Hello gentle readers, and welcome to the SwitchArcade Round-Up for April 30th, 2019. Continuing my effort to mop up after my absence last week, I’ve got a bunch of reviews of games I played while I was down sick. I also take a quick look at the new releases of today, which are oddly all old games. Finally, we’ve got some tasty sales including a discount on two of the finest SEGA AGES games on Switch. Let’s get to it!
SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech ($24.99)
It really seems like Image & Form can’t go wrong with its SteamWorld series anymore. The original game, SteamWorld Tower Defense, had trouble finding an audience like many DSiWare games did, but after that it’s been nothing but an all-out sprint for these charming little bots. SteamWorld Dig was an outstanding gem on 3DS that made a nice splash on every platform it migrated to. SteamWorld Heist was a clever and highly enjoyable turn-based strategy game. SteamWorld Dig 2 beat the sophomore curse and ended up even bigger and better than the original. SteamWorld Quest takes an odd turn for an odd series by tackling the RPG genre, but it doesn’t let its esteemed name down.
Yeah, I did the pun. No regrets. And if you’re not okay with, you’d probably best stay away from SteamWorld Quest, which has its tongue planted as firmly in its cheek as the rest of the series. In spite of the shift to the generally more story-heavy RPG genre, SteamWorld Quest fares about as well with its narrative as the rest of the series. It can’t quite decide whether it wants to be a comedy or something serious, which is a little disappointing at times. It’s fine and all, and there’s certainly still a charm to these wacky robots and their performances of human culture, but don’t come in here expecting a grand tale.
No, the strength of SteamWorld Quest is in its battle mechanics, and they are sublime. It uses cards as its currency for attacks, something that may raise a red flag for some RPG fans, but in practice it’s an incredibly well-thought out and strategic turn-based system that really forces you to make the best possible use of your resources to succeed. Well, it sometimes forces you to do that. For a good chunk of the game, you’ll probably be able to win by doing almost anything. One of the big problems with the game is in its difficulty spikes, which is another common element in the SteamWorld games. You might think you don’t need to learn all of the intricacies of the battle system and how each of your characters can best contribute, but you’ll hit a wall hard if you keep up with that thinking. Don’t be afraid to adjust the difficulty level if it gets too rough.
Even with the few moments of frustration, I couldn’t help but keep coming back to the battles. You know in some of the Shin Megami Tensei games how you’ll hit a boss that just completely throws you on your arse? And how much fun it is to try to figure out a way to turn that around so that they’re the ones on the ground sobbing? There’s a good bit of that here. The tools are always there, but you’re going to have to really think hard about how to use them. You’ll also need to keep on top of developing your characters and upgrading your cards as well. The game could probably do a better job of preparing the player for the tougher challenges ahead of them, I think. But I also feel like RPG fans are in a perpetual state of picking between games that are so easy that they don’t require you to learn their systems at all, or this kind of situation. And sometimes, I prefer this. You might not.
The battle system is strong enough to carry the game on its own, and that’s a lucky thing because SteamWorld Quest isn’t quite as strong in other respects. I’ve already mentioned the story, which is amusing but not particularly compelling. I also feel like the exploration and loot-gathering aspects are decent but not great. I wish we could see more of this setting and get a bigger look at it all. If you’re just looking to reach the end, you can probably get that done in about a dozen hours. Normally, I feel like RPGs overstay their welcome, but in this case, I feel like the game didn’t stick around quite long enough. As immensely satisfied as I was with the combat mechanics, I found myself wishing the rest of the game had just that little bit more to make it really shine.
That all being said, if you like the SteamWorld series or enjoy a good RPG battle system, you can buy this without any fear. It’s a high-quality game, and it’s remarkable just how well Image & Form did with this genre on what is, I believe, its first crack at it. But just as Dig seemed to cry out for a bigger, more substantial sequel, so too does SteamWorld Quest leave you just a little bit hungry. I’m not sure if this is just a one-off or if Image & Form plans to revisit the genre again another time, but I certainly hope it’s the latter. This initial effort is really wonderful, and I can only imagine where this incredibly dependable developer would go from here.
