Hello gentle readers, and welcome to the SwitchArcade Round-Up for June 24th, 2019. The news was a little quiet over the weekend and I had a ton of reviews piling up, so today we’re going to skip on the news section in favor of four, count ’em four evaluations of recent titles. We’ve also got summaries of today’s new releases and the usual sales information. There’s a lot to read today, friends, so let’s look in a book!
Muse Dash ($29.99)
This is another game that may well be familiar to regular readers of this site. Muse Dash began its life on mobile, and like many other rhythm games that make the jump from that ecosystem to more traditional platforms, it has turned out extremely well. Taking a cue from the games that have trodden this path before it, Muse Dash opts to include all of the content that was added as in-app purchases in the mobile version and charges a bigger up-front price. That single payment will get you any future additions for free, so it works out to a nice deal compared to the original version.
Anyway, this is a rhythm game that is also kind of a stage-based auto-runner. Your character runs along and enemies and obstacles appear from the right-hand side of the screen. If you use any of the face buttons on the left Joy-Con, your character will do a jumping attack that can be used to whack anything that comes from the air or to jump over obstacles. Pressing any of the face buttons on the right Joy-Con will do a ground attack that takes out any enemies in your direct path. Some enemies need you to press both at the same time, while others have you rapidly hitting the buttons to pump up your combo. Rounding things out, you’ll sometimes have to press and hold the button to travel along stars. You could probably play the game just by sight alone if you needed to, since everything is color-coded and comes on one lane or the other.
Of course, those enemies and obstacles aren’t just arranged randomly. Each one corresponds to a beat of the current song, so you’re also pressing buttons along with the music. So while you can play it like an auto-runner, it’s not so different from something like Taiko no Tasujin. It’s just that the notes are enemies and the area you need to hit the beats in is an anime girl. Each song has multiple arrangements for easy, hard, and master difficulty settings, and those labels more or less check out. There are specific goals for each song as well, along with some overarching goals that can be completed in any song. Whatever you do, you’ll earn experience towards raising your level.
Leveling up earns you new songs and occasionally gets you a new character, costume, or helper pet. The costumes are extremely fanservicey affairs like a bunny girl suit, a sexy jester, and so on, and each one gives you slightly different abilities and stats for the character in question. If you aren’t a fan of that kind of stuff, consider this your heads-up. Helper pets lean more towards cute little animal helpers and so forth, and they each give a special assist of some kind. The art in general is really good, with a strong sense of style, a cohesive feel to all of the elements, and a reasonable amount of variety for what the game is.
When it comes to rhythm games, however, the most important thing is the music. Muse Dash leans pretty heavily into Asian pop music, though it does have quite a few instrumental tracks as well. Now, it does have a fair bit of variety within the wide umbrella that is pop, but if that’s not your genre of choice you may not have as good a time with this game as you would otherwise. The whopping 97 tracks included in the base game feature a variety of artists, and the peppy, punchy beats make for good rhythm game fodder. More songs will apparently be added in the future via free updates, but even if the developers never added another song, I think players are getting a steal of a deal here. Again, if you’re entirely turned off by pop music, this may not be the game for you, but I think pretty much anyone else is going to be more than satisfied.
Muse Dash is a really fun rhythm game that fits the Switch just fine. This particular version gives you the best bang for your buck by including all of the DLC right off the hop. The simple controls are easy for anyone to pick up, but the wild arrangements of the more difficult songs will keep you coming back endlessly to try to improve your score. The music is catchy and fits well, and the rate and quantity of unlockables means your next target is always just around the corner. The only real caveat here is that the game leans really hard into its theme, so if that theme doesn’t work for you then Muse Dash as a whole probably won’t either. Otherwise? This is an excellent game that will keep you tapping away at your Switch for hours on end.
SwitchArcade Score: 4.5/5
There are a lot of things I like about Mainlining. In a lot of ways, it feels like a modern take on the classic edutainment title Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?, albeit with all of the educational bits ripped out. I’m also a big fan of the way it chooses to present itself, funneling virtually your entire view of the world through a classic Windows XP-ish interface. It’s a very novel game, and I certainly applaud that. It’s just a shame, then, that the end result is something I’d have a pretty hard time recommending to anyone.
