Last week a metric fuckton of games (trust me, I weighed it) were released on the Switch eShop, so I spent the weekend rinsing the shit out of some of them for your consumer advice pleasure. In today’s round up:
• is Thimbleweed Park more like Monkey Island or Space Chimps?
• is Golf Story a legend at fore play, or an awkward fumble out-of-bounds?
• does Picross S offer another brilliant square meal, or should it be blocked?
• is Butcher a glorious helping of gore, or a grotty little gunge pit?
• does Binaries offer double delights, or a second helping of slop?
• does Conga Master Party have toe-tapping skills, or two left feet?
• is Deemo an operatic masterpiece, or a Fisher Price xylophone?
Switch, PS4, Xbox One, Android, iOS, Steam (Switch version reviewed)
Gamers of a certain vintage (i.e. old bastards like me) have fond memories of the glory days of LucasArts’ point-and-click adventures from the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.
The likes of Maniac Mansion, Day Of The Tentacle, The Secret Of Monkey Island and the Indiana Jones games were masterpieces of storytelling, with hilarious writing and fiendish (sometimes daft) puzzles.
Thimbleweed Park is an attempt to relive those days, and why the hell shouldn’t it be able to: it’s designed by Ron Gilbert (who co-designed Monkey Island) and Gary Winnick (who co-designed Maniac Mansion with Gilbert).
There’s always a worry that lightning can’t strike again when its conjurers haven’t attempted it for a while, but Thimbleweed Park is pure golden age LucasArts, from the brilliant pixel backgrounds to the knowing nods and winks that continually kick the fourth wall’s arse up and down the street.
Although it’s been (or is being) released on pretty much every system known to mankind, the Switch port of Thimbleweed Park is probably the best console version.
While in docked mode it shares the same slightly clunky interface the PS4 version has, it has the added bonus of being playable on the touchscreen when it’s in handheld mode. This makes things far more intuitive and is the best way to play it short of using a mouse.
If you like your gameplay old-school, your controls tactile and your jokes terrible, get Thimbleweed Park on your Switch pronto.
Every time there’s a new golf game released I yearn for the days of the Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance versions of Mario Golf.
Not only did these handheld offerings play a great game of golf, they also included lovely RPG story elements that added character, depth and longevity.
For years the new golf RPG we’ve all deserved has been cruelly withheld from us, but Golf Story is finally here to awaken the dormant subgenre.
As a lapsed golfer trying to regain some of the skills you had as a prospective young talent, Golf Story certainly has the ‘story’ bit nailed.
Character conversations are entertaining (and often depicted in clever ways, with text and speech bubbles being far from a single size or shape), and you’ll be smiling throughout as your journey progresses.
It plays a good game of golf, too. Its controls are simplistic but that’s all you really need, and anyone familiar with the standard ‘three-press’ swing system will be pinging shots up the fairway in no time.
Golf Story is a lovely mix of RPG and golf sim and while it isn’t the best example of either, it does both to a high enough standard that combined they make for a wonderful experience.
Basically, it feels like Sensible Golf with a storyline, and that’s all I could ever really hope for.
Anyone who knows me knows I’m an enormous fan of Picross. My boxed Super Famicom copy of Mario’s Super Picross is one of my prized possessions, and I’ve happily completed every version ever released on a Nintendo system.
Picross S is the latest version aimed at feeding my addiction, and it’s business as usual… for better or worse.
For those not familiar with it, it’s a logic-based puzzle game in which players are given a grid with numerical clues on each column and row.
You have to use the numbers to figure out which squares should be filled in and which shouldn’t: get it all right and the squares you’ve filled will form a picture.
Some people respond to this with “oh, so it’s like Sudoku then?” but those people are wrong. Picross punches Sudoku’s dad right in the dick.
This Switch release is the first console Picross game since the SNES days (and the first ever console Picross to be released in the west), and it plays just like the Picross e series on the 3DS eShop.
There are 150 ‘normal’ puzzles and 150 Mega Picross puzzles, which make things trickier by adding numbers that span two columns or rows.
There are some disappointing aspects here, though. Firstly, the normal and Mega Picross puzzles reveal the same images, so although there are technically 300 puzzles it can be a wee bit underwhelming revealing the same ones all over again.
On top of this, there’s no touchscreen support, something that’s always been present in the DS and 3DS Picross games. Once you get good at Picross you can plough through puzzles really quickly and doing so with a stylus (or your finger, as it would have been here) is really satisfying: the D-Pad only slows you down.
Picross S is still worth getting if you’re looking for an entry point into the series, or are just looking for a new batch of puzzles.
However, given that for fans of the 3DS games this is essentially the eighth entry, hopefully the inevitable Picross S2 not only restores touchscreen support but also adds a bit more character, like the recent Zelda and Pokemon spin-offs did.
Crunching Koalas / Transhuman Design
Switch, Xbox One, PS4, Steam (Switch version reviewed)
Here’s one that seems to have gone under some folks’ radars but really should be noticed.
Butcher is (deep breath) a retro-style 2D twin-stick platformer shooter. The aim is to proceed from level to level, taking out enemies with your array of weaponry and flipping switches to open doors, move elevators and trigger traps.
It’s a simple game but one that just does everything to such a high degree of quality and efficiency that you can’t help falling in love with it.
The controls take a minute or two to get used to – you use the left trigger to jump and the right trigger to shoot – but once you do it’ll feel like second nature hopping around and plugging enemies.