SwitchArcade Score: 4/5
BOXBOY! + BOXGIRL! ($9.99)
Of the many franchises Nintendo and its second-party partners introduced on the Nintendo 3DS, none were perhaps as ripe for a smooth transition onto another system as BOXBOY!. The games didn’t make much use of the system’s 3D features, and didn’t use touch controls. Even the second screen was limited to showing some simple HUD info that could have easily fit on the play screen. You could probably do BOXBOY! on a Game Boy and not lose a lot. So it’s likely no surprise to anyone that the series has made the jump to Switch in great form.
For the most part, this is BOXBOY! as you know it. You play as a little box with legs and eyes who has to make his or her way to the door at the end of each stage, collecting any crowns that may be scattered along the way. You can move left and right and make little hops, but your main means of navigating the various obstacles in your path comes from your ability to generate blocks. These can be used in the usual ways we see in games, as stepping stones or switches, but since they come from your boxy body, there are a few novel uses as well. The boxes remain attached to your character until such time as you release them, and you can even reel them back in should you want. You can use this aspect to move your character or even create a makeshift grappling device from a line of blocks.
There are a couple of changes to the formula here, however. First is that you can play a campaign with another player cooperatively. It’s pretty fun and definitely increases your options for solving puzzles. The way level goals and unlocks work is a bit different as well. Crowns are counted separately from how many blocks you’ve used, and you’ll earn two types of medals upon clearing a stage. One set of medals can be used to unlock hints, music, comics, and extra play modes. The other set is used in a gacha-style machine that spits out costume parts. You can mix and match the parts as you like, with certain combinations providing special benefits. Note that this only changes the order in which you get costumes. You’ll earn enough medals to get all of the parts regardless of your luck.
And of course, the game is a lot sharper, smoother, and more colorful as well. The BOXBOY! games have always moved at a fairly relaxed pace, but you could still occasionally see the 3DS struggling a little in more complex situations. Not so here. The game is smooth as butter, and everything is nice and crisp thanks to the bump in resolution. The splashes of color that were optional in BYE BYE BOXBOY! are now naturally woven in here, and even have a connection to the story. Oh, and if you’re playing in single-player, you can switch between Qbby and Qucy as you see fit.
The puzzles are well-designed as usual, occasionally offering multiple solutions for those clever enough to find them. It’s not the most difficult or innovative puzzler around, but it does what it does very well. The rewards for achieving the optional goals of collecting the crowns or using the minimum number of boxes are nice, but those who want a breezier time are certainly free to just make their way to the exit of each level, a task that should be within the grasp of just about anyone. It’s a friendly neighborhood puzzle game, so if you’re usually intimidated by these sorts of affairs, you will likely find this experience to be much more approachable.
BOXBOY! + BOXGIRL! is another solid entry in the series, and if you mean to play it with a second player, it really does feel like something fresh and new. Otherwise, it’s another excellent helping of the same sort of thing we saw in the 3DS trilogy, with a few benefits that come from its move to more advanced hardware. If you’re burnt out on the BOXBOY! concept, nothing here is likely to change your mind. But if you’re like me and just can’t seem to get enough of this charming little series, you won’t go wrong by picking this one up.
SwitchArcade Score: 4/5
Type: Rider ($2.99)
I first encountered Type: Rider in its mobile form a few years back, and I found it rather interesting. It’s a somewhat basic puzzle-platformer with a couple of neat gimmicks up its sleeve. The first is that you are controlling two balls that are joined by some invisible force, making for a rather unusual character both in shape and motion. The other cool thing about the game, and perhaps the point of the whole affair, is that it teaches you a brief overview of the history of typography as you play.
