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ISSUE 3 | MAY 2017
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Welcome to the third issue of Switch Player Magazine!
It's two months in for the Nintendo Switch now - and not only have we reviewed more than 20 games, but there have been two stellar releases now as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is now available for purchase. Whether you are a first time player or looking to double-dip from the Wii U, it's an incredible experience that is a must-have. Along with our definitive verdict on Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, we also have reviews for LEGO City Undercover, Graceful Explosion Machine, Snake Pass, Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap and many more to give you an idea of some more games you need to own! Plus, we have even more features for you! Former ONM Journalist Chris Scullion explaining about Mario Kart's history, Lewis White discusses Cave Story (and why you'll want to pick it up next month), and KerryLee Copsey tells us her concerns over third party support. We have a feature from Gamer Network's indie-focused EGX Rezzed event, we preview some of the games coming to the Switch, and we even grabbed a chat with the team behind Tumbleseed and RiME.
With the release of this third issue, we're now falling into a regular monthly cycle - and all issues will be monthly going forward. There is more than enough content already to justify it, and going forward you can count on us to bring you the latest news, previews, reviews, and features. As for this month's haul, you'll find 60 pages here; each one packed with loads to read! We hope you enjoy this action-packed issue of the magazine, but before we sign off and get to the meat of the content we also want to remind you those of you reading the digital version that this magazine even comes in print form. It can be delivered to your door anywhere in the world, and if you support us on Patreon and you could even win some fabulous prizes (just like Anna, Rick, and Edward did last month)!
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For now however, we suggest you sit back, make yourself comfy, and get up to speed with the latest from the Switch's library. Don't wait too long to get this one read though, as we'll be back next month with more!
ISSUE 3 | MAY 2017
This month's beautiful Mario Kart 8 Deluxe cover was designed by Steve Gregson. Follow him on Twitter via @roboticsteve to see more of his work!
Executive Editor @PMurphy1978
Contents FEATURES 06 EGX Recap 10 A Look at Cave Story 16 RiME Interview 18 Tumbleseed Interview 20 Mario Kart Through the Ages 56 Third Party Concerns PREVIEWS 12 Minecraft: Nintendo Switch Edition 13 Tumbleseed 14 Xenoblade Chronicles 2 15 Disgaea 5 Complete REVIEWS 24 Mario Kart 8 Deluxe 30 Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap 32 Mr. Shifty 34 Kamiko 36 Graceful Explosion Machine 38 Voez 40 LEGO City Undercover 42 Has-Been Heroes 44 Snake Pass 46 Human Resource Machine 48 Skylanders Imaginators 50 Little Inferno 52 New Frontier Days: Founding Pioneers 53 Othello REGULARS 02 Patreon Stars 54 Directory 58 Next Time 59 At the Flagpole
A look back at
10 Lewis White tells us why we should be excited for Cave Story+
20 Chris Scullion takes us through the history and evolution of the Mario Kart series
16 Tequila W about the
e the newest issue of
Works join us to talk mysterious RiME
18 Tumbleseed Team tells us all about their upcoming rolly roguelike
56 Kerry-Lee Copsey tells us her concerns over third party titles
54 The best Switch games released so far
Flagpole 24 Our Definitive Verdict
59 Why price parity is so important
EGX Rezzed is an indie-game focused developer event run by Gamer Network, who are perhaps better known for their Eurogamer and USgamer websites. For the last few years, the event has been held in London's historic Tobacco Dock; allowing developers and publishers to show off their shiny new games for members of the press, and to give the public a chance to go hands on. I've gone for the last four years in a row, but was especially excited for this year's event because the Nintendo Switch was there - secluded away in a corner of the basement, and accompanied by a selection of exciting titles. Here's what I played.
STEAMWORLD DIG 2
The first game I made my way to was SteamWorld Dig 2. Image & Form's Community Manager Julius Golberg soon had a controller in my hand, and I got stuck right in with new protagonist Dorothy. It didn't take long until I was digging my way around the cavern, and finding my way around a level - one which did not appear to be procedurally generated. With typical puzzles in play, I soon upgraded Dorothy's running speed to help me get through tricky obstacles, and before long I'd finished the demo. It felt very familiar, so anyone that's played the first will feel right at home, but Julius told me that it's going to be so much bigger, better, and more ambitious than the first game. With the promise of HD Rumble implementation and a planned Summer release, hopefully you won't have long to wait to continue the latest adventure in the SteamWorld universe when it arrives first on Switch.
Next up was (the now two-time BAFTA award winning) Overcooked from Ghost Town Games. I was aware of Overcooked , but had never played it before - and can report that it was a treat. A four-way multiplayer affair, you will need to work together with your fellow restaurateurs to complete the meals that are requested of you. With all of you needed to chop, cook, set, and even clean the plates, it's clear that timing and organisation will be crucial. Of course, the wicked course design - or is that evil? really impacts your ability to achieve the dish preparation (as if it wasn't hard enough already). The game is tremendous fun though, and very well suited to the party based fun that the Switch is aiming for; so if you haven't picked it up yet, or even loved it enough to double-dip, you'll definitely want to keep an eye out for this one on the Switch.
Gonner was a very strange little game that roguelike fans are going to love. You start off as a simple blob, but before long you collect a head and limbs - shooting your way through the procedurally generated levels to try and get as far as you can. You'll die, and you'll die a lot; but that's always the case with games like this. With different (and randomly assigned) weapons and combinations at your disposal, it has the "one more go" style of play where the next time feels like it might be that perfect run you've been looking for. Definitely one to keep an eye out for.
A perfect example of a game that is more than the sum of its parts, Pocket Rumble may look like a simple indie version of a classic 2D brawler - and to be fair it is, but it hides a tremendous amount of depth in its gameplay. Developed to be easy to pick up, the game features a twobutton fighting system; sprucing it up with many combo branches and characters available across a wide variety of modes. One of the highlights of EGX Rezzed for me, I simply can't wait to play Pocket Rumble again - and you should keep an eye out for it.
While I had played De Mambo before on the PC (at previous EGX events), this time it was there on the Switch. After getting my hands on this version however, I must say that it's very well suited to the hybrid nature of our new devices. De Mambo is brawler which is heavily influenced by Smash Bros, but paired with a simple and intuitive one button control scheme. The idea here is to battle your opponents and either block, attack, or shoot - with the attack type determined by how long you hold that single button down for. What ultimately ensues is a few minutes of utter carnage, and it's utterly addictive. Don't be fooled by the simplistic look and design however, as this game is surprisingly deep. Plus, with a huge variety of levels available you can almost guarantee that no two fights will be quite the same!
The final game I played on the Switch at EGX was one of the best; Flipping Death from Zoink Games. Sharing a similar art style to their previous title Stick it to the Man, in Flipping Death you progress through the game by switching between the afterlife and the living world - possessing characters as you go to aid in your quest. The demo saw me take control of many different souls; my goal being to repaint a ship and solve puzzles along the way. It was very thought provoking, and I simply loved the look Flipping Death utilizes. If you like any of Zoink's previous work, you'll certainly have to keep an eye on this one!
Also playable on Switch were Snipperclips - Cut it out, Together and Fast RMX, but I skipped playing both as I've already played them (and we've reviewed both) so there was little point.
Present at EGX - albeit not playable on the Switch, Wargroove was probably the standout game for me. Heavily inspired by Advance Wars, but truly its own thing, the game features medieval units and character artwork rather than the military units from Intelligent System's strategy masterpiece. We've long been overdue a new title in the series, so this spiritual successor may well fill that itch you might have. It's definitely got me itching for more, that's for sure.
RiME was playable in the "Unreal Engine" room - a showcase of titles that run on Epic Games' game engine. Looking incredible, this game features clever puzzles that work well with the brilliant atmosphere in a game; encouraging you to look around and search for the answers to the problem at hand. No hand-holding here, you'll be needing to work this one out for yourself when it arrives on the Switch - so watch for it.
Also present at EGX (although not playable on Switch) were Sonic Mania, Snake Pass, and Yooka-Laylee. Due to time constraints - not to mention humongous queues - I had to pass on these however, so be sure to check back in a future magazine for more news on Sonic Mania and Yooka-Laylee . That said, you can check out our Snake Pass review further along in this month's issue! Switch Player
A look back at
At the time of writing, Nicalis have just announced that the near-perfect 2D platformer Cave Story + will be arriving on Nintendo Switch in North America on June 20th. With more modes and enhancements coming to the Switch
CURRENTLY WAITING FOR NINTENDO TO MAKE A NEW METROID GAME, LEWIS IS PREPARED TO WAIT FOREVER UNTIL HIS LOVELY SAMUS COMES BACK TO HIM. ALSO, NO; HE WILL NOT FORGIVE FEDERATION FORCE. . . ALTHOUGH IT IS A GUILTY PLEASURE. version of Daisuke Amaya’s platformer— including a brand new local multiplayer mode—it’s about time we look at what made the game so great to begin with.
respective mediums - and in the case of Alien Resurrection, how it takes a massive dump on one of my favourite franchises.
Cave Story + is my favourite game of all time. While I don’t gush about the majesty of this game as much as I talk about The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind, I do wholeheartedly feel that Cave Story is one of the few games I would award that perfect 10/10 score. In fact, with the tease of new content, I’ve never been so confident in saying that this game might be one of the best games of all time.
I first played Cave Story in the arse-end of 2012. During that time, I was running Linux on a terrible little notebook I used predominantly for writing, and I desperately wanted some games to run on it. Looking online, I found that Cave Story + supported the OS, so I paid a few pounds for a copy on eBay and installed it.
I do three things once every year; Watch the Alien Quadrilogy (including the abomination Alien Resurrection), read David Kushner’s Masters of Doom, and play through Cave Story. I do all three of these every year to remind me of what each product does so well in their
From the very get-go, Cave Story got me. Its remastered opening theme is a fantastic piece of music that immediately draws you in. After a brief taster of the game’s narrative, your story literally begins in a cave. This cave is one of the best pieces of unspoken tutorial in gaming since Mega Man X. It’ll teach
you how to fight, your jumping arcs and limitations, how to upgrade your health, and so much more without telling you a damn thing. In fact, this is one of Cave Story’s biggest strengths. It barely tells you anything mechanically, and instead you’re forced to think for yourself and make your way out of this small cave into the rest of the game. It doesn’t take long to escape. A veteran—not me, someone good at games—could get through the entire cave in about half a minute, but it’s fantastic all the same. After this section, you land in the Amiga Village. This first village is where the game opens up. You’ll learn about the game’s plot (which I won’t spoil) and you’ll meet a bunch of lovable characters - all within the game’s first five minutes. Playing through Cave Story again for my seventh time, I still can’t find anything about the game I truly dislike. Combat is quite similar to other 2D indie platformers, although (of course) there is a twist. While your method of dispatching enemies is done through shooting various forms of projectiles, the game introduces an innovative risk and reward system to combat in the form of weapon levels. Now, other games have done weapons that level when you use them. Drakengard, Lord of the Rings Online, and many more games have used mechanics similar to this, but Cave Story does something different. When you just waltz
up to a flock of enemies and kill them, they drop a small yellow triangle of XP. When you walk over the XP, whatever weapon you’re holding fills their XP bar and can level up into one of three stages. If you get hit, however, you lose XP. This simple mechanic, the ability to level down from getting hit, makes Cave Story’s combat shine so much more than it would’ve without it. Due to the inclusion of this, many boss battles in the game require you to make lightningfast decisions on whether small, grunt enemies are worth killing right then, or if you want to take damage and keep them for health/XP farming during the fight. It’s a really basic mechanic, but one that the game is designed around to such a point that it becomes incredible. The next big mechanic of Cave Story is an extremely divisive one. While I don’t see many people talking about it now as the game is quite old, it features what I like to call "hidden multiple choice." Multiple parts throughout the game’s narrative have the ability to change depending on what you do in different areas (again, I won’t spoil this).
One change that I will talk about is the acquisition of weapons throughout the story. At numerous points during the game you’ll be asked if you want to trade certain weapons for a maaaaybe better one. Sometimes this’ll be good, sometimes it won’t be. The Polar Star, your beginning weapon, may be very tempting to trade in at the very first opportunity, but you just might want to keep hold of it until later. Everything can and will change during multiple playthroughs in Cave Story. The branching story and gameplay is a treat to behold no matter how many times you or I will play it. Everything in Cave Story is done to such a degree of perfection that even with Breath of the Wild on the system, it could be the Switch’s best game so far. There’s also a character designed off a bar of soap who crashes through walls and shouts, “Huzzah!”. Stick that in your Zelda.
Depending on if you help certain characters or interact with things that seem insignificant, you can change the outcome of your game completely. Imagine it like a Telltale game if Telltale made actual video games. This leads into a branching narrative that changes and expands the story in different ways, as well as changing how you play.
Minecraft: Nintendo Switch Edition
Minecraft has been on practically every system that exists, so it's no surprise that it found its way onto the Switch. We've heard that the Switch version will feature larger worlds than the Wii U version (at around 3000 blocks square), eight player co-op, and come stock with a variety of Nintendo-flavoured skins and worlds. Oh, and it clocks in at that lovely sixty frames per second point too! Will you be picking this one up? Check back for our review next month!
AT A GLANCE 12
DEVELOPER 4J Studios
NA: May 11th EU: May 11th
Tumbleseed is a "rolly roguelike" where the aim is to roll a seed up a procedurally generated mountain. To be the best you'll need to avoid holes and corrupted monsters; taking on this dual stick balance game like a pro. Featuring over 30 abilities to play with, and the possibility to upgrade said abilities along the way, there's lots of variety here. To top the cake however is some HD Rumble integration, your controllers feeding back the action as it happens. Keep an eye out for our verdict on this one, as it will likely be included in next month's issue!
PUBLISHER DEVELOPER aeiowu Team Tumbleseed
AT A GLANCE
NA: May 2nd EU: May 2nd Switch Player
Xenoblade Chronicles 2
We don't know a lot about Xenoblade Chronicles 2 - it must be said, but we do know that it's supposed to be coming this year. Serving as a sequel to the first Xenoblade Chronicles, this single player role-playing game will star a new character on an "immense journey in a brand new world" as they strive to find Elysium. Hopefully we will find out more details at E3 next month.