In this game, you play as a government agent who has to use all of the means available to you in order to solve various crimes and put the perpetrators behind bars. And you have quite the means available, as in this version of reality the government can basically peep in on and make use of any of your personal information at their leisure. Can’t imagine a world like that, no sir. Each case of the game starts with a report that tells you about the crime in question. From there, you have to figure out who to arrest, where their current location is, and provide evidence that shows they committed a crime. There are three different levels of sentencing for each suspect depending on the evidence you can come up with, and you’re ideally shooting for the maximum.
The case report will give you some kind of thread that you can start pulling on. Often that will be done through hacking, which you are able to do with surprising ease. You have to ping IP addresses, hack in, copy the contents of directories, and so on. Not all of your sleuthing will be so reliant on modern technology, however. Some of it involves good old fashioned logic based in reading people’s blogs, looking at photos, and so on. When you think you’ve got it figured out, you can pull up a directory with a bunch of names in it, point out the person you want to arrest, choose their location, and choose the evidence you want to use against them. If you’re right, they’ll head to the hoosegow and you’ll be on to the next case. If you’re wrong, a newspaper will claim the suspect was falsely arrested and your department will be embarrassed. But you can try again as much as you want. It’s almost like it never happened.
My complaints with Mainlining fall into two broad categories. First, issues with the game itself. Being the type of game that it is, sometimes what you’re really doing is trying to guess how the game designer was thinking rather than following any kind of external logic. It’s that Ace Attorney problem where you can find different ways to prove the crime but the game will only accept one. Or in this game’s case, three. It’s truly frustrating at times, as you’ll have solid evidence that anyone would agree would put the person away, but the game just isn’t having any of it. The farther you go into the game, the more of a problem this becomes. Cases get very complex and trying to guess which of the many pieces the designer felt was the right one is not terribly enjoyable.
The other problems I have deal with this port in particular. As mentioned, your entire world in this game happens behind a Windows XP-style computer. And how do we control Windows in the real world? With a controller? Not generally. With a keyboard? For some things, sure. A mouse? Yeah, that’s the ticket. And unless it’s done just so, trying to mimic a mouse with a joystick usually doesn’t go very well at all. It is not done just so here. You’ll also need the keyboard pretty often for typing web addresses and hacking, much of which is done in a DOS-like command prompt. What’s worse than trying to imitate a mouse with a joystick? If you said “typing on a software keyboard with a joystick pretending to be a mouse", you win the proverbial kewpie doll, friend. Also: uncanny guess! On top of all that, sometimes the text isn’t as readable as you’d like if you’re playing in handheld mode. This doesn’t feel like a game that was meant to be played on anything but a computer.
Combine a flawed game with a UI that makes demands of an input device that can’t possibly answer them in a satisfying way and you have a pretty weak result. I think I could probably give Mainlining a light recommendation in its PC incarnation in spite of its flaws, but there’s just no way I can tell anyone to suffer the aggravation of trying to play a game like this when the controls and basic set-up are what they are. I’ll give it some points because there are some good ideas and an okay game under all of the mess, but the execution leaves quite a bit to be desired.
SwitchArcade Score: 2.5/5
What can you really say about Scrap? This is a stage-based auto-runner with one-button controls that is obviously a port of a mobile game. If you’re reading this site, you’ve probably played a hundred games like this before. Your character moves from left to right continuously, and if it touches anything dangerous or falls down a hole, you get sent back to the last checkpoint. All you can do is jump, double-jump, or fall through the floor. Generally speaking, each stage has two floors to move along, and the key to survival is to switch between them at the right time. There are collectibles and extra goals, but you don’t have to worry about grinding for upgrades or anything like that. Those things are just a bonus to go after for your own satisfaction.
Still, no matter how much it may seem to be so, not all auto-runners are built alike. They run the whole spectrum of quality, and what it largely seems to come down to is in how tight the controls are and how good the level design is. And you know what? Scrap doesn’t do too badly with either of those things. Your little robot jumps when you tell it to jump. Collision detection is good, and it even gives you a little grace if you’re near the edge of a platform. Obstacle placement is good, with the stages staying engaging without being unfair. The fact that the game is designed rather than procedurally-generated means that the developers were able to place power-ups in places where you’ll need them, and there’s always at least one proper way forward.
You get a rather impressive number of levels given the somewhat low price of the whole affair. It’s almost too many levels, as the gameplay gets stretched a little bit thin by the time it’s all said and done. Every ten levels or so, you’ll get to watch a little cut-scene and the type of area you’re zooming through will change. The lack of variety in the visual design is one of the game’s weaker points. Everything looks fine, but it gets very samey very quickly, and even some of the environment shifts just take you to an area with slightly different colors. Honestly, I’ve seen worse in games of this genre, but it’s a shame because the game mechanically progresses fairly well. It would be nice if the rest of it kept up with that.
