The Switch is rapidly growing into the to-go console for platform games, and Spectrum is one of them. Set in an abstract world of vibrant colors and shifting shapes, players can enjoy eighty levels of pure, zen-like platforming. The game has four ‘worlds’, each with their own unique environments and obstacles. The minimalist art style was pleasing, but the color scheme a little too glaring for my tastes. It does improve as the game progresses, the palette shifting to darker colors like purple or orange.
Beginning levels are a cakewalk, training wheels to get unfamiliar players accustomed to the controls. It’s a little tedious if you’re used to platform games, but they’re short enough that you won’t get bored. That said, levels gradually become more challenging, some even requiring multiple runs to complete. I didn’t expect the spike in difficulty, but it’s not unwelcome. Compared to the starting levels, things get more fun from the second world onward. Depending on your tastes, this is either a good or bad thing.
The player has three objectives. Finish the level within the time limit, remain unharmed, and gather all the orbs. Fulfilling the objects is entirely optional, and there is zero punishment for not completing one, or all three. If you’re competitive and want a rival to outscore, you can do so by checking the leaderboards. For players who aren’t interested in speed runs, Spectrum also allows you to take as much time as you need to beat a level. I thought this was a nice touch, neither completionists nor casual gamers will lose out.
The gameplay is fun and annoying in equal amounts. You control a wispy, three-eyed tadpole that can jump and dive indefinitely. Navigating levels tests the player’s reflex and sense of timing with ever-shifting death traps in the form of brightly colored platforms. Anything colored can harm you. Dull colors take one-third of your health, while bright ones’ end in instant death. In addition, collecting orbs will replenish your health bar, and this can alleviate tense situations if your blob is one touch away from extinction.
Level design is decent with some repeating gimmicks. Despite this, each level has enough differences that the game doesn’t feel too repetitive. There were platform puzzles I really enjoyed, where I needed to keep my three-eyed blob suspended in mid-air as I sped through the space between rippling, revolving patterns.
If there’s one thing I found lacking, it’s the music. I think the game could have benefited from a more varied soundtrack, but as it was, I didn’t find any songs particularly impactful. They suited the aesthetic but started to get on my nerves if I failed a level one too many times.
All in all, Spectrum is a competent platformer, a good choice for people looking for something to tide them over before the next big release. However, the Switch’s eshop price might be a problem if you’re on a budget. If you want a meaty, challenging platformer with a plot, this game will likely disappoint. But if you’re interested in an entry-level platform game with tight controls and don’t mind dipping into your wallet, then Spectrum might interest you.
Earth Atlantis is a side-scrolling shooter that has you hunt fearsome, mechanical monsters in a dreary, post-apocalyptic underwater world. Machines have adopted the forms of marine animals, and the ocean is full of these deadly hybrids. Unlock submarines with unique weapons and abilities to challenge the game in Quest and Hunter mode. There are four playable ships, with only one unlocked at the beginning.
In Quest mode, you go around hunting monsters stationed at different parts of the map. Despite the gorgeous art style, exploration isn’t one of the main points of the game. It’s quite unfortunate as I would have liked to experience exploring uncharted waters. Hunter mode is unlocked once you complete Quest mode. It’s a ‘time attack’ mode where you have to kill random monsters. I didn’t play much of this mode since it felt too repetitive, but if you like this style of gameplay, then you’d probably enjoy it.
I found both modes lackluster. The only hint of a story is the opening lines of text you’re shown when you start a mode. That wouldn’t be a big deal if I were given enough to feel occupied, but the time I spent going from Monster A to B is mind-numbingly dull. Tinier, less intimidating monsters swarm you as you swim around, but it feels like filler and I wasn’t particularly engaged. Battling against boss monsters feels excellent, but the build-up to reach them isn’t worth it.
One of the game’s selling points is its unique and artistic ‘Old Sketching’ visual style. The art, coupled with the idea of exploring a dangerous, uncompromising sea, remains a draw few people can resist. It’s partly why I bought the game, after all. But there’s a drawback to the limited palette. Submarine and monster designs are visibly detailed, but because enemies, background objects, and bullets have the same beige color, it’s hard to tell them apart.
I got attacked or hurt when I least expected it because I never spotted the enemy settled between a crevice or hanging from a wall. It can get annoying, especially when you’re trying to dodge attacks. The last thing on my mind while avoiding a spray of bullets is to scope out my surroundings carefully. Still, this aspect is a minor inconvenience rather than a devastating drawback. Overall, environments are beautiful to look at, from the vague mossy outlines of the seabed to the gentle swaying seaweed dotting rocky surfaces.