PUBLISHER DEVELOPER Nintendo Monolith Soft
AT A GLANCE 14
NA: 2017 EU: 2017
Disgaea 5: Complete
Disgaea 5: Complete is headed to the Nintendo Switch with eight new bonus scenarios, four fan favourite character additions, and three new character classes pulled from the Disgaea series. It's set to offer hundreds of hours of RPG gameplay, leading you through a story of vengeance. In the game the extremely dangerous Overlord known as Void Dark has aspired to enslave the countless Netherworlds, and only one young demon is truly willing to stand in his way. Playing as protagonist Killia, you'll lead an enthusiastic group of rebels on their path to retribution strategic and brutal action awaiting you all. Interested? Well it's almost here! Disgaea 5: Complete drops late this month, and we'll have a review for you as soon as possible! PUBLISHER DEVELOPER NIS America/Europe Nippon Ichi
AT A GLANCE
NA: May 23rd EU: May 26th Switch Player
Tequila Works tequilaworks.com @tequilaworks
Hello Tequila Works, thanks for talking with us. Can you tell us a little bit about your studio and how you got into developing games? Hi Paul! It's our pleasure to be here with you today. Tequila Works is an independent studio founded in 2009 by veterans of the games and movie industry with a collective background in titles like Diablo III and Psychonauts, and movies like A Bug's Life. We make games and our goal is creating with gusto. The philosophy of the studio is driven by our obsession with creating unique universes that are both crazy and beautiful. The results so far have been Deadlight (published by Microsoft Studios), RiME (published by Grey Box), and The Sexy Brutale (a coproduction with Cavalier Game Studios and our first time as publisher).
RIME IS AN UPCOMING GAME ABOUT A YOUNG CHILD STRANDED ON A MYSTERIOUS ISLAND. WITH A HEAVY EMPHASIS ON PUZZLES, EXPLORATION, AND PLATFORMING, IT'S CAUGHT THE ATTENTION OF MANY - INCLUDING US. AS SUCH, WE THOUGHT WE WOULD CATCH UP WITH DEVELOPER TEQUILA WORKS TO FIND OUT MORE. You are currently working on RiME. What's it about? On the surface, RiME is about a kid stranded on a mysterious island full of ruins and an ominous tower that seems to be calling to him. It is an evocative experience about childhood. An action puzzle adventure where you can see the world through the eyes of a child again. What gameplay mechanics will gamers encounter when playing? RiME offers open-ended exploration, physical puzzles, and platforming. There's no combat (because you are supposed to be an 8-year old child), but that does not mean there's no action; you simply have to rely on your wits and ingenuity. Also the player, just like your avatar, will need to learn the rules of this world; some are familiar like running, jumping, climbing, swimming/diving, carrying/throwing stuff, pushing & pulling... while others are more surrealistic and exotic; after all,
you can manipulate things with sound, mechanics based on light and shadow, you can manipulate time (or should I say that you can directly move the sun?), play with perspective... Just how much is there to see and do in the game? RiME is an experience driven by curiosity, which is why exploration has so much weight. Obviously it depends on how you play, but there are lots of things not only collectibles - as rewards for that curiosity. If you are asking for cold numbers, it is around 8-10 hours for the average person to complete their first playthough - though depending on your exact play style and desire to explore, it could take a couple hours more or less than that. The game infamously started life as a platform exclusive elsewhere before spreading its wings. Can you explain a
little bit about what happened? I wouldn't call it 'infamous,' but I suppose our perspective from the inside is unique. The game was a 1st party exclusive, which means it could only be released on one platform. When we bought back the IP rights the game became multiplatform: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. We, and our publisher Grey Box, both agree that RiME is an experience that should be enjoyed by all fans regardless of their platform of choice.
supportive too. Personally I love the HD Rumble feature (it's mind blowing), the fact that it's designed with good old school 'couch' multiplayer in mind (thanks to its two Joy-Con controllers), and its portability of course!
What made you want to bring RiME to the Switch? It is an exciting new platform and we ourselves are definitely the target audience: a console that can fill the gap between quality experiences on the go and the classic home console.
Where is the Switch version at with development, is it close to release? The game is fully playable and running on the Nintendo Switch. We currently in the process of optimizing performance and polishing everything.
How have you found developing for the Switch? What do you like about the hardware? Tantalus (of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD fame) are helping us with the port. Their experience on Nintendo platforms makes them the best partner for us. Nintendo itself is being really
The Switch has many great features, not least the HD Rumble. Have you implemented that in RiME at all? We're still evaluating putting in Switchspecific features at this time.
Any chance of a retail version? Grey Box and our team are looking into it with Nintendo. It would definitely be a wonderful option! Is there anything new you can tell us about RiME? We are in the process of certificating the game with the first parties so we are
on track for our release on May. People will be able to play it again at GDC in San Francisco. We are humbled to announce that RiME will be part of the Day of the Devs thanks to Double Fine and iam8bit. Are they any games that you are excited for on the Switch? The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is gorgeous. ARMS is really fun and crazy! Finally, if you have to choose one - the Switch is: A handheld you plug in or a console you take out? Nintendo Switch is a console that you can take out with you AND you can play with friends wherever you are.
We would like to thank Tequila Works for their time with this interview and also Shaun Norton from Sandbox Strategies for arranging it! What do you make of RiME, are you looking forward to playing it when it arrives on the Switch? Switch Player
TUMBLESEED IS A GAME ABOUT ROLLING A SEED UP A PROCEDURALLY GENERATED MOUNTAIN. YOU'LL USE TWINSTICK CONTROLS TO ROLL, AND YOU CAN UPGRADE YOUR ABILITIES ALONG THE WAY TO HELP YOU. TO FIND OUT Team TumbleSeed tumbleseed.com MORE ABOUT THIS UNIQUE "ROLLY-ROGUELIKE," WE CAUGHT @TumbleSeedGame UP WITH BENEDICT FRITZ FROM TEAM TUMBLESEED. Hello Benedict/TumbleSeed, thanks for talking with us! Can you tell us a little bit about your studio and how you got into developing games? Hey! TumbleSeed is made by a team of five people. We like to think of ourselves as a band that came together to make a game – when pressed for a group name we call ourselves Team TumbleSeed. Team TumbleSeed's artist and codesigner is Greg Wohlwend. He's been making indie games for almost 10 years including games like Ridiculous Fishing, Threes, Hundreds, Solipskier, and many more. David Laskey is our resident porting expert and second programmer. He makes sure TS is running great on all platforms, including the Switch version. Sound and music is handled by Joel Corelitz – you may have heard his work in games like Unfinished Swan, and Hohokum. TumbleSeed's beautiful logo and identity were created by Jenna Blazevich, a calligrapher and letterer based in Chicago. And I'm Benedict Fritz, programmer and other co-designer of TS. That's the whole team! I've been making games since 2011 when I started making small freeware 18
games in Flash (back when Flash was the thing to use). I moved down to Chicago after college and worked as an iOS developer for a couple years while still making games on the side. In 2013 I went independent, making a couple iOS games, and doing contract work as a programmer. In 2014 I made the first prototype for TumbleSeed, teamed up with Greg, and we've been working on it ever since. We are here to find out more about your game, TumbleSeed. What is it about? TumbleSeed is a rolly roguelike about rolling a seed to the top of a procedurally generated mountain. The core of the game is the seed powerup system. As you move up the mountain on a run, you choose between different seed types and build a strategy for tackling what the mountain throws at you. You can be aggressive with projectiles like cannonspore and take on the mountain's corrupted creatures head on, or you can avoid danger and focus on your avoidance finesse with seeds like bounceberry that will let you jump over danger. There are over 30 seed upgrades and they combine in really interesting ways. As you move up the mountain
you'll develop a unique strategy for each run based on what seed options you have. We still encounter new strategies and have crazy interactions after years of playing! How do you play it? How much is there to see and do? TumbleSeed is a dual-stick game. You control the left and right sides of the vine to tilt it, and the seed rolls along the vine's slope. While playing you choose an active seed power – as I mentioned, seed powers help you do things like create checkpoints, gain hearts, create weapons, and generally aid you up the mountain. Your strategy all comes down to which seed power you plant, and how well you can control your roll around the mountain's obstacles. There's quite a lot to do and see in TumbleSeed. The mountain is made up of four different biomes – forest, jungle, desert, and snow – each with their own unique challenges. The mountain is randomly generated every time which keeps it feeling fresh every play. A run to the peak of the mountain takes about 30-45 minutes to complete, but getting skilled enough to do so takes hours and
hours and hours. We've also buried some secrets throughout the world that will keep experts coming back for more and more ;) Are there any games which have inspired TumbleSeed during development? Tons! Our biggest inspirations are definitely Ice Cold Beer, and Spelunky. Ice Cold Beer is an old mechanical arcade cabinet from the 80's that inspired the balance mechanic. Spelunky was our biggest inspiration for the roguelike structure in the game – it's been a real touchstone throughout the entire design process. There are tons of other games we enjoy and look to for inspiration – Downwell, Binding of Isaac, Nuclear Throne, Enter the Gungeon, and many more. What made you want to develop TumbleSeed for the Switch? How have you found developing on the platform? TumbleSeed blends really challenging and deep gameplay with colorful aesthetics. That's a pairing that we feel Nintendo has been the standard bearer of for a very long time, so it felt natural for us to reach out to them to see if they'd be interested in having TumbleSeed on their console. The timing just happened to work out where TumbleSeed's launch lined up pretty closely to the Switch's! Developing for the platform has been great. Nintendo has been very active in making sure the tools are there for developers to bring their games to the Switch. They've been a real partner in the
What do you make of the Switch as a platform? Any games that stand out to you? The Switch has many fantastic features, The entire team is really excited. We're including HD Rumble. Have you used any all super super excited for Zelda, but also of these features? a lot of the indie titles like Celeste, and We're using HD Rumble with TumbleSeed Graceful Explosion Machine have got and are really excited about it! The Joyus super stoked. I also think rereleased Cons rumble based on the seed's speed, classics like Binding of Isaac and Shovel and which side of the screen it's on. This Knight will take on new life on the Switch. gives the player a really synesthetic The way that the console fits such sense of where the seed is on the vine. different parts of your life – on the go, at There's also differently "textured" rumbles home, and in-between – makes it feel so based on which seed you're using. This unique in a way that's hard to describe. means round seeds feel different from multi-sided seeds, and so on. It's one of What's next for you? those things you really have to feel to Honestly at this point we're so headsunderstand – talking about the textures down on TumbleSeed I don't think any of rumbles sounds weird until you've of us are thinking too far ahead past the played with it! release of the game. whole process and it's been great to see how excited they are about the game.
Are there any notable differences between the other versions you are developing? The HD Rumble actually makes a surprisingly big difference – I always expect my keyboard to start rumbling when I go back to it after playing on the Switch haha. Another difference is that the Joy-Cons work well for a sort of natural co-op in TumbleSeed where one player controls one side of the vine, and another controls the other. It's a sort of accidentally different play-mode that has been a part of the game since very early on in its development. The Joy-Cons work much much better than two players crowding around a keyboard.
Finally, if you have to choose one, what is the Switch? A handheld you plug in or a console you take out? That sort of feels like an impossible question since I think the thing that makes the Switch the most special is its ability to be both. Like I mentioned, the way it fits into different parts of your life and lets you carry your games across those use cases is really what makes it completely unique. So I hate to dodge the question, but I think I have to take the Switch as it is! We want to thank Benedict for his time with this interview. TumbleSeed surely looks very unique and interesting! Will you be picking it up? Switch Player
Chris Scullion tiredoldhack.com @scully1888
CHRIS SCULLION IS A VIDEO GAMES JOURNALIST, PROBABLY BEST KNOWN FOR HIS SIX YEARS AT THE OFFICIAL NINTENDO MAGAZINE. THESE DAYS YOU'LL FIND HIS WORK ON MANY DIFFERENT PUBLICATIONS, AS WELL AS ON HIS OWN WEBSITE - TIRED OLD HACK.
There are very few games that can truly be considered landmarks. Sure, there are plenty of brilliant games, even some truly incredible ones – Breath Of The Wild, Super Mario Galaxy 2 and the like – but it's rare that a game comes along that isn't merely fantastic, but actually creates a new genre of its very own, something that will be imitated by others for years to come. Super Mario Bros was an example of this. So was Super Mario 64. But for the purposes of this article we're looking at another example starring Nintendo's portly plumber: Super Mario Kart. It's easy to take it for granted now, but 25 years ago when the first game in the series launched, the idea of a racing game featuring well-known characters in karts was a completely new one. Here we are now, in 2017, and the karting genre is a staple of gaming. With the latest Mario Kart offering – Mario Kart 8 Deluxe – recently released on Switch, there's no better time to take a look back at the history of the series and how it continued to evolve over the years.
After Nintendo released F-Zero for its new SNES console, its developers decided to reuse its Mode 7 sprite scaling technique for a new racing game. Whereas F-Zero was a single-player game only, Nintendo's developers agreed that this follow-up should allow two players to race each other. Amazingly, it wasn’t even supposed to feature Mario. The prototype version just featured a generic chap in dungarees, and it took at least four or five months before some bright spark at Nintendo thought "hang on a minute; Mario wears dungarees too, let’s see how he looks in it." Had the first Super Mario Kart been a load of old guff, we may never have come to be talking about Mario Kart 8 Deluxe today. There’s every chance it could have been relegated to the Mushroom Kingdom Graveyard with all the other one-game Mario efforts - like Yoshi’s Safari, Mario Clash, and Yoshi’s Cookie. Instead, the combination of Mode 7 scaling and the fantastic Battle Mode made the game an enormous success and – little did we know it at the time – a new series was born. Such was Super Mario Kart’s success that when the SNES gave way to the Nintendo 64, one of the new console’s first big post-launch games was another helping of karting goodness. Mario Kart 64 was
the first to offer four-player multiplayer, and was well-known for turning the air blue in many a friendly get-together around the world. Although these days it’s probably aged the worst of all the Mario Kart games, there’s no denying the impact it had on establishing the N64’s credentials as a multiplayer console, as well as establishing the Mario Kart series’ importance in general. This importance was driven home (pun always intended) even further when Nintendo launched the Game Boy Advance. Given that it was a 32-bit handheld that essentially performed like a more powerful SNES, it was clear that there was a lot of potential for some SNES games to make the transition to handheld gaming. Sure enough, within a matter of months the third Mario Kart game appeared on Nintendo’s newest device, in the shape of Mario Kart: Super Circuit. It was an interesting little mashup of its SNES and N64 predecessors, offering gameplay similar to the original Super Mario Kart but featuring an art style that more resembled Mario Kart 64. It was also notable for including one hell of an unlockable: if players won all five cups they’d unlock every single course from the original Super Mario Kart, doubling the number of courses from 20 to 40 (a record number that would last nearly 15 years).