Okay, so I found more things to say about Scrap than I initially thought I would. It’s not going to knock anyone’s socks off, but if you’re expecting a five dollar auto-runner to do that, you’re leading a life full of tiny disappointments. For what it is, it’s decent if wholly unremarkable. The controls are good, the level designs are reasonably well-considered, and the whole thing feels a lot more robust than we often see in games of this type that slide onto the eShop. If you’re on the look out for something innovative and/or outstanding in its quality, Scrap isn’t it. But if you just want a decent auto-runner to keep you busy for a weekend, you could do way worse than this.
SwitchArcade Score: 3.5/5
Boxing Champs ($14.50)
I kind of like how despite the number of successful approaches to making a video game take on boxing, none of them have been codified as “the" way to do it as we’ve seen with most other sports. Activision’s Boxing on the 2600 went for an overhead perspective likely out of necessity more than anything. Nintendo’s Punch-Out!! has you behind the the boxer but with a full view of the opponent. EA’s Fight Night series has a bit of flexibility with its camera but generally goes for a close-up side-view of the fighters. That last one seems to be the most commonly-seen style, so it’s always a bit refreshing to see a new take on one of the others.
Boxing Champs reaches all the way back to that seminal attempt from Activision and fleshes it out with more gameplay depth and content. Of course, the graphics are a bit more detailed as well, which has the odd effect of making things look a little weird. It’s like the boxers are looking up at all times. Best not to think about it too much, though. The advantages of this perspective are clear. It accommodates two players well, allows the players to see the whole ring and easily maneuver around it, and properly captures the three-dimensional strategy of the real sport that many video games pass on. Now, don’t get the wrong idea. This isn’t a sim by any means. But it’s a lot more technical than you might guess just by looking at it.
The default controls see you using the left stick to move your boxer around with the right stick dedicated to a variety of punches. You can block or taunt by holding the ZR and ZL trigger buttons respectively. There are optional button controls for the punches if that’s your preference, but the game is easier and more fun to play with the dual-stick set-up in my opinion. You can throw jabs, crosses, hooks, and uppercuts with wild abandon, but you’ll need to be careful of your stamina. The goal is to whittle down your opponent’s life bar, which will send them down to the mat. A lucky punch can drop a fighter in one blow, but it’s mostly going to be a struggle while you get your blows in as you try to avoid taking too many hits.
The game offers a couple of single-player modes. You can do a single match, or try the career mode where you’ll have to climb through the ranks to become the champ. In the latter mode, you’ll have to create your own boxer, allocating points to his stats as you see fit. Winning matches will give you more points to distribute, allowing you to customize your own fighter according to your playstyle. You can create boxers outside of the career mode, too. The only real difference is that the fighters you create in this fashion have no cap on the points you can distribute, allowing you to create an absolute monster at your leisure. That said, this is useful because it allows players to more easily enjoy the multiplayer mode.
In the multiplayer mode, two players can choose their favorite boxer and duke it out. Naturally, you can create your own boxers for this purpose, and the uncapped stat distribution means that you can compensate for any gaps in skill levels. Unfortunately, you can only play the multiplayer mode locally. The game is a lot more enjoyable when you’re going up against another human as opposed to the game’s spotty AI, so it would have been nice if you could go online for those times when you don’t have any friends in the immediate vicinity.
Boxing Champs goes for a cartoony look that feels vaguely South Park-like. It’s okay, but the way things are animated makes the game look a little odd in motion in places. The soundtrack is pretty interesting in that it’s entirely made up of riffs on recognizable tunes from movies like Rocky. Like, it’s completely obvious which song each tune is based on, but they’re all just different enough to get away with it. That takes a careful hand, if you ask me. The boxer creation mode offers quite a few options, allowing you to make a wide array of approximations of real people.
It’s a decent enough game, and it can be a lot of fun with a second player. There’s certainly quite a bit of content if you’re going at the single-player mode, but the computer opponents can be really aggravating to fight against. It’s hard to feel your progress at times since the opponents scale up statistically just as much as you do along the way. Still, it’s not as though the Switch is awash in boxing titles that make even a small attempt at emulating the real sport. If you want a boxing game that does an okay job of that, you’ll probably enjoy Boxing Champs.
