take care of all the duties, mundane and otherwise, that a patrol officer should while simultaneously trying to figure out how to clear your name. This is not a police simulator, though. Rather, it’s more like a 1980s police TV show simulator. So expect lots of weird drama and crass humor along with your parking tickets and moral dilemmas. Not a bad game but it never really gets better than the description of its premise. It’s also less than half the price on mobile, so if you don’t mind the lack of buttons in what is more or less a point-and-click adventure, that may be a better option.
Bard’s Gold ($8.99)
This game comes from the Spelunky/Rogue Legacy school of design, and while it’s probably not as good as either of those, it’s enjoyable enough. In each level, you have to find the key and make your way to the exit. There are a lot of surprise traps and such scattered about, and you’ll die a few cheap deaths along the way unless you play very, very cautiously. Multiple difficulty settings let you somewhat tailor the level of challenge, but it’s a decently tough game no matter which one you choose. Fun if you’re into that sort of thing, and the price is quite reasonable. I’ll probably do a bigger review of this in the next few days if I have the time.
12 is Better Than 6 ($9.99)
If you’ve somehow finished with Ape Out and are on the look-out for another violent top-down action game inspired by Hotline Miami, you might want to have a gander at 12 is Better Than 6. It’s a slick homage to classic Westerns, with an interesting low-color style and plenty of shoot-em-up action. It’s pretty challenging and the story is just sort of there, but if you’ve got the skills and don’t mind a bit of frustration, you might like this game quite a bit. I’d easily recommend Ape Out over this, but if you’re on the hunt for something similar, you’re likely to have a good time here.
An odd collection of new sales, to be sure. I’m not sure how hard I would stump for any of these new sales, to be honest, but if you see something you like, you know what to do. As for the out-going sales, I’m going to point one final time at Strikey Sisters, a rather fun twist on the Break Out formula. Sure, it’s just a buck off, but a buck saved is a buck earned, right?
New Games on Sale
Ultimate Chicken Horse ($10.49 from $14.99 until 3/12)
Bomber Crew ($5.99 from $14.99 until 3/19)
The Walking Vegetables: Radical Edition ($3.24 from $12.99 until 3/17)
Defunct ($5.99 from $14.99 until 3/18)
Cast of the Seven Godsends ($2.59 from $12.99 until 3/17)
The Long Reach ($4.49 from $14.99 until 3/17)
Unknown Fate ($12.74 from $14.99 until 3/12)
Sales Ending Tomorrow, Wednesday, March 6th
Heroes of the Monkey Tavern ($4.99 from $9.99 until 3/6)
Blue Rider ($6.99 from $9.99 until 3/6)
Chalk Dash Carnival ($2.12 from $7.09 until 3/6)
Iro Hero ($3.89 from $12.99 until 3/6)
Nickelodeon Kart Racers ($25.99 from $39.99 until 3/6)
Strikey Sisters ($8.99 from $9.99 until 3/6)
That’ll wrap things up for today, friends. Be back tomorrow for yet another review or two, along with all the news, new releases, and sales information that pops up in the next 24 hours. You can look forward to a handful of reviews this week as I finally have a little time to catch up on playing some of these games. As always, thanks for reading!