Super Circuit was a fun little entry in the Mario Kart series, and getting to play the game on the move for the first time was clearly a novelty that many fans appreciated. But many others were of the opinion that Mario Kart was supposed to be a console game first and foremost, and so all eyes were on Nintendo to see what was coming next. Turns out what was coming next was the GameCube and a controversial tweak to the Mario Kart formula that caused eyes to raise and tempers to flare. As the fourth in the series, Mario Kart: Double Dash!! could have easily just been a normal Mario Kart game with improved graphics and GameCube owners would have been happy. Instead, Nintendo decided to mix things up by adding a bold new mechanic: each kart was driven by two characters instead of one. Although this didn’t actually make too much of a difference to the way the game was played, internet use was starting to become mainstream at that point and the early seeds of the “let’s moan about everything” movement were already starting to sprout. As such, the same people who moaned that Zelda was going cel-shaded and Metroid was going first-person were similarly enraged that Baby Luigi and Petey Piranha could share a kart.
Although Double Dash's divisive dualdriving dynamic (try saying that drunk) ended up being shelved after one game, one thing fans did agree on was that the GameCube racer at least looked fantastic and had solid handling. We didn't know it at the time, but Double Dash had launched the Mario Kart game engine that continues to exist (in modified forms) to this day. This was first proven in Mario Kart DS, the series’ next handheld foray. Returning to single-driver karts, Nintendo used a scaled down version of the Double Dash!! engine to ensure the same smooth 60fps gameplay and drift mechanics, albeit on a portable system much less powerful than the Cube. It was also the first Mario Kart game to feature online multiplayer, making use of the DS’s humble Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection service to let up to four people race each other. Despite its relative lack of graphical oomph, Mario Kart DS won over both lovers and haters of Double Dash!! as well as a boatload of other gamers who didn't even own the GameCube version. As a result, it became the third best-selling DS game ever, shifting a massive 23.6 million copies.
Even that would be engulfed by what was to come though, when Nintendo released the Wii and... well, you know what happened there. One of the most successful consoles ever made, it came as no surprise that its karting offering was to become similarly successful. Mario Kart Wii once again used the same engine featured in Double Dash!! and DS and added its own twist to it with the inclusion of motion controls. Although traditional analogue stick controls were still an option for the Mario Kart hardcore, the introduction of motion – especially with the plastic Wii Wheel shell which came with the game – finally broke down the last remaining barriers to entry for all but the most sceptical nongamers. Your pal who didn’t play games would have been able to scrape through Mario Kart DS or 64, but Mario Kart Wii’s motion controls meant your five-year-old brother or your granny were suddenly able to play too. Of course, this meant it had its share of moaners too, but a ridiculous 36.83 million customers couldn’t be wrong: to this date, nearly a decade later, Mario Kart Wii is still the best-selling racing game of all time.
By this point it was obvious that every new Nintendo system simply needed to have a Mario Kart game to accompany it. Sure enough, when the 3DS launched in 2011, Mario Kart 7 followed less than a year behind it. Using the now-established engine from the GameCube, DS, and Wii games, it added its own spin by including the ability to race underwater and glide over long jumps. It also added a new kart customisation option that let you choose different combinations of body, wheels, and glider. This meant players could tinker with their kart to a level not previously possible, and fine-tune it to suit their racing style perfectly.
Then there was Mario Kart 8. Nintendo’s Midas touch ended with the Wii U – which was an unmitigated sales disaster no matter how you try to spin it, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t packing some fantastic games; including arguably the best Mario Kart game ever made. Mario Kart 8 threw characters and tracks at the player like a pantomime dame throwing sweets at children in the audience, and its brilliantly addictive online multiplayer ensured that Wii U owners still had something to feel proud about despite the console’s failure to build momentum. By the end of the Wii U’s life, ‘only’ 8 million people bought Mario Kart 8: still an incredible number by any normal game’s standards, but the third-lowest sales of any Mario Kart. The Wii U’s failure meant many missed out on the best Mario Kart game ever.
Until now, of course! As you obviously know – what with you holding this magazine in your eager mitts and all – the lovely Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is now on Switch, allowing everyone who skipped Mario Kart 8 (and many of those who bought it too) to finally enjoy the series’ high point. Best of all, it comes with all the DLC, new characters, and a brand new Battle Mode chucked in for good measure too. The Switch is still a handful of months old and you’ve got to think there’s a good possibility it may eventually become the first Nintendo console to receive two Mario Kart games. For now though, Switch owners should be content to have the best Mario Kart game ever in both home console and handheld flavours. What a time to be alive.
Although the Wii U and Switch entries refer to themselves as Mario Kart 8, that’s a damn dirty lie. More accurately, they should actually be called Mario Kart 11 and Mario Kart 11 Deluxe. That’s because there have been three Mario Kart games released in arcades over the years. Mario Kart Arcade GP, Arcade GP 2, and Arcade GP DX came out in 2005, 2007, and 2013 respectively - and offer completely new courses from the home versions. Since these ones are developed by Bandai Namco instead of Nintendo, a bunch of its characters have even appeared as playable over the three games, including Pac-Man, Ms Pac-Man, Blinky (one of the Pac-Man ghosts), a Tamagotchi, and Don-chan the drum-shaped hero from its Taiko Drum Master series. Arcades may be few and far between these days, but if you ever stumble across one of these machines give them a go: they’re brilliant.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Written by Paul Murphy
If you go into a McDonald’s and ask for a “Quarter Deluxe” there’s a fair chance that they will know what you are talking about. A throwback to their late 1990s menu, the Quarter Pounder Deluxe takes the regular burger and adds in some mayonnaise, lettuce, and – if you are lucky – even a slice of tomato. It takes a core part of their menu, and adds a little shine and polish; giving you what they consider to be a superior product. Deluxe is a word that intends to exude luxury, and that analogy is somewhat apt
for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe too. Nintendo have taken one of their more successful Wii U titles and released it on the Switch, adding in a glazing of polish, refinement, and a few new things to give us what is probably the most definitive title in the series thus far. It’s caused somewhat the stir already though, with many Wii U owners feeling incredibly aggrieved that Nintendo have ported the game to the Switch, whereas on the other hand the Wii U’s poor performance means that there is a massive portion of Nintendo’s regular Mario Kart purchasing audience that never experienced it the first time around. I find myself in the latter position after having never outright owned a Wii U myself, or played the original more than a handful of times. Despite being a three year old game, for a huge majority of people this will be “new” and experienced for the first time. On the surface Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a character-led kart racer starring many of Nintendo’s famous library of characters. You pick a character from an enhanced roster of forty-two (the five new characters here are Inkling kids from Splatoon, Dry Bones, Bowser Jr. and King Boo), and then take on one of the twelve different cups that are all available from the start. Each cup has four colourful Nintendo-themed stages within (giving a total of forty-eight) and you are tasked
with winning against eleven other CPU controlled racers. Along the way you’ll be able to use many different weapons that you’ll pick up from the tons of item blocks littered around the track to plough your way through the field. It’s the way it’s always been in Mario Kart – and despite being a quarter of a century old, somehow it never feels stale.
is incredible. You’ll certainly be playing for some time, by which point your mastery of the tracks and their secrets will set you in good stead for some of the other modes. If you so desired, you can also race on any of these tracks individually, or even take on the standard Time Trial mode where you can put these skills to the test.
The courses that you race on are incredibly stunning, and what’s more amazing is that this is all happening on a handheld device. Running at sixty frames per second in the single player mode – fixing a quirk of the Wii U version in the process – each of the tracks featured are a homage to various Nintendo franchises past and present. Whether it’s racing around something from the Mushroom Kingdom, a visit to Animal Crossing, a tracked themed around Hyrule – with rupees instead of coins, or even a blast around some futuristic F-Zero themed courses; all of these look fantastic whether you are playing docked or handheld, and – as you’d expect – are accompanied by a fantastic soundtrack. The tunes and chirps all ooze that Nintendo-flavour, which really adds to the atmosphere. The presentation is simply top-notch.
Long-gone are the days where the characters had singular vehicles to race in, and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe features a sort of fruit machine of combinations which differing chassis (and bikes), wheels, and gliding accessories – your choices playing an important part in how your ride performs. Depending on what you choose you could end up altering grip, acceleration, top speed, or handling abilities, and with so much to experiment with you’ll likely take a long time to find your perfect set-up. You unlock more parts through collecting the coins that are strewn around the tracks, so as well as increasing your top-speed when racing there is an actual point to collecting them.
Each cup offers four levels of difficulty, four different speed classes, and even the tracks in a mirror mode. The amount of replay value in the core Grand Prix mode
The controls are very easy to pick up, as you’d expect for a game that’s designed to be accessible to everyone. The A accelerates (you’ll want to press it when the “2” appears in the starting countdown) and B brakes. The R shoulder button hops, and allows for drifting whilst the L uses whatever power-up you
Temporarily transforms you into a Bullet Bill, making you zoom automatically toward the finish line while knocking over any vehicle you make contact with.
Will send anyone who hits it into a spin. Hold L to drag it from the back of your vehicle.
Three Bananas that spin around your vehicle. Press L to place one of them.
Travels in a straight line and knock over the first driver they hit. Hold L to aim it from the back of your vehicle.
Three shel that spin aro your vehicl Press L to f one of them a straight lin
Squirts ink on the vehicles ahead of you, briefly obscuring the drivers' views.
Strikes all opponents with lightning, causing them to lose their items. It also temporarily shrinks them, reducing their speed!
Makes you temporarily invincible and increases your speed. Any vehicle you hit will be knocked over.
Lets you thr fireballs for a s time by press L. Any vehic you hit will s out of contr
This works well for the Switch because Mario Kart is a series which is always so much better with others. I’ve always enjoyed smashing through the championship cups and the racing truly Another change in the deluxe version is a joy, but Battle Mode was where the allows for you to hold two items, a returning feature from Double Dash. Alas, true appeal of the series was, and this is you cannot switch items – but still allows where the real difference between the for some more frantic racing. Additionally, two versions lies. In Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and as is becoming typical with some you have a more complete battle mode Switch multiplayer games, the game can to get stuck into – with eight arenas and also be played with two players out of five modes available for you to utilize in the box. Each player can take a Joy-Con satisfying that party-style fun you may each, and each playing on their side of the be craving. Make no mistake; this is the screen you can take on two player racing best iteration of Battle Mode in a Mario from the get-go (using the same controls). Kart title since the original, and arguably currently have (or sounds the horn otherwise). If you are so inclined, you can also use the X button to look behind you.
surpasses it due to the sheer number of modes available to you. The first mode I’ll discuss is the classic Balloon Battle, which sees you start with five balloons and a simple aim; pop the balloons of your opponents using the assorted arsenal at your disposal, and try to avoid getting hit yourself. Your score will increase for every successful hit you make and – as you’d expect – the winner is the one with the most at the end. Should you find your own supply of balloons depleted, you’ll respawn in the arena albeit at the cost of half your score. This is the epitome of the classic Mario
Balloon Battle - Throw items to pop your opponents' balloons. You earn points for each balloon you pop.
Bob-omb Blast - The only items you get here are Bob-ombs. Throw a constant barrage in front of you, or leave them behind you to blow away your opponents' balloons.
Coin Runners - Com coins within the tim crown on their h 26
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Locks on to and pursue the vehicle in front of you, knocking over the first driver they hit.
The boomerang can be thrown up to three times. Any driver it hits will spin out of control.
row short sing cle spin rol.
Three shells that spin Pursues the driver in Explodes a short time around your vehicle. 1st place, knocking after use or on impact Press L to fire one of over any other vehicles with a vehicle. Anyone them at the vehicle it hits along the way. caught in the blast in front of you. This one won't stop spins out of control or gets knocked over! until it catches up with the leader!
Attaches temporarily to the front of the vehicle. When the Piranha Plant bites at something, the momentum of its lunge provides a slight speed boost.
Sends nearby vehicles and items flying with an ear-splitting honk.
Kart multiplayer experience, and is easily one of the best modes in the game. Not being permanently excluded when your balloons are depleted is a nice touch for players to keep going and does well to keep up the intensity of the round, but the cost to your score ensures that you may be more cautious. Next up is Bob-omb Blast, which essentially plays exactly the same as Balloon Battle, even down the balloons and scoring system. The trick here is that you can only use the Bob-omb item. Bombs can be stacked to a maximum of ten, and can lead to some pretty hectic and explosive encounters! It’s definitely a lot of fun and results in a lot more carnage than the standard mode. Whereas those first two modes are more combat-orientated and chaotic, two of the others are more about your driving skills. Shine Thief features a singular shine on the map, and as soon as one player collects it the countdown timer kicks in. The aim is to hold the shrine for twenty seconds, which is easier said than done when you suddenly become the target. Being hit by an item
Eight items that orbit your vehicle. Press L to use the one closest to the front at that moment.
Gives you a brief speed boost.
Three Mushrooms that spin around your vehicle. Press L to use one of them for a brief speed boost.
For a short time, allows you to use a Mushroom every time you press L.
Gives you two extra coins. The more coins you have, the faster your vehicle will go.
Launches your vehicle into the air, avoiding bananas and shells. Hit an opponent during a jump to steal one of their balloons.