Each level is like a little theme park ride that takes you through various eras and aspects of typography. Along the way you’ll find asterisks that, when collected, fill in a journal entry about a particularly noteworthy point in the history. Since the level designs and visual appearances draw from each of these, it never feels like the educational aspect is disjointed from the gameplay. It’s a cool incentive to keep on playing, though as you would imagine it’s really at its most effective on your first run through.
Luckily, it’s rather fun to play while it’s at it. The rolling, segmented character has a unique feel but it’s one that works. There are a few slightly frustrating moments in some of the levels, but for the most part the game plays smoothly and with just enough challenge to engage you. It’s a little on the short side and, as mentioned, some of the fun is exhausted once you’ve seen all the journal entries. Still, for just a few bucks it’s hard to go wrong with Type: Rider.
SwitchArcade Score: 4/5
Dig Dog ($3.99)
While playing Dig Dog, I sometimes felt like I was having a good time. But for the majority of my play sessions, I felt more like I was just having a time. You know, it’s like if someone puts a plate of plain crackers down in front of you. You might start absentmindedly munching them just because they’re there. Are they good? Are they bad? Neither, really. And that’s about where I fall on Dig Dog.
The goal in each level of Dig Dog is to find your way to the warp bone that resides somewhere near the bottom of the stage. You won’t know exactly where it is each time since the stages are procedurally generated, but it’s definitely near the bottom. Your character, the eponymous Dig Dog, can dig, jump, and bark. You’ve got two hit points, and ideally you want to avoid digging through the bottom of the stage and falling onto the spikes that lay below. I mention this because your dog can also do a fast dig that can get you into some trouble if you aren’t careful. Enemies also litter the stages and you’ll either have to deal with them or avoid them. They’ll sometimes drop coins if you defeat them, though.
Said coins can be used at shops that occasionally appear. There, you can buy special items that will help you out. Every few levels, you’ll jet off to a new location with slightly different colors and scenery. As you go along, the levels tend to get bigger and more complex, decreasing the likelihood that the bone you’re looking for will be right underfoot. In addition to this main game mode, there’s also a free dig mode that removes most of the pressures and just lets you dig. It’s alright. You’ll also unlock new palettes and such, similar to Downwell.
That’s Dig Dog. It’s a simple game and I can see getting into it the same way I can see eating an entire package of saltines without really thinking about it. It feels like it’s missing a certain something that would take it to another level, but I’m not sure what that would be. As it is, it’s an okay way to pass the time, and I certainly can’t argue with the price tag. Pick it up if you like digging games. It’s not the best one but it’s not bad.
SwitchArcade Score: 3/5
Clearly inspired by Square Enix’s GO series, Vandals substitutes the killing and hacking for tagging and whistling. With the mobile release of the game, I always felt compelled to add the caveat that a person should probably play those GO games before they got around to Vandals, but there’s actually very little competition in this specific category on the Switch. This is a turn-based game of stealth where you need to carefully plan out every step in order to pull off your plan. Which really just amounts to spray-painting all kinds of stuff, so don’t worry too much about the victims.
You can choose from a few different control layouts in this Switch version, and they all work reasonably well even if it’s clear the touch controls are what it was designed around. After choosing your desired layout, you’ll play a brief tutorial that also allows you to pick your nickname. After that, it’s off to the proper game. Each level is made up of a number of connected nodes. On each of your turns, you can move among those nodes or take some other kind of action. Since you are, you know, vandalizing things, there are guards and other people who don’t take kindly to your actions. They get to take a turn each time you do, so you have to plan carefully in order to stay ahead of them.
Technically, all you need to do to move forward is to tag the necessary targets and reach the level exit. Beyond that, you can earn extra stars for keeping your number of turns at a minimum, avoiding being detected, and traveling to a certain location in each level. Those stars will unlock other levels, so there’s some incentive to score them. You can take as much time to think about each turn as you like and, rather humorously, once you’ve started spraying a tag you can spend practically forever painting whatever you’d like with the game limited set of tools and colors. Mmm, the rules of fiction. If you don’t so much care what your tag looks like, you can draw a smiley face or just stamp your nickname on there and move on. You’ll probably end up doing that in the long run anyway, because there are quite a number of stages here.
