Hello gentle readers, and welcome to the SwitchArcade Round-Up for February 11th, 2020. In today’s gigantic article, we’ve got a full review of Arc System Works’s Code Shifter, Mini-Views of a whopping five games, summaries of today’s new releases including the Dead Cells: The Bad Seed DLC, and the usual list of sales you all know and love. Not much news, so let’s get right to the meat!
Code Shifter ($14.99)
You’ve got to hand it to Arc System Works. Since acquiring the Kunio-Kun brand along with many of the other Technos Japan properties, the publisher sure hasn’t let them lay fallow. Indeed, it’s almost refreshing how little concern there seems to be with preserving any singular image of what those properties can be. In the last six months alone, we’ve seen an extremely Wayforward take on River City Ransom with River City Girls, a wild yet in many ways orthodox fighter in the form of River City Melee Mach!!, and a totally different spin on the classic beat-em-up structure with Stay Cool, Kobayashi-San!: A River City Story.
Here’s the latest game to pull in those characters: Code Shifter. Of course, this encompasses more than just the former Technos Japan brands. It acts as a big crossover between many of the brands of Arc System Works, including BlazBlue, Guilty Gear, River City, Double Dragon, and many more. It takes 30 playable characters and 70 support characters and stuffs them into a side-scrolling platformer. It also throws in a multiplayer fighting game as an extra.
The framing device here is that a developer is working down to the wire to finish its latest game: Colorful Fighters. Unfortunately, bugs keep mysteriously showing up. Work gets deleted, data gets corrupted, and there doesn’t seem to be anyone to blame for it. Enter Stella and her latest creation, the bug-fixing program Code Shifter. It allows her avatar, Sera, to enter the code and track down those bugs. Along the way, Sera will free a variety of characters that she will then be able to transform into or call in for a bit of support. That also restores the characters for Colorful Fighters, which is actually a real game. Well, a sub-game anyway. The multiplayer fighting game I mentioned before, specifically.
Code Shifter, the game, involves three different sub-games. The scenes outside of the code take the form of an isometric area that you can walk around in, interacting with various people and objects. It has clean visuals but there isn’t really much worth seeing here. You’ll probably just want to head to wherever you need to go to kick off the next action stage, a process that is somewhat more awkward than it should be thanks to some bizarre collision detection. The story mostly plays out in this mode, such as it is.
Colorful Fighters is the game within the game, and it’s not very fun. It feels like it’s trying to evoke Super Smash Bros., but it’s just kind of clunky and hard to get into. You can play with up to four players here, but I have to believe that most of you have better games to play if you’ve got that many people gathered. It’s fun to unlock the many characters that can be used in this mode, but that’s probably the most enjoyable part of it. You’ll likely mess around with a little here and there as you open things up, but I can’t see anyone wanting to stick with it.
That leaves the meat of the game, the 2D side-scrolling stages. They’re fine. I wish I could say they were more than that, but they feel like the definition of adequate. You’ll jump and fight your way through a bunch of stages that start to bleed together thanks to a general lack of variety in visual themes, making use of character transformations to help you get past specific obstacles. Collision is a little ropey here, and I find it amusing that for all the characters you run into that are supposed to help you fight, Sera ends up being the best choice in most combat situations. You will need other characters to get past obstacles, at least.
The extra characters are all drawn in a retro 8-bit style, and it’s neat to see the more modern characters like the ones from BlazBlue and Guilty Gear rendered in this way. It reminds me of the sprites found in the handheld versions of SNK’s fighters back in the day. They clash terribly with the 2.5D backgrounds, and I think it’s weird how Sera and the enemies use a completely different art style. It just doesn’t mesh well at all, but you’ll probably stop caring after a while and start looking forward to the classic tunes that play when you transform. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen classic Kunio-Kun sprites set awkwardly against 3D backgrounds, and I doubt it’ll be the last time.
Ultimately, like any crossover, this game is primarily aimed at fans of the involved properties. If you love the characters of Arc System Works or the classic Technos brands, you’ll probably find this game is decent enough if not a whole lot more than that. It feels like the kind of fare that you used to see from companies who made games based on movie licenses. Not the best playing or most polished thing around, but if you like the characters, you’ll likely be sufficiently amused.