Makes your vehicle temporarily ghostly, allowing you to pass through bananas and shells. You might also steal an item from one of your opponents.
immediately relives you of your prize and gives another player the opportunity to hold it for the longest. Once the overall clock expires the winner will be whomever held onto it the longest. A true test of your learned driving skills, you’ll stand your best chance by pulling off all the tricks you know – including a 180 on the spot (A and B together whilst steering) and drifting. In Coin Runner those skills will also come into play as you attempt to collect the most coins. Spread around the course are a multitude of coins for you to collect, and – as you’d expect once again – being hit with an item will cost you your earnings and throw them back into play (allowing others you get rich at your expense). It quickly becomes a rather tactical game; you trying to protect what you’ve got, whilst also launching an assault on the one with the highest tally – or defending as best you can if that’s you! For me this was the weakest of the modes available and I spent the least amount of time playing it, but it’s not like it doesn’t work if you’re interested in that kind of gameplay.
Speaking of interest, one of the games I was most seduced by is called Renegade Roundup. A six-per-side game of cops and robbers, Renegade Roundup has the cop players permanently equipped with a Piranha item (and a flashing siren) and tasked with arresting the opposition. Getting into range of a robber will result in the carnivorous flora swallowing them and transferring them to the cell, and once all of your opponents are caught you win. It’s inevitably not that simple, as the surviving robbers all have the ability to released ensnared colleagues from their cells – and all they’ll have to do to see that happen is make sure that they are not all captured when the time runs out. In the end, it’s a tough call to say which of the modes was the best out of Renegade Roundup and standard battle; but when all of the battle modes offer you fast and frantic carnage in differing arenas, the resulting action always ends with everyone laughing. Moving past what you can do as a single person and getting back to that bit we mentioned earlier about multiplayer, it’s completely true that you can play with up to four other players on a single Switch
Shine Thief - Nab the Shine somewhere on the course and keep away from other racers until time's up to win.
Renegade Roundup - The Authority team wins if they capture everyone on the Renegade team. The Renegade team wins if at least one member is free when time runs out.
mpete to collect the most me limit. The racer with the head is the one to beat. Switch Player
system. That’s not your only option however, as the game offers other local variations. You can connect eight Switches together locally for a maximum of eight player shenanigans or even use a (sold separately) LAN Adaptor to connect a maximum of twelve systems together (providing they have their dock and own screen) for the ultimate LAN Party. The multiplayer fun doesn’t stop locally though, as you can also partake online with a maximum of twelve players! For now this is all free whilst Nintendo finalise exactly what their online plans are, but it’s worth mentioning that right now – during that free window – might be the best time to get in on the fun. A paid service will cut down on potential players, though one would hope that the sheer number of people buying the game might not make that too obvious once it hits. As for my experience, there’s simply no question that this is the most fun I’ve had playing multiplayer for some time. All of my family got in on the act with a variety of racing and battle played, and we were laughing and joking near the entire time. Even my wife got in on the action, playing a video game for the first time in around ten years – following up on what was probably the last time she played a Mario Kart title. Whether playing with friends or family, you are guaranteed to have a fun time – and with the sheer amount of tracks, modes, characters, and combinations here it’s difficult to see it getting stale anytime soon.
The game also caters to players of different skill levels by adding in a drive assist option, which is on by default. Those that have trouble staying between the lines will instantly benefit from the game correcting your course slightly if you stray too far. This of course renders shortcuts and such trickery moot, and more competent gamers will want to switch it off (by bringing up the menu using +/- from within a race); but it was nice to have included as an option, and allowed my seven year old daughter to be on a more level playing field.
I’m getting to the point where I’d normally tell you what’s wrong with the game, but I’ll be really honest here; there’s not a lot to grumble about. The AI cheats a little somewhat with rubber-banding and seemingly preferential item pickups, but that’s not exactly new in Mario Kart – though I suppose “not exactly new” is an apt criticism of the game in general. HD Remasters and system ports are not a new thing however, and should this fabulous package be criticised simply because it’s released at full price on a new system? Many other re-releases have not been subject to this levy, so that would be unfair. It affects Switch players that also own a Wii U, but they have the choice to double-dip or not. If they really want it, they’ll justify that purchase.
NA: 28th April EU: 28th April 6.7 GB
If you own a Switch, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe essential; if you don’t, perhaps you should.
Going the other way with skill levels is the addition of a third level of boosting. When you go around a corner you can “hop” into a drift, and by keeping the button held and steering you will produce sparks, the longer you keep this going the bigger acceleration reward you’ll receive when you release it. Mastery of this skill will massively aid you chances of victory, or get those times down in the time trial mode.
AT A GLANCE
As for me, I firmly believe the purchase is justified – especially for new players that didn’t experience it the first time around. This is the most complete, definitive, and best Mario Kart title yet, the best multiplayer experience you can buy on the Switch, and the most fun I’ve had in a long time. It’s certainly deserving of that Deluxe tag, though I’d say it’s much more premium than even that word suggests.
DEVELOPER Nintendo E-SHOP PRICING £59.99 | €59.99
VERDICT Absolutely essential for Switch owners who love fun, racing, and didn't buy it on the Wii U. Packed with content, this is the definitive Mario Kart experience - and it's hard to see how it will be topped.
The last time I played a Mario Kart game was on the Nintendo 64, a console that came out in 1996. It's safe to say that I've been away from the game for a long time development wise, as many iterations have hit in the interim. That said, it doesn't seem that skipping those entries has done me much harm, as moving straight into Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has been an overwhelmingly pleasant experience - in almost every way. Single player cup races are just as I remember for the most part, though now look excellent on screen (both in portable and docked modes). They offer a multi-track run that will have you looking to place first in all races if you want all those stars of recognition they offer. It's a job easier said than done at the higher speeds, but putting along at 100cc with the automatic steering control disabled I've been having a ton of fun attempting it. As for multiplayer, I've had my hand in that too. Online races are easy to jump into either with or without friends, though getting a mix of both is easier said than done at this point something I hope they fix in an upcoming patch. You'll simply pick a course (which goes into the pool for the randomizer), wait for the game to select from the options, and race; taking on up to twelve opponents in some very smooth party play style action. Multiplayer doesn't stop there however, as you can go splitscreen for local fun - or even swap to multi-switch local area style play if you've got multiple switches handy (up to 8
wireless, 12 wired). It brings multiplayer to the living room or gathering quite well, and I've had quite a bit of fun with those who I could get to play. Plus, the competition is often more brutal and calculating than the AI can be - leading to some interesting finish-line shenanigans. A good time will be had by all; even those who lose. As for the controls, they're easy to learn and execute just like the rules. This game was basically made to be all inclusive, and it very much is in all the ways that matter (aside from that online mix quirk). The audio and graphics also deliver quite well, and I'd even hazard some flack by saying that the HD Rumble is a hell of an execution here as well. Playing in a quiet room with the sound off (I forget why), I found that things like picking up coins not only gave a rumble - but did so with a motion that sounded and almost felt like an item box breaking to reveal a coin. The little details like that rumble-infused call back to classic Mario sound effects are astounding at this level, and make this Switch iteration feel that much more polished than some of the other games released on the system thus far. In the end, my experience with this version of Mario Kart has been one I won't soon be able to shrug off. Nintendo seem to have brought forth that classic gaming goodness we've all come to expect, while simultaneously refining and detailing it with such attention that you might think they're designing the consoles around these games. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has already become a staple in my library, and - like Zelda before it - this iteration is the bee's knees. I'm going to have to fight myself on which cart gets to stay "at home" in my Switch from now on, 'cause these games are built for replayability and I sure as hell won't be holding myself back from such an experience. Deluxe indeed, and with Tanooki Mario I'm here to take on all comers. So... who wants to race?
Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap
Written by Adam Cook @jebusf
Nostalgia can be a deflating thing. Tracking down that elusive chocolate bar to discover it’s been ruined by a humungous corporation that decided to take an interest in UK chocolate is never good, but it can at least remind us of how far we’ve come. Thankfully, Wonder Boy is the rare thing from our youth that hasn’t been ruined by age or money: it’s just a lovely thing that has had a shiny coat of paint slapped across it with tender, loving care, and brought to life in a, let’s face it, ridiculously busy time for the game playing populace. But let’s not gloss over that remaster job done by developer Lizardcube, because this is a remake of a game from 1989 on the Master System, and the likelihood is that most people reading this weren’t even born then – and may not even know what the Master System was. I do, because I’m frighteningly aware that I am a very old man. The marvellous thing is that you’d never know this was a game nearly 30 years old, because thanks to hard games being en-vogue these days, this is a beautiful looking game and looks like a painting come to life. It’s only obvious if you hit a button which switches instantly 30
between the original game and the new art style. It’s startling and reinforces just how incredible a job the team has done on the new look. As the titular Wonder Boy, you start with lots of health containers and a powerful sword. Invading the Dragon’s castle, you’ll easily defeat it and be rendered a LizardMan. From there, it’s your job to roam the lands and defeat bosses which will turn you into other, new Animal-Men; thus giving you new abilities, and the chance to travel deeper into the world – towards completion. Despite its retro origins, it’s a nice touch that, while called “Wonder Boy”, you can also choose to play as Wonder Girl (and the titles and in-game text changes to match). Sure, it’s a tiny thing – but inclusiveness in a game like this is worth championing. Although it’s being released in a period that requires it to stand against some massive games, here is a small developer (and publisher) making the effort to be there for everyone. This is a game that requires patience. It’s a tough one made harder if you rush through like it’s a platformer. There are elements of jumping of course, but the design is meticulous and wants you to slowly approach each enemy and take them out one by one. This is made abundantly clear when you reach the third transformation and become Mouse-Man. Now you can climb in small areas and attach to blocks that give you access to new areas, but you are also tiny; meaning your sword-reach is also miniscule. If you run around,
jumping at enemies and trying to kill them, you’ll take hits all over. Slow down though, and learn enemy patterns and movements, and you can take anything out – regardless of your stature. I can’t stress enough how well designed this game is, and strangely it’s the boss battle that closes the MouseMan section that really puts this into perspective. The grueling climb up a tower via tiny corridors littered with enemies of all kinds has no save point before that final door to the boss. The difficulty is so high that it’s also one of the first times you can buy a “revive” potion on the way (if you die, it’ll revive you – it’s that simple), but the strangest reward is the boss. Initially you’ll take a hit or two, before realising the pattern is incredibly simple to understand and beat. After that you will pretty much kill that boss without taking a hit. Usually you’d walk away thinking “what a rubbish boss,” but you quickly realise that the real boss was the climb up to the more traditional encounter. Of course, after beating any area you’ll get a new power in the form of a… well, a new form. This keeps things fresh and interesting – as will finding the numerous shops along the way, and buying new armour and weapons. Killing enemies will get you coins that are the currency of the world, but it’s random what they’ll drop, and it may just as often be a projectile weapon (something that’ll help you kill those outrageously annoying cloud enemies).
Wonder Boy then, reminds us how far we’ve come but also how great games can stand the test of time. Sure, it won’t be for everyone – and many will be put off by the difficulty. For those who enjoy harder games that require patience and fortitude however, The Dragon’s Trap is a rewarding and (frankly) beautiful game to experience. It feels perfect on the handheld mode of the Switch, though it otherwise makes no explicit use of the console’s options. While it’s unlikely to kick start the franchise into matching the likes of a Castlevania or Metroid, it’s a damn good time… and sometimes that’s enough.
VERDICT A beautiful lick of paint and superb execution mean that Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is not only well worth your money, but it also feels perfectly at home on the handheld mode of Nintendo’s Switch. This love-letter to the past proves a great game forever remains a great game.
There’s no question that the difficulty will put people off, though. Taking a hit will stagger you in a similar way to the Mega Man series, and can mean you’ll fall off to another screen. On its own this isn’t the worst thing in the world, but there’s an early portion where due to the lack of
AT A GLANCE
a certain ability you can’t get back up the easy way. Expect to be frustrated unless you take your time clearing out the enemies and – again – learn how to take them out without taking a hit, because death will send you back to the starting village; requiring you to travel all the way back to where you were before you died.
NA: 18th April EU: 18th April
E-SHOP PRICING £17.99 | €19.99
823 MB Switch Player
Written by Sandeep Rai
Do you remember that scene at the start of X-Men 2 when Nightcrawler was teleporting around the Oval Office, dodging bullets and taking out all of the President’s bodyguards? Imagine those abilities but in a top down action game similar to Hotline Miami. That’s what Mr. Shifty is like. The premise is kind of silly, but purposely so. You play as a teleporting thief that enters a building full of thugs and traps to try and steal the mega plutonium from the evil Chairman Stone. The story is straight out of a cheesy, over the top 80’s action movie. The plot didn’t have much depth, but that didn’t matter – because Mr. Shifty is all about fast-paced action. Using Mr. Shifty’s teleportation powers, you progress through each floor of the tower filled with Chairman Stone’s henchmen. There are only two main buttons to use (aside from the analogue stick); teleport and punch. The gameplay is fast, fluid, and makes you feel like a bad ass. When enemies see you, they will charge towards you. 32
It’s easy to stand behind a wall and wait for someone to come closer so you can hit them, and then run away and hide from other enemies – but that’s not a fun way to play. The real enjoyment comes when you take a big group of enemies head on, and then shift around the screen landing punches until they are all down. Similar to Hotline Miami, you die if you get hit once, but the teleportation ability gives Mr. Shifty an edge over the bad guys. It feels so satisfying to clear a room in seconds by executing a string of teleports; evading bullets, appearing behind unsuspecting enemies, and taking them all down without getting hit. As you take down henchmen you charge up your slow motion meter. Once charged, the next time a bullet gets close to Mr. Shifty, he automatically enters slow motion. Enemies slow down for a few seconds, giving you the chance to take them down. The game keeps things fair however, by having a limit of five teleports before it needs to recharge. It gives a nice balance to the game so that you can’t abuse the power. You can also grab weapons to use in the game like brooms, wooden poles, and even fruit (somehow you can take down a ninja by throwing some fruit at them!). Out of all the weapons available, I found the Golden Shield to be – by far – the most fun. Mr Shifty can toss it around like Captain America, taking out multiple enemies at a time. It was also one of the few unbreakable items, so it became my go to weapon whenever it was available.