Like Arte’s other recent Switch releases, there’s a mild educational aspect to Vandals. You can check photographs in some of the stages to get some information about the history of graffiti and street artists, which is an interesting extra. And given the lack of Square Enix’s GO series on this platform, one of the big criticisms I have about Vandals is effectively cut off at the pass. Assuming you only own a Switch, I can’t very well tell you to go play the slightly better GO games first. So sure, this is worth picking up and playing if you like the sound of it. If Square Enix’s GO titles someday show up, we’ll have to have another talk, but for now? King of the GO-like castle, friends.
SwitchArcade Score: 3.5/5
Homo Machina ($2.99)
Like the other Arte games I’m looking at today, Homo Machina already released on mobile quite a ways back. This version of the game isn’t significantly different apart from the shift in platform. In fact, if you play in handheld mode, you’re forced into using your Switch in portrait mode to play, complete with full touch controls. Naturally, this is the best way to experience the game, though I’d imagine you can make do with the TV set-up if you really want to. I didn’t try it, so I can’t speak to that.
Anyway, Homo Machina is an easy-going puzzle game that envisions the human body as a sort of factory where a bunch of little people and complicated machines make everything work. You see a human through a day of their life, performing simple puzzles and mini-games to do things like eat breakfast, run, and do their job. The highlight of the day is the big date the character goes on, which has many of the body’s workers stressed out. It’s all quite cute but you shouldn’t expect much in the way of challenge from it. It’s mostly about finding the things you can interact with and interacting with them until you get the desired result. At most you might have to keep a couple of things in your memory at one time.
It’s not very long nor is it all that engaging in a mechanical sense, but it is still rather cute for the first playthrough. I think the price is where it needs to be here, because I’m not sure if it’s really going to be something you’ll want to come back to that often, if at all. Given that there is no shortage of clever puzzle games out there, I can’t give Homo Machina a terribly strong recommendation, but it’s pleasant enough if you have a few extra dollars and want to play something relatively stress-free and well-constructed.
SwitchArcade Score: 3/5
James Pond Codename Robocod ($14.99)
James Pond has always been one of those series that I just couldn’t get into. The games just always felt too slow and clunky to me, but I know they do have their fans. This second game, Codename Robocod, seems to be particularly well-liked. As far as I can tell, this is a variant of the remake that has been kicking around for a while and as such has a number of differences from the original release. Unfortunately, I don’t think any more highly of this game than I did 25 years ago, but if James Pond is a happy memory for you, this may be worth picking up just to see the little guy back in action on a modern console.
Impossible Mission ($14.99)
Stay a while! Stay… forever! Here’s another remade classic, but I actually rather enjoy the original game in this case. The first gaming machine I had at home was a Commodore 64, and I have a lot of nostalgia for the platform. So when the C64 Mini recently came out, I picked it up and was saddened to realize that a lot of the games just weren’t as good as I remembered. You know one game that was, though? This one! Anyway, this remake lets you play something resembling the original version, or something resembling the original version but with ugly “new" graphics skinned on top, or an entirely remade take on the game. As a game, it still holds up fairly well, but unless you have nostalgia for it I suspect you can find more interesting ways to spend fifteen bucks on Switch.
Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age ($49.99)
The Nintendo Switch is building an incredible library of classic RPGs, many of which are available in a handheld format for the first time. Final Fantasy 12 is one of those, and it’s yet another way for you to get lost in another world while you’re on the go. The story on this one goes a bit wonky at the midway point, but the gameplay and exploration stay quite strong all the way through. This game was a clear inspiration for later titles like Xenoblade, so being able to play this remade, improved version of it on the go is just awesome. The game looks and runs great on the machine, too. Plus, Balthier and Fran. What more do you need? There’s nothing else in the offline Final Fantasy games that plays or feels quite like this one, so make sure to check it out if you’re into RPGs.