And when you plug them you bloody know about it. Enemies explode in showers of gore and the unlucky ones don’t die right away. You can hear little screams and as you go up elevators and trigger switches to open doors, sometimes strings of blood and guts are dragged along with them.
It’s not exactly family fun, then, but it’s done in such a ridiculously over-the-top way that it isn’t disgusting, just funny.
The only real issue is that the sprites are tiny. They remind me of the Amiga game Benefactor but since no bastard remembers that one it’s a bad comparison. Sorry.
The point is that while playing on a TV it’s a cool aesthetic which lets you plan far ahead and see whereabouts your enemies are, in handheld mode it can often be easy to miss enemies because you didn’t see them.
That aside, Butcher is a shamelessly gratuitous, brilliantly difficult platform shooter that completely took me by surprise. It’s the single-player blood-soaked cross between Towerfall and Doom I never knew I wanted and am now glad I own.
Switch, PS4, Xbox One, Steam (Switch version reviewed)
If you feel that games are too easy these days, I have two things to say to you. Firstly, stop showing off, you’re being a dick. Secondly, give Binaries a go and see if you still feel that way.
At its core it’s a basic-looking platform game where the aim is to guide two balls to their respective exits while avoiding various traps and obstacles.
The twist is that you control both balls at the same time (story of my life, mate), meaning a jump over a gap for one could mean a leap right into a spike for the other. Die and you have to start the level all over again.
After the first few levels lull you into a false sense of security, the difficulty curve leaps up like a fucking Crackdown character and before you know it you’re turning the air bluer than one of Sonic’s nudie books.
Accompanying its rock-hard difficulty is some light relief in the form of the messages that appear in each stage to discuss the game with the player. They’re often sarcastic, usually conversational in tone and always entertaining.
There are also time based rankings for each stage: if you can somehow manage to get an S-rank in every level then you’re a lying bastard, frankly.
Binaries won’t be to everyone’s taste, but those who take a masochistic delight in games that are painfully difficult to beat but hugely rewarding to overcome will have plenty to enjoy here.
Conga Master Party
Rising Star Games / Undercoders
Switch, PS4, Xbox One, PC (Switch version reviewed)
First, a disclaimer: my wife (and regular Tired Old Hack podcast co-host) Louise voices one of the characters in this game, but it’s just a single line so I’m not too biased.
Conga Master is a dance ‘em up in which your chosen character has to wander around a dancefloor in an attempt to start and grow a conga line.
You do this by boogying over to another person in the room and dancing near them until their interest gauge fills up, at which point they’ll join the line.
What makes this a little trickier is that, since you’re a conga line, you’re constantly moving forward and the only controls are rotating left and right with the shoulder buttons.
Think of it, then, as a sort of musical version of Snake, but one with a greater focus on planning your route and building combos to keep a momentum bar going (the bigger your line, the less your momentum rises with each new person).
It’s a delightfully daft little game with loads of funny pixel art references to the likes of Futurama, Doctor Who and Back To The Future.
While the single-player mode does eventually get a little repetitive, the ‘Party’ element of the title – exclusive to the Switch version – refers to eight new multiplayer modes.
These are all named after other popular game franchises – Grand Theft Conga, Mortal Konga, Command And Conga, 1-2-Conga, that sort of thing – and provide some welcome variety to the single-player game’s mechanics.
While Conga Master Party isn’t exactly the sort of game you’re still going to be cracking out at get-togethers a year from now over the likes of Mario Kart, it’s still a fun, silly indie offering that should keep you and yours entertained for a while.
Rayark Games / Flyhigh Works
Switch, Vita, Android, iOS (Switch version reviewed)
Back when the Switch launched I reviewed VOEZ, a beautiful rhythm game I referred to as “the Switch’s true hidden gem”.
VOEZ was developed by Taiwanese studio Rayark Games, and now Rayark’s back with another dose of rhythmic bliss.
Deemo is a piano-focused game with a simple control method. There’s a black line at the bottom of the screen, and all you have to do is tap the notes that fall as they hit the line.
For now the game’s entirely touchscreen controlled (which means it’s handheld only). Although there’s apparently an update coming that lets you play with buttons, the touchscreen is ideal given that the vast majority of the music you play is on a piano.
The songs are supported by a lovely plot in which a young girl called Alice falls into a mysterious world and meets a character called Deemo, who decides to help Alice return to her world by playing piano music to make a giant tree grow.
As the tree reaches certain heights you unlock more tracks, until eventually you end up unlocking over 200 songs to play, covering a wide variety of genres.
There are a couple of drawbacks. Much like VOEZ it’s pretty expensive: whereas the mobile version of the game was free-to-play with paid DLC tracks, the Switch version includes all the tracks and costs $29.99 / £26.99 (if you live in the UK, try to buy it from the US eShop to save about £4.50).
It’s cheaper than buying all the tracks in the mobile version but it’s still a big price for an eShop-only game, especially when you consider that there isn’t much visual variety for each track.
This aside, if you’re a rhythm action fan and you’ve more or less rinsed VOEZ by now, Deemo is a brilliant successor. Its gentle soundtrack makes it a more laidback rhythm game (though there are still difficulty settings for those who like a challenge) and while its in-game design is maybe a little too minimalist the music takes centre stage wonderfully.
In order that I could write the above reviews, I received copies of each game from their respective PRs (except for Picross S, which I bought the second it was added to the eShop because I’m a fucking Picross nerd). The content of my reviews and the opinions therein were in no way positively influenced by this.
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