Mr. Shifty’s abilities don’t change, but as you progress in the tower new challenges are introduced – with examples such as enemies with shotguns, turrets that fire homing missiles, areas where you can’t shift, or enemies with flame throwers. You’re kept on your toes at all times, but the difficulty is fair. There were two sections of the game in the final couple of levels where I started feeling frustrated due to the difficulty spike, however for the rest of the game the difficulty felt just right. Each time I died, I was just more determined to get through the level. One area where I felt the difficulty should have been harder was the final boss. After struggling to get through the final stage to reach him, I found him to be no challenge at all. I would have preferred a more climactic end to the game. As for the graphics, they look stylish and add to the comic book superhero vibe. The music wasn’t especially memorable, but it suited the game well – and the sound effects were realistic sounding, especially for gunfire and glass smashing. The game’s performance however, was an area of concern. I experienced slow down at times, especially on the last two levels when there were a lot of enemies on screen in addition to frequent explosion effects. Annoyingly the frame rate dips resulted in some unfair deaths. I also encountered two crashes; one on each of the final two levels. Obviously it’s not great to have bugs, but I was still left with a positive impression overall – simply because the game was so enjoyable.
The game took me six hours to finish. There are eighteen levels, and each level is split into multiple rooms. The length of each level varied from ten minutes for the early stages, up to thirty minutes for the final stages. There is some replay value in trying to better your time, but without a score system or online leaderboards I didn’t feel there was much incentive to play the game again just to beat my own record. In the end, I put down Zelda to play Mr. Shifty – and it felt like the perfect change of pace. It was refreshing to play a fastpaced action game where you are reliant on your instincts, with no complex story or collectibles to distract you. Thankfully, Mr. Shifty is all about gameplay, and on that front it delivers.
VERDICT Although Mr. Shifty is clearly inspired by Hotline Miami, it sets itself apart with the speed of the gameplay and the focus on quick reflex action. The Nintendo Switch version has some bugs as at launch, and the game can be beaten in just a few hours, but the fun and addictive experience makes this a worthy addition to your Switch library.
4.0 PUBLISHER tinyBuild Games
AT A GLANCE
NA: 13th April EU: 13th April
DEVELOPER Team Shifty
E-SHOP PRICING £13.49 | €14.99
3.6 GB Switch Player
Written by Kyle Wakeling
Action games and puzzle games have long gone together in one form or another, and you could even say that one of the best games so far on Switch shares that meld of genres. Unlike Breath of the Wild however, Kamiko takes an entirely different stylistic and environmental approach – and ends up with a game that’s right up there in pure awesomeness. Oh, and did I mention it’s cheap? That’s right folks, Kamiko is currently the cheapest game on my Switch – and it’s also one of my favourites. It puts you in the shoes of one of three Shrine Maidens (the titular Kamiko) who attempt to overthrow demons who have sealed the gates between heaven and Earth. Armed with a unique weapon which varies depending on which character you choose, you’ll cut your way through a plethora of slightly different enemies which spawn in different areas of each level – and eventually the harder level bosses. Your main weapon action is activated by pressing or holding Y or A, while the entirety of the triggers are combined with B to offer sprint in equal measure. You’ll be able to move using either the directional buttons or the analog stick, and pause is mapped to X, +, and – just the same. The crazy amount of redundancy in the button setup means you’ll never have to panic when trying to execute an important action, and it also reinforces just how basic the movements and actions you’ll need in Kamiko really are. Each level you plow through is styled and populated by unique and yet familiar types of enemies, with your job in each area being to push through and unseal four shrines. This is accomplished by feeding them the skill points you’ve collected from dispatching those enemies I mentioned, so make sure to chop down a healthy amount of foes on your way. Being that the game requires you to rack up those points in order to progress, you can’t just ninja your way around those around you as you won’t be able to unseal the shrine; no skill points collected means nothing to open the shrine back up with. It’ll cost you 100 points to open each of those shrines, so make sure to save up a healthy surplus – ’cause that’s not all you’ll need them for. Also littered around each level are chests filled with various goodies. These goodies are often in the form of additional life (you start with four chunks), or additional skill points (and/or room for skill points) – though they also sometimes include another set of puzzle mechanics; keys. 34
The first type of key is just that; a key. You’ll get it from chests and have to carry it to a door with a keyhole in order to advance. Likewise, there are also orbs – which are paired with a pedestal to open a lock, and sometimes come in pairs (from separate chests). Both types of keys need to be paired with their respective locks in order to activate a way forward, however to get them there you must not get hit – as a single touch from the enemy means you have to return to the chest to get another key. This is complicated by the fact that carrying a key means you can’t sprint, which makes dodging a bit more of a task than it is normally. These two types of keys and their usage offer a unique and fitting mechanic to have pitted directly against the action bits, especially as they require you to be sneaky and agile instead of destructive. They’re not the only bits that you have to worry about however, as there are still two more simplistic “door” mechanics we’ve not talked about; triggers and teleporters. Triggers are more simple versions of lock and key puzzles, which will often activate simply by standing on a single trigger. Others require you to move an item to cover a second trigger, however they’re less common and there are certainly no triple trigger options of that sort. As for teleporters, they’re often revealed by using triggers – and can take you across vast distances in an instant. Appearing as yellow glowing bits on the map, they only connect to a single other point, and are basically fast-travel and/or a way to get to somewhere new. Simple, but useful.
Together, all these well-chosen mechanics come together to form quite a simplistic but fun to play game. You’ll spend most of your time hacking through enemies, collecting skill points, solving puzzles, and dodging enemies (when you’ve got things in your hands) – but there are also four or five boss battles to take on, and four secrets to uncover. The three characters also play very differently, so replay value is added by their different strengths and weaknesses. Not enough to lure you in? Well how about those speedrun features, then! Though the game will probably take you an hour for each of the characters the first time through, you’ll be able to ninja your way through the game soon enough – and to help you track your progress (and compare to your friends) there are even statistics which are given and recorded in the game. At the end of each area you’ll get a play time, and in the character selection screen you’ll be able to hit “X” and bring up a menu which will allow you to choose “Stats.” You’ll be able to see your best times there, and of course screenshot them to compare with friends. But that’s not all! Kamiko is not only a fun, cheap game with lots of replayability and quality options… it’s also a beautiful game in every regard. From art, to music, to gameplay, it stitches these things together with charming precision and thought. The areas you’ll explore all have their own shiny new theme and style, and the music that goes with it is very evocative of the retro games of the NES and SNES in the most interesting way. The chiptune melodies it presents you
with while playing are very, very fitting to the style of game, and their appearance made me smile more than once on my many play-throughs (especially the tune from the second area). Finally, the gameplay sounds and actions are top notch; nary a glitch or issue with the game to be found in my many hours with it so far. Simply beautiful, and beautifully done to match. So should you buy Kamiko? I think you already know that I’m going to tell you “yes.” It combines action style gameplay with some fitting puzzle elements, and wraps it in a gorgeous pixel art coat of paint with some rather epic tunes and sound effects. At this point I’d feel bad for not recommending it, so you should probably feel a little bad if you don’t go pick it up. It’s just that good.
VERDICT A charming little game that melds action and puzzle elements together quite nicely, Kamiko is a pleasure to play and experience. It doesn't last too long, and some of the enemies are rather easy to dispatch - but the different characters and their unique weapons make it a good game to replay, and the speedrun elements add to the fun. Overall it's a great way to spend a few hours, and that cheap launch price definitely doesn't hurt its value any.
4.4 PUBLISHER CIRCLE Entertainment
AT A GLANCE
NA: 27th April EU: 27th April
E-SHOP PRICING £4.49 | €4.99
119 MB Switch Player
Graceful Explosion Machine
Written by Charlie Large
Games nowadays are often crammed so full of things to see and do that a lot of them fall short and end up being a jack of all trades, yet master of none. There are the odd exceptions of course, but most of these tend to underwhelm and fail to deliver on what was expected.
Graceful Explosion Machine, from developer Vertex Pop, is the complete opposite of the above scenario. Instead, it picks one area of focus – and aims to perfect and master its chosen discipline. This 2D arcade shooter offers simple gameplay mechanics that make it a title that anyone can pick up and play within minutes. Like any great arcade game, the challenge here comes from mastering it and getting yourself further towards the top of the leaderboards. Each of the game’s main stages share the same premise; you control a spaceship that is flying through what appears to be the planet’s core, fighting off the waves of aliens that attack. Each of these stages have three phases to them, and if you get hit by an alien ship or projectile three times you will lose a life – sending you back to the start of the current phase. To prevent this from happening, your ship is kitted out with four different weapons, and each one is mapped to a face button. There is a Blaster that provides a short-mid range attack which is great against smaller enemies, but not as effective against some of the larger foes you will face. You’ll have access to an Energy Sword that delivers a powerful 360-degree attack – which makes short work of most of the alien ships, and also destroys any incoming bullets before they can deal damage. There is also a long-range Sniper Beam that is great against some of the larger, more static enemies with shields that need destroying – but also slows your ship down to a snails pace. Finally, there are burstfire missiles that can be used to get you out of sticky situations; like if you find yourself surrounded. It pays to switch between these four weapons, as not only does mixing things up improve the style score that then boosts your final score, but your blaster will overheat if used continuously. As for the other three weapons, they all share an energy bar that is refilled with pickups from the enemies you destroy. There are plenty of reasons not to stick with one tactic, and running out of uses is definitely one of them. 36
In regards to your ship’s abilities, you can rotate your craft 180 degrees using either of the left triggers, and also perform a dash to either get you closer to the action (or away from it if it gets to be too much) using either of the right triggers. This is important because if you stop shooting for too long – or get hit by an enemy – your score multiplier will reset, which is not a good thing if you are chasing the S-Ranks for each stage! Once you’ve gotten the hang of how to play Graceful Explosion Machine, you will soon be racking up the high scores – and going back to previous levels and improving upon what you have already achieved is something that you can waste hours on. The leaderboards will do well to spur you on in this pursuit, and you can even filter and see your friends scores for ultimate bragging rights! The only downside to all of this is that the only way to submit your score to the online leaderboards is to hit the submit button immediately after completing a level – so if you are out and about with your Switch and you pull off an amazing run, you’re probably going to be out of luck if you want to see your name pushing for that number one spot. Looking to the stages, there are four planets to play through – with one open from the start and the other three requiring you to beat a certain amount of stages to unlock. Each planet plays host to nine stages, and you need to beat the earlier stages in order to unlock the later ones. Do not worry if you get stuck on one level however, as stages normally
unlock two at a time. You can always leave whichever one is causing you bother for now, and simply return to it at a later time. Once you beat all the stages in any of the four worlds you will unlock that world’s challenge mode levels, which can be accessed from the main menu. They add a harder version of that world’s final level, as well as an endless mode that gives you one-life to see how far you can go and how high of a score you can rack up. Again, those leaderboards will surely be what keeps you coming back to these modes time and time again.
Graceful Explosion Machine's sounds, visuals, and great use of HD Rumble contribute towards a wonderful atmosphere, and also do well to keep you sutured into the game - helping you remain focused when chasing the big scores. Each weapon produces a different vibration from the Joy-Con, and each world and enemy has a distinguishable, clean colour palette which helps you differentiate the alien enemies with no more than a glance. This means you will soon be able to pick which weapon you use based on the colours you see coming towards you. As for the sounds you hear whilst playing the game, they provide helpful cues as to when your weapon is overheating, or you are running low on energy. They also denote when you have hit the next major multiplier milestone however - meaning you can keep your eye on the action rather than looking at the HUD (which is a shame as the game's HUD is perfect; crisp, clear, and highly informative).
Like any good arcade game worth its salt, Graceful Explosion Machine can take a short time to beat, but a long time to master. If you are just wanting to play through it once and then move onto something else, then maybe this will not be a game for you – but if you are looking for something you can pick up and play in short bursts, or spend hours chasing the perfect run with, then I cannot recommend this game enough!
VERDICT Graceful Explosion Machine is arguably the go-to arcade game that every Switch owner should definitely consider buying. It mixes pleasing visuals with great gameplay to make it one of the best arcade shooters I've played. You can beat the four worlds in around four hours, but you will find yourself playing these over and over again as you chase down those high scores!
4.1 PUBLISHER Vertex Pop
AT A GLANCE
NA: 6th April EU: 6th April
DEVELOPER Vertex Pop
E-SHOP PRICING £9.99 | €12.99
298 MB Switch Player
Written by Kyle Wakeling
Ah, Voez. It’s probably one of the most valuable hidden gems of the Switch’s first month, and a title that may have even been overlooked by music and rhythm fanatics as well. It doesn’t have a fancy name, and it’s not coming from some renowned series, but it is made by some of the greats of the genre. Coming our way via Rayark (the people behind Cytus and Deemo), you can trust that you’re in for something of a treat. Rewinding a bit, Voez is a rhythmic music game featuring a plethora of songs. You’ll find piano melodies, vocaloid songs, dance music, and even dubstep-like beats here – most seeming to be from Asian sources. That said, if you’re at all like me that won’t matter much; and if you’ve played rhythm games like this in the past you should at least be able to deal. This is not Guitar Hero or Just Dance, so don’t expect a Westernized song theme and you’ll be fine. A simple game in execution, you’ll not be playing marathons or a story mode here – and aside from the tutorial, there doesn’t seem to be any real mode to it. You simply sort the list in either alphabetical or difficulty level systems, pick a song, and go at it. 38
It’s the perfect pick-up-and-play style game, and being that it doesn’t even need the Joy-Con it might be a good way to make things “more portable” if you’re only taking the Switch with you to play between tasks or events. That’s right, this is the first Switch game to be a hundred percent portable mode only; and if that’s not enough, it’s best played with the JoyCons removed – as they’re fairly useless in game, and it inhibits your reach. This is the first game to prove that the Switch’s touchscreen is truly worth having, and it does so by doing away with all other methods of control or operability. So once you’ve chosen a song from the rather large list and it starts to play, little tracks appear on the screen vertically, and notes fall down to hit the bar at the bottom of the screen. Your job is to follow along by tapping, holding, sliding, and swiping the notes as required – using only the aforementioned tablet portion of the Switch to do so. Following along by playing all the different song choices – of which there are 116 – you’ll try and get all the notes and indicators as they come. This can be done in easy, hard, and special difficulties; more notes and more complex actions coming along in the harder modes. Modes actually change the scale of hardness for the song and aren’t strict “levels,” so by paying attention to the difficulty level (it goes from 1-16) you can tailor the challenge better to your own personal skill level.