A nice handful of good games on sale as of today. Both SEGA AGES titles are worth picking up, with Phantasy Star being hands-down the best release of that game ever. The Trine games are also on sale, and HoPiKo has a very nice discount as well. In the outbox, a number of Circle Entertainment’s sales are ending tomorrow. The company does sales fairly often, but it has so many titles that any given game only goes on sale once in a blue moon. What I’m saying is that if you want to get those Mercenaries Saga games, go for it. They probably won’t be on sale again for a few months at least.
New Games on Sale
SEGA AGES Phantasy Star ($5.99 from $7.99 until 5/12)
SEGA AGES Lightening Force ($5.99 from $7.99 until 5/1)
Meow Motors ($13.49 from $14.99 until 5/8)
European Conqueror X ($7.99 from $9.99 until 5/7)
Darkest Hunter ($4.24 from $5.30 until 5/13)
Pizza Parking ($1.19 from $5.99 until 5/6)
Trine Enchanted Edition ($10.49 from $14.99 until 5/13)
Trine 2: Complete Story ($11.89 from $16.99 until 5/13)
HoPiKo ($2.99 from $9.99 until 5/12)
Crimson Keep ($5.99 from $19.99 until 5/12)
Candle: The Power of the Flame ($4.99 from $19.99 until 5/12)
Stardust Galaxy Warriors ($4.99 from $9.99 until 5/7)
Death Mark ($24.99 from $49.99 until 5/7)
Little Dragons Cafe ($29.99 from $59.99 until 5/7)
Quad Fighter K ($3.99 from $7.99 until 5/7)
Sales Ending Tomorrow, Wednesday, May 1st
Bot Vice ($8.99 from $9.99 until 5/1)
Crashbots ($8.99 from $9.99 until 5/1)
Doggie Ninja The Golden Mission ($5.00 from $8.00 until 5/1)
Gear.Club Unlimited ($19.99 from $44.99 until 5/1)
Green Game: TimeSwapper ($1.49 from $2.99 until 5/1)
Human: Fall Flat ($7.49 from $14.99 until 5/1)
Hunter’s Legacy: Purrfect Edition ($4.89 from $6.99 until 5/1)
InnerSpace ($4.99 from $19.99 until 5/1)
Koi DX ($3.50 from $5.00 until 5/1)
Mecho Tales ($0.49 from $0.99 until 5/1)
Mercenaries Saga Chronicles ($10.49 from $14.99 until 5/1)
Mercenaries Wings: The False Phoenix ($10.39 from $12.99 until 5/1)
Mulaka ($11.98 from $19.98 until 5/1)
Next Up Hero ($4.99 from $19.99 until 5/1)
Pan-Pan A Tiny Big Adventure ($3.00 from $5.00 until 5/1)
Plague Road ($0.99 from $15.00 until 5/1)
Shelter Generations ($9.99 from $19.99 until 5/1)
Solitaire Klondike Black ($3.50 from $5.00 until 5/1)
Solstice Chronicles: MIA ($13.49 from $14.99 until 5/1)
Super Star Path ($3.99 from $4.99 until 5/1)
Syberia 3 ($24.99 from $49.99 until 5/1)
Toki ($19.99 from $29.99 until 5/1)
Toridama: Brave Challenge ($3.50 from $5.00 until 5/1)
Will: A Wonderful World ($10.49 from $14.99 until 5/1)
World Conqueror X ($5.99 from $9.99 until 5/1)
Yesterday Origins ($9.99 from $29.99 until 5/1)
That’ll finish things up for today’s review-tastic installment of the SwitchArcade Round-Up. Be sure to check back tomorrow as we’ve got several new releases to look at. Tomorrow will also see the return of news to the feature, and of course any new sales will also be brought in as well. Make sure you’re here, friends, as we ring in the Reiwa Era the same way we rang out the Heisei! Thanks for reading!