SwitchArcade Score: 3/5
Not Tonight: Take Back Control Edition ($24.99)
This is an interesting ride with a thick atmosphere. You play as a bouncer in a bleak image of post-Brexit UK, and for much of the game it feels a lot like Papers, Please. You have to choose who you let into the clubs you work at, and who you reject. You need to meet quotas and try to make enough money to live and pay off all the necessary people. That sometimes means letting in people who shouldn’t be allowed in because you need to meet your quota or have been given some financial encouragement to do so. Truthfully, this part of the game is a bit of a slow burn, but once you get a couple of hours in, the game’s plot starts to properly kick in. From that point on, it’s hard to put the game down. That uneven pacing is really the main fly in the ointment, but it’s still a solid experience all-around.
SwitchArcade Score: 3.5/5
Bookbound Brigade ($19.99)
When Bookbound Brigade is flying high, it’s a lot of fun. It also has some really funny moments in it, with plenty of goofy riffs on famous literary characters. The platforming can be quite enjoyable if a bit strict. It’s a shame that the combat and exploration elements aren’t better, because at least one of those two things is quite important when it comes to Metroidvania games. Aside from the rather dull combat and confusing navigation, the game also suffers from a lot of rough edges in the technical sense. Still, when the game is at its best, it almost feels worth dealing with all of that. There’s a pleasant bite to it that is sometimes lacking in games in this genre.
SwitchArcade Score: 3/5
The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance – Tactics ($19.99)
The turn-based tactical RPG is a tough genre to get horribly wrong, but there are a lot of little things that need to be done properly to get it right. The Dark Crystal is a license that is well-suited to RPGs in general, and I’ll grant that this is at the very least a competent execution on that potential. But it’s not much more than that, and that’s a real shame. The story is virtually impossible to follow if you haven’t seen the recent Netflix series, but I suspect that’s by design. The gameplay is obviously heavily inspired by Quest’s Tactics series, but the troublesome UI, little technical issues, and lack of ideas of its own really pull the whole thing down. Fans of the license will probably find it passable, but there are assuredly many better games of this type on the Switch.
SwitchArcade Score: 2.5/5
Super Tennis ($5.99)
I say this a lot, but it’s hard to screw up a tennis game. Congratulations to this developer, because that’s just what they’ve done here. This isn’t a tennis game in the sense that we all know them as. You won’t be bouncing a ball back and forth with well-timed presses of the button, trying to place your shots in such a way as to leave your opponent unable to return them. No, this is basically Simon. You’re given a series of inputs and need to repeat them back quickly and correctly. Do it enough and you’ll win. There are tons of characters to unlock, but what’s the point of extra characters if the game itself isn’t fun to play?
SwitchArcade Score: 1.5/5
Motorcycle Mechanic Simulator ($6.99)
This is the exact same template that this publisher has used for any number of “simulator" games so far, without any of the problems addressed or any new ideas beyond the notion that you’re fixing motorcyles rather than cars or ships or whatever. Customers bring in their bikes, you repair the parts you can fix and replace the ones that you can’t, and they pay you for your work. Use that money to invest in your business and keep climbing higher and higher. The usual awful UI is in play here, along with what has to be one of the most convoluted gameplay loops around that still somehow manages to offer no satisfaction whatsoever upon completing it. At least it’s cheaper than some of the others that have been released.
SwitchArcade Score: 1.5/5
Dead Cells: The Bad Seed ($4.99 DLC)
Can’t get enough of the amazing Dead Cells? Hungry for more? Got five bucks and want to support the excellent work of the developers? Here you go. The Bad Seed extends Dead Cells with two new areas and a whole new boss to battle. Those new areas are early-game biomes, so they should help liven up the beginnings of your runs. They come with new enemies, new weapons, and even some new mechanics. If you’re looking for reasons to fire up the game again or haven’t tried it yet, there’s no better time. The DLC costs $4.99 and requires the base game. A bundle is also available on the eShop for $26.99 (or $21.99 on sale right now!) if you haven’t picked the game up yet.