While there aren’t really any gameplay modes in Voez, there is an unlockable diary – which offers a static-style visual novel, complete with text and a cute little picture-aided story. Pages in the diary are unlocked through completing tasks however, so it’s not something you can simply pick up and get into like the rest of the game is. If I’m being completely honest, I’m not that great at Voez‘s super difficulty, and it was because of this that I got stuck early in the story; on one of the tasks that require you to “B” grade a super difficulty song. The lowest level super tier song there is comes up as a nine out of sixteen in difficulty, and I can only manage a “C” even after a fair few tries (and even a few Hail Mary attempts at higher level ones). It’s kind of a bummer, but to be honest the diary aspect seems like fluff to me – and I think I can safely live without it. Moving past the gameplay, the visual and auditory aspects of the game are top notch for what they offer, and there are simply no issues at all to be found on the surface. This is somewhat aided by the fact that – aside from coloured tracks and notes which move about – there isn’t much in the way of animation on the screen. This isn’t a game that relies on music videos or extraneous design however, and that’s obvious in almost every aspect (including graphics). As for the audio, all the songs sounded great – even at top volume on my headphones. I like to get right entrenched in the songs while I’m playing them, so that clarity and quality was a welcome thing to encounter. This game walks the walk and talks the talk quite well.
After getting properly acquainted with the game, I think it’s safe to say that I’ve had a great time with Voez – and though it’s obviously more simple in design, it very much excels in execution. Songs feel good to play, there’s plenty of selection, and it’s simple to pick up for a moment or sit down and sink hours into. It’s not the most extensive title to behold, but being that you get so many songs (and there’s free DLC on the way), it’s definitely worth a buy.
Voez really vibes with me, and I’ll be visiting it every moment I get the chance to from now on. You might want to consider doing the same if rhythm games are your thing.
VERDICT Voez is a "no bells or whistles" style rhythm game with a hell of a soundtrack and some very unique execution. As the first portable mode only title on the Switch it might have you apprehensive, but you shouldn't be too wary; it's a solid title from a studio that knows what they're doing in the genre.
3.8 PUBLISHER Flyhigh Works
AT A GLANCE
NA: 9th March EU: 3rd March
E-SHOP PRICING £18.99 | €25.00
620 MB Switch Player
LEGO City Undercover
Games LEGO title isn’t reliant on a licensed property.
Imagine if you will, a child-friendly take on Grand Theft Auto. A game where instead of being a criminal, and being the wrong side of the law, you are the law – albeit undercover, and with a similar ability in procuring vehicles and causing wanton destruction on the side. Subtract all of the 18-rated stuff like narcotics and grow-up swears, and you’d find that such a game wouldn’t be too dissimilar to LEGO City Undercover; a game which, after first appearing four years ago exclusively for the Wii U, now finds its way onto modern consoles. You play as Chase McCain, a police officer returning to LEGO City after a long absence – only to find that the dangerous criminal Rex Fury has escaped from Alcatraz Albatross Island. Of course, this means it’s down to you to once again thwart his nefarious plans, and bring him to justice. In order to do so, you’ll play through fifteen chapters of a unique story (if you ignore that it’s already been released) that for the first time in a TT 40
A 3D action/puzzle platformer at heart, LEGO City Undercover will require Chase to take on the criminal underworld, and infiltrate different games. As such, you’ll need to take on different appearances to not only complete your job, but also the puzzles for which LEGO titles have become renowned for. There are eight different disguises that Chase can utilise in total, with each unlocking gradually as you progress through the story. You’ll start off with just your Civilian attire and your Undercover Cop garments, but before long you’ll have a Criminal, Miner, Astronaut, Farmer, Fireman, and even a Construction Worker (Hi Emmet!) to use. All of these have differing abilities in order to solve the puzzles around you, but in typical LEGO title fashion some puzzles hidden in the levels can’t be completed until much later. This means you’ll be coming back to play the game again via free play after the level has been completed the first time. As a Police Officer you can use a grappling gun to access higher points and discover clues, while the criminal clobber can crowbar into locked doors and crack safes. The Miner can remove debris with his pick axe and utilise dynamite
Written by Paul Murphy
(obtained from vending machines, naturally), whereas the Astronaut can use the various teleporting pads scattered around and unlock futuristic crates. Your Farmer gear allows you to water plants and glide with a chicken, and the Fireman can extinguish flames or use his trust axe to smash doors in. The final disguise bestows the ability to use a pneumatic drill and repair electrical panels – as any good construction worker can. The story it throws you into is actually quite enjoyable, and is heavily influenced by (and laced with humour from) many classic films. Early highlights include a take on The Shawshank Redemption, The Matrix, and Starsky and Hutch – and the entirety of the story itself is generally a bit of a homage/satire on many classic cop shows from the 80’s and 90’s. There’s even a section later on which heavily draws on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s career, busting out numerous amusing puns! This all goes along the way you will infiltrate different criminal organisations, reconcile with your former partner, collect pigs, and even go to the moon; all in the name of capturing the evil Mr. Fury. As well as featuring an enjoyable story, the game is also host to a whole plethora of hidden collectibles, cheat bricks, characters, vehicles, and many
more things – including the important “super builds;” spots for building specific constructions to enhance your adventure, or in some cases even progress your adventure. This is a game with a tremendous amount to do, both during your story and long afterwards. So far, so good – right? You’d think so, and if I was playing this for the first time four years ago (like Wii U owners were) then I’d be crowing about how this was probably the best LEGO game so far. I’d be talking about how it really takes on all of the elements from the games that came before it, and really nails the open world point. I’d be saying that when free of the shackles of a license, the team really have made the LEGO game that they wanted. The problem is that it’s not 2013, and we’ve seen around 52 new LEGO games since then – all of them with enhanced gameplay and mechanics, all of which are notably missing here.
Also somewhat annoying are the costumes themselves. Puzzles are cleverly spaced across the levels – mainly for secrets and so on – but as the full repertoire is available, level progress will also require use of the different abilities one after the other. You can shift disguises easily enough with the L and R buttons, but it still becomes quite frustrating when you have the ability and the game makes you use the disguise to activate it. Having to switch to a police officer to scan for clues, or a fire fighter to use an axe when you already have a character who should be able to do
There are a few things that are irksome too, and the first is the combat. As you’d expect, along the way you’ll be needing to remove some cronies – but this time there is no way to defeat them outright. Instead, you’ll need to use the Y button to hit (or throw), X to dodge, or the A to grapple; and once bested, you’ll need to tap the A again to handcuff them. It becomes quite annoying as you progress through the game. There were also a few vehicle based missions, and some of the handling of those left a lot to be desired (with manoeuvrability not particularly effective).
those things interrupts the fluidity on the gameplay somewhat later on. I’ve also noticed frame-rate drops at times, but this is more prevalent during split screen multiplayer. At points the game noticeably chugs in such a mode, so it’s not a way that I’d suggest you play for extensive periods, though it’s a nice addition nonetheless. In the end, LEGO City Undercover is a nice addition to not only the LEGO series of games, but also the Switch library. You can clearly see that this was an amazing title for the series a few years back, and indeed still offers a great experience. If you are looking for an open-world and fun action platformer for your Switch, and love the style and humour of the LEGO titles, then you’ll find so much to enjoy here; the only real issue is that it’s a port of an older game, and the series has evolved past what that old rendition has to offer.
VERDICT LEGO City Undercover is an actionpacked platformer filled to the brim with secrets and charm. Whilst the series as a whole has evolved - negating how impressive this was back in 2013 - you'll still find plenty to enjoy on its own merit.
3.8 PUBLISHER Warner Bros. Interactive
AT A GLANCE
NA: 4th April EU: 7th April
DEVELOPER TT Games
E-SHOP PRICING £49.99 | €59.99
7.1 GB Switch Player
Written by Adam Cook @jebusf
You get the feeling that someone at Frozenbyte kept adding notes to the design doc for HasBeen Heroes. “Harder”, they would say. Then later on, “Can we make it harder?” it would repeat, just in case the first request was somehow missed. The roguelike genre is no stranger to difficult games, but the key to making one successful is balance. It goes back to the old fashioned saying “carrot on the stick”, where you are asking a donkey to work, and it does so blindly because, in its mind at least, if it keeps going it will grab that elusive carrot. Here, though, you realise quickly that the carrot is never coming, and the stick is just one being used to beat you into submission, with repeated swipes across your bottom. And it’s a great shame, actually, because an attempt to switch things up (pun not intended but gratefully taken) has been made. The tried and tested “escort the princess” is exactly the case here, only instead of saving them (there’s two princesses) from the big bad, it’s your job as “has-been heroes” to escort them safely to school. 42
You’re expendable, and the roguelike elements come into play almost immediately. Dying will reset progress, and everything you’ve gained bar gold will be gone. There are lots of heroes to unlock, but you’ll only see the first three for hours upon end due to that insanely high difficulty level. There’s an “unlocks” screen which shows the things you’ve discovered on your many, many journeys, but you can’t reuse them, or equip them, it’s just a case of “oh well, you’ve found these, so at least you’ll understand how they work next time”.
When one of your characters is attacking, you can switch lanes. This allows you to use your three turns wisely and really go to town on your enemies. It’s a decent system, but it breaks down when bosses appear because they can switch lanes and ruin plans. On top of that, they will often have multiple enemies attacking you from all lanes and be absolute tanks when it comes to health bars. You might be doing okay and be on top of things, but eventually the rush of grunts will mean you have to switch focus and it all just falls apart.
When all’s said and done, this is a lane-based strategy game. Your three heroes (whichever ones you are using) will take up a position in each of the three lanes, whereby a timer will start and enemies will rush you. They won’t stop until the timer runs out, either, and there’s absolutely no let up in the barrage of skeletons, plants, and the like, each requiring a certain tactic to quickly dispatch them.
Has-Been Heroes doesn’t make particularly great use of the Switch’s hardware, but it is a game that benefits from being played on a handheld device in short bursts. The colourful, bright visuals feel at home on a Nintendo console, but people who play on multiple other devices will take time to adjust to the face buttons being so different, and being so important. Each button controls a lane, or character on the lane, and while you can pause the action with a tap of L, you may need to rewire your brain a little to begin with.
The interesting element here, is that the way you play means you can go on the offensive quite easily. There are scrolls that act as skills: buffs and debuffs. While one of your characters may hit hard but only once, the other might be a quicker (weaker) combatant, who will benefit from using the double-attack buff. Enemies have a stamina bar as well as a health bar, and this acts as a shield of sorts with some foes that you have to break down before actually killing them.
Each area (forest, ice, you get the idea) has a small mini-map and you can take whichever path you prefer. There are vendors and battles on the way to the boss, and if you want to go backwards it’ll cost you a “candle” to do so. But again, due to the random nature of… well, everything, you may well be tempted to mainline a route to the boss, because you can’t be sure what you get along the way is going to help you anyway. That said, it’s hard to imagine anyone beating a boss without some additional magic, or equipment gathered along the way.
For all the unique, fun ideas, Has-Been Heroes is let down by its brutal difficulty. If you’re going to make a game this hard, you really ought to also make your protagonists a little more durable, and potential success less down to luck. There are battles that require you to perform almost perfectly to achieve success, and after a while, the constant failure with little or no reason to come back grates on you. It’s a terrific shame, because Frozenbyte has shown it is willing to try different things, from platformers (Trine) to stealth (Shadwen), and now a roguelike turnbased strategy game, but Has-Been Heroes quickly becomes a chore to play , and doesn’t give anywhere near enough reward. It’s not terrible, but the difficulty makes even bite sized chunks lose their lustre. Here’s hoping we get a Rogue Legacy or Spelunky port on Switch to satiate our rogue-like desires.
VERDICT Has-Been Heroes includes good ideas but is let down by an insanely high difficulty level and a lack of reward. You'll enjoy it in bite sized chunks via handheld mode to begin with, but you'll quickly grow tired of feeling like you're making no progress.
2.4 PUBLISHER Gametrust
AT A GLANCE
NA: 28th March EU: 28th March
E-SHOP PRICING £19.99 | €19.99
753 MB Switch Player
Written by James Harvey @AgileHarvey
You’d be forgiven for thinking that Snake Pass is a game born in the wrong era. At first glance, it sure looks, sounds and feels like it would not be out of place on your beloved Nintendo 64; nestled amongst the other colourful and vibrant 3D worlds that existed back then. What better console to showcase Snake Pass, then, than Nintendo’s own Switch. The object of the game is simple; guide your slithery friend to the end of each level, collecting, orbs, coins and – most importantly – the three portal keys on the way. Like any good puzzle game, a simple objective with increasingly difficult level design makes it easy to pick up and play, but very hard to master. Snake Pass is a beautifully vivid game and its colour palette takes you right back to the late 90’s – in a very good way. 44
Unlike most platform experiences, in Snake Pass you are not afforded the luxury of a jump button and instead must navigate Noodle (yes, that is really his name) through the courses using your body alone. To move forward, you can’t just push one direction – you must instead hold the right trigger and sliding from side to side. To ascend a ledge or climbing frame you must wrap yourself around it with careful use of the left trigger which alters your grip levels. It’s complicated at first, but after a while it does start to feel like second nature. The levels themselves are small arenas filled with collectables. Initially, these are easy to come by and require a simple climb here or swim there to get the lot. A few levels in, however, and it isn’t quite so obvious. Luckily, your winged friend, Doodle (I know, I know), flies next to you, giving you hints on the sort of direction you should be heading. A quick press of the Y button also allows Doodle to pick up Noodle’s tail – a very nice helping hand when you need just one more “leg-up” to make it to the top of the ledge you’ve been climbing for the past five minutes. Level variety comes thick and fast, actually, which is a good thing. Water pools are introduced which allow you to swim freely, diving down and floating to the surface to find hidden orbs, but also allowing you to move from one area of the level to another through the various underwater tunnels.