SwitchArcade Score: 3/5
Devil May Cry ($19.99)
Yeah, I’m of two minds on this one. There’s no denying that Devil May Cry is a great game. While the combat isn’t as refined as later games in the series, it’s still plenty good. And there are some things this game does that none of the other games in the series do quite as well. By any reasonable estimation, the game is certainly worth twenty dollars on its own. But it’s hard to ignore that this was carved out of what was on other consoles a package of the first three games. Switch owners are, once again, paying a premium over other consoles, simply because Capcom has determined that we will. And that doesn’t really sit right in my craw. Oh well. Hopefully this goes over at least well enough that the third game from the trilogy gets a Switch release. It’s not like the second one is worth revisiting anyway.
Azuran Tales: Trials ($12.99)
This is an action-RPG of sorts with some platforming elements. The game’s main emphasis seems to be on its challenging combat and tricky platforming, which has earned it a bit of a reputation as a tough game in its original form on PC. Well, it does say right in the title that it’s a trial, doesn’t it? That seems to be the real test of whether or not the game will appeal to a player. Do you like hard games? Games that delight in springing traps that kill you in a single hit? Games that require you to proceed with extreme patience and react to death with renewed vigor rather than despair? If that’s your bag, you may well enjoy Azuran Tales. But if that’s not your thing, you will probably hate this game.
Home Escape ($1.99)
How very, very strange. So I think the idea here is that you need to protect the guy by swinging your Joy-Con at incoming hazards? You can play in co-op and there are 40 levels. It’s two bucks. I don’t know. Some games just aren’t that complicated, I guess. I’m not sure who is looking for something like this on their Switch, but it’s hard to make too much of a fuss about anything priced this low. Do what you must.
Nothing too exciting cropped up over the weekend, but if you wanted a good price on the most recent Football Manager, you won’t be sad. Other than that, it’s a mix of the usual suspects and a few newer releases. The outbox is similarly lacking in excitement. But if all of that means you can give your poor battered wallet a rest for a day, perhaps it’s not a bad thing.
New Games on Sale
Football Manager 2019 Touch ($13.59 from $39.99 until 7/9)
Zombie Panic in Wonderland DX ($7.50 from $8.99 until 6/30)
Cartoon Network: Battle Crashers ($7.49 from $29.99 until 7/11)
Farm Expert 2018 ($26.99 from $29.99 until 7/11)
Hyper Sentinel ($0.90 from $12.99 until 6/28)
Goosebumps The Game ($7.49 from $29.99 until 7/11)
Rapala Fishing Pro Series ($7.49 from $29.99 until 7/11)
SmuggleCraft ($3.99 from $9.99 until 7/8)
Ping Pong Trick Shot Evolution ($2.49 from $4.99 until 7/2)
The Stillness of the Wind ($9.09 from $12.99 until 7/10)
Caterpillar Royale ($2.49 from $4.99 until 7/2)
Car Mechanic Manager ($1.19 from $3.99 until 7/10)
Cybarian ($3.99 from $4.99 until 7/8)
Scrap ($3.49 from $4.99 until 7/5)
Spell Casting: Purrfectly Portable ($8.99 from $9.99 unil 6/28)
Doodle God: Crime City ($4.89 from $6.99 until 7/11)
Paper Wars: Cannon Fodder ($0.99 from $9.99 until 6/25)
Dead Dungeon ($3.99 from $4.99 until 7/14)
Sales Ending Tomorrow, Tuesday, June 25th
Crazy Strike Bowling EX ($8.99 from $9.99 until 6/25)
Doom & Destiny ($9.59 from $11.99 until 6/25)
Event Horizon ($2.39 from $5.99 until 6/25)
Ludomania ($0.99 from $3.99 until 6/25)
n Verlore Verstand ($8.39 from $13.99 until 6/25)
Paper Wars: Cannon Fodder ($0.99 from $9.99 until 6/25)
Tardy ($2.99 from $9.99 until 6/25)
And that’s all we’ve got for today, friends. Tomorrow is a surprisingly big day for new releases, with Bloodstained making its slightly late debut on the Switch alongside a Canadian take on Neptunia and a game about the French Revolution. Ha ha, I love video games. What a weird world we call home in our spare time, eh? Anyway, I hope we’ll see you all back tomorrow, and as always, thanks for reading!