Little Bit War ($13.71)
Known on the PC as TinyWar High-Speed, this game is an interesting hybrid of RTS, tower defense, and idle game. Build factories to produce units that will automatically attack your enemies and construct various defenses to keep your opponent from doing you in. Your goal is to take over the map, a job that rarely takes more than five to ten minutes. Clearing stages earns you new special abilities that you can put into use in the next battle. There are apparently more than 50 of these abilities, so you’ll be busy for quite a while with this one. It’s fast and fun, and I dare say I rather like it. Note that it’s a bit cheaper on PC if you don’t mind playing there.
Tilt Pack ($14.99)
Multiplayer party games: we’ve got a couple of them to look at today. What can you do? They’re pretty successful on the Switch, and this is one area where a smaller team with a clever idea can compete with the big dogs. Anyway, Tilt Pack. Everyone plays as a box and tries to out-last the other players. Grab power-ups and take advantage of the various gimmicks of each arena to knock out your opponents and claim victory. Simple controls make it relatively easy for anyone to pick up and start playing. This one supports up to four players locally, and as usual for games like this I have to note that if you don’t have friends or family members to play with, you probably won’t get a lot out of it. If you do? Party on.
Thief Town ($7.99)
This is a neat little multiplayer party game. There are three modes to play here, and they all revolve around the idea of finding out which characters belong to the other players. Thief Town mode sees you and your friends controlling identical avatars in a sea of similar characters. You need to identify the other players and knife them. Spy Town is similar but adds items into the mix. Drunk Town casts one player as the Sheriff, who needs to spot and shoot the other players with a limited supply of bullets. Law and order is pretty harsh in Thief Town, I guess. Up to four players can join in locally. If you don’t have other humans to play with, you won’t get much out of this one, but I could see Thief Town going over fairly well if you do regular group gaming.
Well, it’s a whole buck. This is a platforming action game with 64 levels filled with tricky challenges. You have a limited jet pack that you’ll have to use to make your way through some tight situations. Honestly, it’s a bit clunky and feels pretty low-cost all-around, but it’s one dollar. I’m not sure where our expectations should be with a price tag like that. You’ll probably get a buck’s worth of enjoyment out of it provided you enjoy middling platformers? But I don’t think you’re missing out on much if you save that buck for a delicious Snickers bar instead.
Yeah, those new sales aren’t really anything to go running down Main Street yelling your face off about. Do what you must, I guess. As for the outbox, shoot-em-up fans will want to carefully consider the superb Rolling Gunner. This was its first sale since launch, and I get the impression that it won’t be getting discounted all that often. You may want to grab it now while you can still save four bucks.
Select New Games on Sale
Adrenaline Rush – Miami Drive ($1.59 from $3.99 until 3/2)
Rock ‘N Racing Off Road DX ($2.99 from $9.99 until 3/1)
Grand Prix Rock ‘N Racing ($2.99 from $9.99 until 3/1)
Hyper Sentinel ($0.64 from $12.99 until 2/17)
Cyber Protocol ($0.99 from $9.99 until 2/18)
Jurassic Pinball ($1.49 from $2.99 until 3/1)
World Soccer Pinball ($1.49 from $2.99 until 3/1)
Moto Rush GT ($1.49 from $14.99 until 3/1)
Dragon Pinball ($1.49 from $2.99 until 3/1)
Super Arcade Soccer ($2.93 from $6.99 until 3/1)
Titans Pinball ($1.49 from $2.99 until 3/1)
Super Street: Racer ($29.99 from $39.99 until 2/24)
Help Me Doctor ($6.79 from $7.99 until 2/18)
Sales Ending Tomorrow, Wednesday, February 12th
12 is Better Than 6 ($1.99 from $9.99 until 2/12)
Anthill ($4.99 from $9.99 until 2/12)
Barrier X ($0.59 from $2.99 until 2/12)
Rolling Gunner ($15.99 from $19.99 until 2/12)
Standby ($0.99 from $4.99 until 2/12)
That’s all we’ve got for today, friends. Tomorrow we’ll have summaries of any new releases that slip out, though there’s nothing on the schedule at the moment. We’ll also have whatever news and new sales come along in the interim, of course. Depending on time, I may have another review or two for you as well. We’ll see, as ever. Anyway, I hope you all have a nice Tuesday, and as always, thanks for reading!