Levers that you need to wrap yourself around to pull, spheres that need to be pushed into holes – Breath of the Wild-style – and lava pits all ensure that the levels feel different enough to be challenging but not to the point where you’re learning a new mechanic every single time; a consistency which is key for any puzzle platformer to get right. Unfortunately, it’s not all wonderful. The camera is often troublesome – a problem that, whilst innocent enough and normally easily fixed with a wiggle of the right thumbstick, is a problem that really shouldn’t exist in 2017. Snake Pass is a game where exploring your environment is absolutely critical and so when you’re trying desperately to see what’s on top of that grassy verge with little success, it can become incredibly frustrating. The controls themselves, whilst creative, original and work well most of the time, sometimes just make you feel like you’re waggling sticks and pressing triggers in hope more than skill. As the levels get harder, you’re baited into traversing long climbing frames with little room for error. The checkpoint system compounds your frustrations when deaths are a frequent possibility – losing a huge portion of progress and tricky collectables that were recovered up until that point is a bitter pill to swallow. Nevertheless, the game is still fun to play. It’s a not a game that you’re likely to have marathon sessions playing, but it also doesn’t need to provide that sort of experience. The most fun I had playing Snake Pass was in between lengthy sessions on Zelda – a colourful palette cleanser, if you will.
There’s a fair bit of content here to get through, and if you’re a completionist, you’ll inevitably want to go back to find every collectible on each stage. Unfortunately, at the time of going to press, the Switch version is the only one not to have the Time Trial mode included – a curious omission and one that would certainly have helped with the lasting appeal of the game. If you’re going to treat Snake Pass as a pure 3D platform experience to enjoy on your sofa, then I’d argue that there are better alternatives available. But as a pick up and play puzzle platformer for when you’re out and about, it’s hard to recommend not playing it. If you can already feel the nostalgia tugging away inside, it’s worth the experience for that alone.
VERDICT Snake Pass is a flawed experience - of that there is little doubt. But, for the most part, it’s worth your perseverance. I’d argue that the Switch version is where this game “belongs” the most. Having it available as a handheld experience which you can dip in and out of in short bursts plays right to the strengths of this game and, critically, avoids the frustrations which inevitably build up with any prolonged playtime
AT A GLANCE
PUBLISHER Sumo Digital
DEVELOPER Sumo Digital
NA: 28th March EU: 29th March
E-SHOP PRICING £15.99 | €19.99
3.7 GB Switch Player
Human Resource Machine
Written by Charlie Large
Human Resource Machine is a game that makes you work, and quite literally at that! Upon starting the game you are asked to create your Employee ID by giving your avatar a name and defining their appearance, and before long you’re sending them off to start them on their path to climb the corporate ladder. The ladder – in this instance – is in fact an elevator. Each floor that you climb represents one year of your avatars tenure; so you’ll start off as a fresh faced employee on the ground floor, and make your way to the top of the tower as you approach your senior years in the business. Not only does the game make your character work for his reward however, but you (the player) will also be put to the test as this puzzler attempts to teach you basic visual programming. The office your character spends their days in is unlike any I have ever worked in, and each room has two conveyor belts; one that brings numbered tiles in, and one that takes them out. Your job is to take the numbers from the ‘in’ conveyor and place them in the ‘out’. Sounds pretty simple right? Well, it is – but not for long! The first few levels in the game task you with simple requests, such as move all the items from the inbox and place them into the outbox. This can be done with a few simple commands; with something like “Inbox,” ”Outbox,” and ”Jump to start” sending your avatar to the inbox to pick up a tile, having them take the item to the outbox, and then looping this pattern until all items are moved. Playing through these early levels will start to feel pretty good, almost like you’re on your way to becoming a coding master. Watch out CEO, this worker is coming for your job! Then, as happens to a lot of people in office jobs, your head will hit the proverbial glass ceiling. You’ll get to a floor in the game where you have absolutely no idea how to accomplish what is being requested of you, and that CEO position you were gunning for fades into a distant memory. Before long, you’re eyeing up your boss and wondering if it would be frowned upon if you were to ‘accidentally’ push them out of the window in order to stop them from getting on your back every time you make a mistake (which is a regular thing). This happened to me around floor eighteen, and there are around forty of them to get through, so be warned that you will be scratching your head and pulling your hair out for around half of the game if you are anything like me! 46
A big portion of the difficulty problem seems to be that even though the game drip feeds you new commands to add to your tool set, it doesn’t do a good job of explaining how to use them to their full potential. There are commands that allow you to copy a number from the conveyor belt to a ‘memory’ space on the floor, add or remove a digit from the tile you are currently holding or have stored to memory, add two numbered tiles together, and jump forward or backward to a specific command in your line of code (depending on meeting predefined criteria). The main uses of these commands are quite self-explanatory, but when you start a level and are asked to multiply a number by 40 without a multiply command… you really start to question whether you are the right person for the job. I guess if you are a master programmer already, or are really good with these types of logic puzzles, you will probably get a kick out of Human Resource Machine. Each level even has additional completion challenges that task you with completing it using ‘less than x commands’ or in ‘less than x steps’ – obviously designed for the truly skilled. If you are not skilled however, you may find this a little too difficult once you get past the first ten levels or so. Additionally, the story itself is rather nondescript, and you need to prove that you are efficient at your job as robots are on their way to take over. If I could have it my way, I’d let them have it! That said, a few of the floors that you stop at on your way up the elevator give you a break
– opting instead to give you a glimpse of life at the office water cooler, kitchen, or another recreational area. These nonwork stops break up the stages nicely, and provide a bit of comic relief from the stress of the regular 9-to-5. Like previous Tomorrow Corporation titles World of Goo and Little Inferno, Human Resource Machine has a distinguishable aesthetic which has been made a little less colourful here – maybe to highlight the dreariness of working in such a drab environment. The art style is great however, and likewise is the way that they integrate some typical office elements. For example, interacting with the boss on each floor will have him bark instructions and rattle off hints to the current stage – but it will also net you some of the least motivational encouragement you’ll hear on the workfloor! This touch adds to the humour, and while the game can definitely be hard, you will almost certainly crack a smile while playing as well! One of the things that I did like about the game was the excellent use of the hardware I was playing it on. When playing the game in docked mode, you will use the right Joy-Con as a wandstyled pointer – in similar fashion to the Nintendo Wii’s Motion Plus controllers. The setup of this is really straightforward and simple, and if the tracking does go a little off you can easily centre the reticule with the press of a button. Likewise, in handheld mode the game makes use of the Nintendo Switch’s touchscreen, and allows for you to drag and drop commands into place, or tap on whatever you need to select. Using the Joy-Con like a Wii remote was quite good fun, though I soon found it to be a little lacking on the accuracy side, and swiftly reverted to playing the game exclusively in handheld mode.
PUBLISHER Tomorrow Corporation
AT A GLANCE
NA: 23rd March EU: 16th March
DEVELOPER Tomorrow Corporation
Despite my time with it, I found that Human Resource Machine is a hard game to give a verdict on. I woke up early one Saturday morning and found myself sat on the couch researching boolean logic and questioning my life choices – both activities arising simply from playing this game. I would guess that your own enjoyment of Human Resource Machine depends on what you are looking for from a game, but if you are wanting to unwind after a hard days work with something that will be fun and not too taxing… then this isn’t what you’re looking for. That said, if you’re looking for something that will really challenge you and make you work for results, then this is a game that is definitely worth a good look (you sadistic pen-pusher, you).
VERDICT Human Resource Machine is a game that aims to teach you basic programming. The one thing it fails at is that it forgets to teach - you will soon be tasked with puzzles that seem impossible, making this job-simulator game feel like a real chore. While aesthetically pleasing and certainly charming in an odd way, you will soon be eyeing up a career change!
E-SHOP PRICING £8.99 | €9.99
102 MB Switch Player
Written by Paul Murphy
It certainly feels like Skylanders has been around forever. One of the original “toys-to-life” experiences, the first title in the series – Spyro’s Adventure – actually released just six years ago. Since then, the series has received an annual iteration in typical Activision style; each new addition given its own gimmick to try and keep things fresh. This time around, that new feature is the titular Imaginators. If you’ve never played a Skylanders title before, you are probably wondering what it’s all about. Let’s start there. Essentially a 3D platformer, you play as a character that you scan into the game using the Nintendo Switch’s NFC feature (similar to amiibo) and will then then appear on the screen. As you progress through the levels and solve the puzzles, your characters can level up and learn new abilities – all of which are stored on the chip encased within your plastic figurine. Looking past the basic mechanics of the game, the story goes that series antagonist Kaos returns to cause problems. Whilst you could argue that this enemy clearly doesn’t learn his lesson, it’s no denying that he has learned about the ancient abilities long-forgotten, and he soon unleashes new monsters upon the Skylanders. His boastfully-named “Doomlanders” will all have to be defeated as you quest across the different areas on the Skylands; your other jobs being to rescue a variety of non-player characters, and wade through what is typically a generic story. You’ll need to solve puzzles along the way of course, and each mission has a series of basic objectives – but to be totally honest with you… it was all a bit boring. You start in the central Skylands hub, and as you unlock new levels you’ll follow a trail of breadcrumbs to unlock each new zone. Aside from slight differences in look however, the zones all essentially play the same. You move from one section of the level to the next, occasionally stopping to fight waves of enemies or the occasional mini-boss. Sometimes you’ll be required to move a block around to access some harder to reach areas, or complete a puzzle mini game – like moving a creature around to unlock doors, or playing a card game to move on to the next area. None of this poses any real challenge. While the majority of the gameplay centres around your typical 3D platforming fare, there are some sidescrolling sections, and a few bits where you glide on rails and other such things. For the most part though, 48
you’ll be walking around (very slowly), pounding the attack buttons, and moving to the next section. The action is very much the same as before, and feels fairly stale as a result. Don’t even get me started on the awful character voices; and while the game’s music suits it well enough, the jolly and chirpy tunes will also get annoying after a while. The better parts of the game however, are the bits that revolve around the Imaginators. By activating a creation crystal (one is supplied with the base pack), you’ll be able to create your own Skylander from the parts available – which further depend on what your character’s level is, and how much “imaginite” you’ve accumulated on your travels. Being able to stamp your own take on things is quite refreshing, and my son certainly enjoyed this bit. The thing is, you seem to only be able to do this with other crystals for differing types, and that’s kind of what aggravates me the most.
most out of the game without additional purchases. Such a revelation could get very expensive – not unlike LEGO Dimensions, or the previous titles in this series. It’s what essentially boils down to “disk-locked content,” only using the figures to get away with it. Speaking of figures, with more than 350(!) different Skylanders characters available to purchase, you’d probably be wondering how a system which promotes portability would manage a need to use such a variety of characters. There’s no way my kids could carry more than a handful of plastic toys and a gaming system safely outside of the house, and the whole thing could easily become quite unmanageable because of that. Thankfully, common sense has prevailed and Skylanders Imaginators allows you to scan the character in and store them in the memory – a first for the
series. It takes away from the experience somewhat in that you aren’t then bringing the character to “life” within the game, but then the removal of the portal in this version has diminished that effect somewhat anyway. Add that to the fact that the Imaginator portion of the game renders the toys somewhat redundant, and it was obviously a no-brainer. This aptly brings me to the end of the review – and at this point, I find myself looking at a game which is not only somewhat redundant, but also stale, boring, and potentially expensive. What initially was a clever idea, has now become nothing more than a rehashed cash-cow with little innovation or progress. Those of you with children may find that your little ones may enjoy the game, but you could easily find more value (and fun) in something else on the Switch.
So to truly get the most out of this game, you are going to need a plethora of different characters; and this new release coincided with the availability of the bigger and more detailed Sensei types. Two of these new figures are included in the package of course, but the problem is that these new bits all cost more money than the standard figurines that came before them. Worse yet, there are many areas in the game which are inaccessible without having a specific character (that you’ll have to purchase separately). Though you can complete the core game with the characters packaged in, it very much feels like you can’t get the
Skylanders Imaginators feels tired. A game that either needs a significant break or possible retirement, it's difficult to recommend to anyone but younger gamers - and parents would probably prefer to avoid it due to the additional character cost. There are plenty of other games more worthy of your cash, and if you desperately must have this game, buy it on another system where the starter pack will be cheaper.
2.0 PUBLISHER Activision
AT A GLANCE
NA: 3rd March EU: 3rd March
DEVELOPER Toys for Bob
E-SHOP PRICING £49.99 | €59.99
Physical only Switch Player
Written by Paul Murphy
Little Inferno arrives on the Switch with a little bit of a reputation. Developed by Tomorrow Corporation and originally released on the Wii U in 2012, it’s received its fair share of acclaim for it’s simple, yet charming gameplay. However, for those of you that have never heard of it, you may be somewhat baffled by what is in essence a fireplace simulator. It’s hard to describe what the appeal is with Little Inferno, or even what it is. On the surface it’s not really a game, more a representation of an interactive piece of art; or perhaps more a virtual pyromaniac experience in which your sole purpose is to burn things. Having taken delivery of a new fireplace, you find yourself in possession of a mail-order catalogue, and upon ordering items and then chucking them straight on the fire – as you do – you are rewarded with coins in which to repeat the entire process. 50
The hook is that there are seven catalogues to unlock, and in order to do so you’ll need to meet a number of combo requests by combining certain items. There are around a hundred of these combos to unlock, and you are rewarded for your experimentation by gaining access to even more items to repeat the process. It’s surprisingly deep. Some of these are obvious from their titles – which I’m not about to spoil here, but some will require some thought. That said, simply saving up and queuing them up might accidentally yield the same result – likely combined with a particularly explosive reaction! There is a story of sorts, in that it’s been snowing forever. You’ve bought this fireplace to keep yourself warm, and as you progress you’ll receive mail in addition to your parcels – including frequent communication from a neighbour. She’ll require you to send her items, and in return will send you things back. Eventually, you’ll trigger a sequence upon which the “game” will end, but this only serves to connect you to a final mission; a scene where you’ll explore your surroundings a little and head to the developer’s building before setting off into the snow-set.
The game features that typical Tomorrow Corporation look, and if you have played World of Goo or Human Resource Machine then you’ll be more than familiar here. All of the items work well together, and many have their own reactions and effects when ignited (which you can take some sort of morbid gratification from). As noted above, it really suits the style of the game here. Little Inferno also has a pretty memorable soundtrack, which is also included from the title screen to enjoy if you so desire. A lot was made of the Switch’s ability to effortlessly transition from either docked or undocked gameplay; but not much was made of the fact that it has a multicapacitive touch screen, nor how games which featured a touch screen (like Little Inferno does) would play when docked. Voez addresses this by being handheld only, but Little Inferno allows you to use the Joy-Con in a similar manner to a Wii remote – the paddle being used to aim, pull, and drag away to your heart’s content. It’s not perfect, nor does it seem particularly stable – I had to “re-calibrate” every so often by pushing a face button – but for the most part it worked. What also works is local co-op multiplayer, where two of you can use a Joy-Con to stock up the fireplace with different items. Although you share a currency pot and only one of you can use the catalogue, both of you throwing your possessions into the fiery mix is quite satisfying.
The thing is, it isn’t very long – though you’ll get a few hours out of it, and probably enjoy almost every minute. It’ll engross you, and the interesting combos make it enjoyable enough that you’ll likely play it again (many times over). The lack of any serious longevity – when coupled with the asking price – means that you’d be forgiven for wanting something more.
Little Inferno is very charming, and despite it’s “cute, but simple” look it really immerses you for the few hours you’ll play with it. The retro-vibe of the catalogue – complete with cheesy 1950s style music – really suits the game. Deep down, it even seems to be a very satirical look at throwaway culture; with people literally having money to burn, then moving on to the next thing (and for very little reward in the end). The twist is that it’s rewarding and somewhat satisfying of an experience, at least while it lasts.
VERDICT It's charming, and definitely an experience. It features explosive gameplay of sorts, but not what you'd expect. Little Inferno isn't for everyone, but for those looking for something different - and who just want to waste a little time, or watch the world burn (figuratively speaking) - you could certainly find something to enjoy.
3.5 PUBLISHER Tomorrow Corporation
AT A GLANCE
NA: 16th March EU: 23th March
DEVELOPER Tomorrow Corporation
E-SHOP PRICING £8.99 | €9.99
116 MB Switch Player
New Frontier Days: Founding Pioneers
get new upgrades for your people… and then throws on top the more immediate need of some meat.
The town-building simulation genre that was so prominent back in the early PC gaming era – with titles such as Sim City and Populous – found a strange and somewhat successful place on the modern free-to-play mobile market. Many of those games however, are known for their shovelware quality – and for obliging the player to wait hours to actually be able to build anything. New Frontier Days: Founding Pioneers is the fast-paced counterpart of those games, but (sadly) it’s not free of all those quality issues.
New Frontier Days starts with a very simple premise. Your people have just moved to a new colony, and it is up to you to lead them into prosperity. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t do a good job of teaching you how to do that. When you first start the Story mode – which is the suggested option for beginners – you’re introduced to Jessica, a fellow pioneer and the guide for your town development. She then throws lots of info at you concerning how to farm resources, construct new buildings, and
To achieve that, all you have is your settlement center, two villagers, and cursor-driven gameplay. With the right stick you move the camera, and with the right one you select all menus and stuff, such as your villagers, buildings and resources. Truth be told, it doesn’t seem like the perfect control scheme for a console game, but at least it gets better in handheld mode – where the game allows you to play using the touchscreen. After you finally figure out the basic elements of the game, the gameplay loop is easily noticeable. You must select your villagers and tell them to go through the map gathering resources – taking down trees for wood, mining rocks for stone, getting wool from sheep, etc. Then, the raw material they gather can be used to build new stuff and expand your town. How much you’ll be able to expand your city is tailored by an enjoyable progression system – and here lies the entertaining and addictive side of New Frontier Days. While at the beginning the raw materials are good enough for any objective you may have, as your city grows you must process them into different things. You then turn logs into lumber, wool into yarn, stone into bricks, and so on; each on its specific building. Doing those activities also unlocks for you what the game calls development
PUBLISHER Arc System Works
AT A GLANCE 52
NA: 23rd March EU: 3rd March 848 MB
Written by Jhonatan Carneiro @JhoCarneiro
cards. These cards are divided into two different categories; usable and passive. The first group can be used in any given moment to grant your town a positive or negative temporary effect. For instance, you can instantly get +50 wood, or increase the wool price in a moment’s notice. On the other hand, the second group are the permanent effect cards – and they usually change how the villagers work, allowing them to be more effective in their tasks. The sum of those systems are definitely better than its parts, because New Frontier Days manages to create a wellcrafted simulator that keeps you looking forward to the next big thing you’ll need to build. To enjoy it though, you mustn’t judge this book for its cover – as its good aspects are very well hidden behind a graphic style that is just on top of that hard-to-define line between simplicity and mediocrity.
VERDICT New Frontier Days: Founding Pioneers features a gameplay loop that's quite entertaining, and it's definitely one of those pleasurable, time-consuming style titles. I cannot suggest it if you’re not fond of the town-building simulation genre though, as it is not as nice to see as it is to play.
DEVELOPER Arc System Works E-SHOP PRICING £8.99 | €9.99
If writing about games over the last few years has taught me anything, it’s that you can’t assume that someone reading has any knowledge of the game in question. With that in mind, it means it’s probably a good idea to explain what Othello is, and it’ll be a handy way of padding out what would otherwise be a rather short review.
Othello is a strategy game for two players, and has you take turns to fill an 8×8 grid with counters of your colour. The game begins with four counters – two of each colour – and you take it in turns to place a new counter in play; with the requirement that the new piece will overturn counters of the opposite colour as it forms a line. You can place a counter horizontally, vertically, or diagonally as long as it will complete a line of counters in your colour. Play rolls to the opponent after you’ve placed your counter, and continues until either all 64 squares are filled or the opposition counters are all converted.
As a board game, the presentation of Othello is rather limited. There are only two modes available; playing versus the AI (with many degrees of difficulty available), or against a human controlled opponent. With the classic board game adage of “easy to play, difficult to master” you’ll certainly pick the core of the game up quickly, and before long you’ll best the AI at lower levels – but as you crank that dial up, you’ll encounter a much bigger challenge. The Joy-Con are used in multiplayer, with each player able to take on the game with one each, or the option to pass one complete controller around. It works well enough in all three main forms of use, so that’s a positive and it can get a little addictive (especially playing with an actual person). The problem is that it’s not that exciting – not compared to some of the other Switch titles available, and especially not against some of the more multiplayer focused efforts that Nintendo’s new console already has. Othello is the kind of thing that gets installed on a new laptop or PC for FREE, and you play to waste time when you are at work or something. I don’t suppose there are many of us that actually want to play it in their free time, and certainly not those that spend hundreds on a new system (and could be playing Breath of the Wild instead). Flip some counters, or smash the granny out of Ganon? There’s no contest for me.
PUBLISHER Arc System Works
AT A GLANCE
NA: 23rd March EU: 3rd March
DEVELOPER Mega Corp
Written by Paul Murphy
Othello has been developed and published by Arc System Works, probably more well known for the Guilty Gear and BlazBlue series, so a classic board game seems a somewhat odd choice for their first Switch game when the system could perhaps have benefited from one of their more renowned releases. It’s not that it’s rubbish however, as it’s a decent representation of the game and it’s pretty cheap. The problem is that it’s pretty pointless, and if you really want to play Othello then you can probably play it for free on most of the devices you already own!
VERDICT It's Othello, a board game and it can provide a little competitive multiplayer for you and your friends. It's certainly cheap, but I seriously doubt it's something you thought you'd want to buy a Switch for.
E-SHOP PRICING £4.49 | €4.99
111 MB Switch Player
Switch Directory Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
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Kerry-Lee Copsey @Kezz182
Nintendo’s third-party support has been heavily criticised since the GameCube era. As market focus shifted and the company became much less concerned with delivering hardware which could compete with rivals in power, the presence of third-parties hasn’t been the same. Over the past few generations, Nintendo consoles have continued to miss out on blockbuster titles, consistently relying on first-party software to push sales – and I’m not convinced that will be changing with the Switch. One of the biggest concerns is that by the time the developers get used to the Switch’s hardware, everyone else will have moved on. It happened with the Wii U, and if Nintendo isn’t careful the Switch will be headed in the same direction.
KERRY-LEE COPSEY IS A STUDYING GAMING JOURNALISM, AND DESCRIBES HERSELF AS A "GEEKY IDIOT" WHO LIVES FOR POP, PUNK, PIZZA, AND VIDEO GAMES. IN THIS FEATURE SHE VOICES HER BIGGEST CONCERNS OVER THIRD PARTY SUPPORT FOR THE SWITCH. While developers do require time and projects to familiarise themselves with the tech, there’s a concern that once again there will too much focus spent on playing catch up with old releases. Switch is already due to receive ports of games which are years old, such as Skyrim and Rayman Legends. More modern releases like Steep and Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 are also coming to Switch, but have no release date past the "2017" window. It’s concerning enough that many of these aren’t ready for the console’s launch, let alone give no rough idea of when they will release. It could be argued that by the time they come out, the majority will have forgotten about them - leading to poor sales.
Granted, older games can benefit from a makeover and integration with new hardware. It gives consumers a reason to pick up the title should they have missed out on it during the previous generation. Some might even double dip on another purchase if enough new content or features are added. However, ports of games from the last year are much less attractive. Take Steep, for example. It’s a very niche title, and the audience that cared about it will have already recently played it elsewhere. While the Switch’s launch could benefit from more ports to flesh out the library, it could be argued that they will make less of an impact later in the year.
When there is more first-party software out such as Mario Kart and Splatoon, will anyone really be interested in a port of a year-old game? Looking at the Wii U’s history, it’s not likely. Sales might not meet expectations and publishers will be discouraged to invest more time and money into supporting the system when they could play it safe on the platforms they know.
Depending on the way Nintendo market the system, third-party ports could provide unique experiences and actually find success. By pushing the selling point of the Switch’s portability, it gives the console an edge over competitors. Factoring in additional features such as the Joy-Con’s “HD rumble” and motion controls, Switch offers an attractive platform to play on.
PlayStation and Microsoft’s systems can currently offer more power, such as performance boosts and higher graphical fidelity for developers to play with. Thinking about this in the long term, it’s likely the two companies will release even more technologically advanced consoles before Nintendo moves on from the Switch. The generational leap and whether Nintendo versions of ports perform well – both in terms of how well the games run and sales – will spell out the Switch’s future with third-parties.
If purchasing the Nintendo Switch version of a game over its PlayStation/ Xbox counterparts means that you’ll be able to play it anywhere, it’ll be a massive advantage. Of course, this all depends on the audience. Casual gamers will be attracted to this aspect, while some core gamers will be put off by the likely dip in graphics or performance when compared to versions on more powerful consoles. Despite the sacrifices made with the tech, its portability could be a huge sell for Nintendo.
One worry is that the features which might now draw developers to the Switch won’t be enough to hold their interest. Will developers feel motivated enough to create arguably inferior ports (in terms of power)? How long will it take before publishers decide to cut their losses and pull future support should sales not meet expectations? These are concerns which Nintendo needs to address to ensure third-parties remain invested, and to reassure its core audience that the mistakes of the Wii U won’t be repeated.
On the other hand, the steep pricing of the console, its games, and accessories could undermine this entirely. With first-party titles currently retailing as high as £60, consumers are going to be intimidated. If Nintendo Switch versions end up consistently costing a great deal more, many potential buyers will be put off, and its user-base generally isn’t going to be happy. However, if Switch ports are able to match the cost while offering more in terms of features, it’ll work in Nintendo’s favour.
As Nintendo market the Switch as a home console first, it’s worth considering that there are more affordable options with PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. With more powerful hardware and the ability to play most AAA games at a much lower cost, competitors will be able to win over consumers. For some audiences, the entry cost after factoring in games and controllers won’t be worth the benefits of portability. Nintendo’s approach to third-party support is reminiscent of the Wii U’s launch. The strategy of publishers once again dipping their toes in with niche rereleases doesn’t inspire much confidence. Should Nintendo get the right message across with marketing and push the hardware’s unique features, Switch could be a bit hit with third-parties. As it stands, I’m not feeling too optimistic.
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Flagpole PRICE PARITY IS SO IMPORTANT
As I type this, one of the bigger pieces of Switch news lately relates to Tequila Works’ RiME - a title we've featured in this very issue. The game is set to see a physical release for the Switch when it launches later this year, but unfortunately it's set to cost £10 MORE than other systems. This includes the eShop price. Now, release parity is something for another feature altogether; but for games to be successful on the Switch, price parity would have to be a no-brainer, surely? RiME is a very interesting title, but expecting Switch owners to fork out more for it - or indeed, gambling that Switch owners would pay more - seems more than a little risky. If nothing else, it’s a massive kick in the teeth for those wouldbe supporters. The issue seems to lie with the production of the Switch cartridge itself, and then the eShop pricing having parity with the retail price. Such a practice raises an interesting question on whether Switch gamers would rather physical versions of indie games, and I’m sure that the collectors among us would all rather a shelf full of games as opposed to a virtual collection on your SD card.
Should that come at an extra cost? Is it fair that we, as gamers, take on that extra cost? Indeed, should Nintendo be subsidising these cards to help make these games more accessible (and give the Switch a much-needed retail presence)? The biggest issue for me with RiME’s cost is that by the time we see a Switch version – as it’s not coming at the same time – it may well be discounted on other systems. It’s something I’ve seen many times over the years with the PlayStation Vita and the Wii U, where a port arrives on the system (with little fanfare I may add) and is garishly overpriced compared to its (older) releases on an alternative system. Where’s the appeal to buy it? Why would you buy it on the Switch when it’s cheaper elsewhere? For convenience? It’s true that the Switch can be played anywhere, but are you happy to pay substantially more for the convenience? I’m not so sure I am…