Unfortunately, Earth Atlantis let me down with its gameplay. The biggest problem I had with the game was the rigid control scheme and mushy bullets. The first thing I noticed when I start playing was how boring fights were. I shoot at an enemy and get visual feedback in the form of it exploding. But the lack of sound effects completely deadens the experience.
I hold down a button to fire at a swarm of creatures, but feel like I’m watching paint dry. Getting power-ups and increasing the number of bullets my submarine can fire doesn’t change anything. Even when using missiles, fights still lacks impact. The bullets lack weight. To make things worse, the music in the background plays in a loop, making everything seem so dreary and repetitive.
Finally coming across a boss monster is a stark relief. It breaks up the monotony, each boss monster with their own music, giving you a chance to actually get play the game instead of just holding down a button. Sadly, after you beat a boss, you’re back to blankly swimming through another area for the next target.
If you’re looking for a good side-scrolling shooter, I can’t recommend Earth Atlantis. If you’re morbidly curious about the game or have money to burn, then by all means, take the leap to see if you’d enjoy it.
Back in January, I reviewed the early access version of Dead Cells. At that point in time, the groundwork had already been set, the game already boasting of addictive combat and a beautiful art style. The only thing giving me grief was the minor bugs and crashes that plagued my time with it. Despite hearing of numerous early access horror stories where games released unfinished, bugged beyond repair, there was no doubt in my mind Dead Cells would not be one of them. The problems I’d listed would be fixed upon the full release, and I was definitely correct about that.
What renewed my excitement for the game was news of a Nintendo Switch port. Fast forward to Mid-August when the physical release hit the shops in my area, I managed to snag a copy since I pre-ordered. After playing nearly ten hours on the Switch, I’ve completely fallen in love with the game again. The ability to pick up and play whenever I have free time is such a treat for a game like this. Dying is just practice for the next run and I easily get sucked into playing longer than I would on the PC.
In Dead Cells, you play a prisoner who cannot die. Your background is shrouded in mystery, you do not know how you came to be or what your goal is. As you try to escape prison and fight your way through monster-infested towns, you’ll slowly discover what happened to the denizens once living there. When I played the game during early access, there wasn’t much of a story. Even after it’s full release the story elements are still extremely light, told through clues you discover in various levels.
If you’re looking for a epic story or evocative tale with brilliant characters, look elsewhere. The focus of the game is ultimately its gameplay. However, I’m a fan of this style of storytelling, where the player uncovers parts of the mystery piece by piece and slowly puts them together. Things get clearer the longer you play. Different areas have different clues, they revolve around how the land was infected by a Malaise, documenting the King’s descent into madness.
The port is fantastic. I was worried how it would hold up, but it turned out better than I imagined. It’s not perfect, there are moments when the game visibly lags and stutters, but those moments last one to two seconds at most. It occurs in places one would expect – like when entering a boss room, or when you face off against a horde of enemies and use multiple items. That’s the price of portability, but it’s one I’m willing to pay.
Graphics wise, details aren’t as crisp, but the art remains lively and gorgeous. Most importantly, combat and gameplay are still buttery smooth. Controls are tight and responsive. I can dodge a hail of arrows and leap to the next platform without missing a beat, then leap back and freeze enemies before turning them into crushed ice. Dead Cells remains challenging especially when you first start out. Getting into the groove of things takes time, and many many deaths. My advice is to stick with it and try not to get frustrated, if you fail, put down the game and try again later. Blindly rampaging never gets you far.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with weapons and skills. With the ‘Cells’ you collect from enemies, you can unlock weapons that are put into rotation you can discover during each playthrough. My go-to style when I play is to have at least one item that lets me freeze enemies in place and another that deals passive damage when I can’t attack. This works exceptionally well for bosses. Their attacks can be quick and vicious, you can’t always depend on your main weapon to deal damage or you’d be rolling and ducking for at least an hour.
Investing the ‘Cells’ into upgrading health flasks and gold reserves is also important. It is a tremendous help in the earlier stages when you’re still fumbling about, extending your playthrough for a little longer. Collecting Scrolls can upgrade your character’s stats: Brutality, Tactics, and Survival. After completing each level, you can choose to get additional skills in a safe room to further your character build. Enemies seem to scale to your level, meaning the more scrolls you collect, the tougher they get. Translation, don’t get cocky because you will get your ass whooped.
The game’s procedural generation is a double-edged sword. Each time you die, you spawn at the start of the dungeon and have to fight your way through the same areas and bosses. Though levels aren’t the same, it can start to feel repetitive once you get several hours in. This feeling can get especially keen if playing for several hours in a row. If you’re a gamer who doesn’t like grinding for gear or loot, Dead Cells might test your patience. Still, the addictive nature of its combat keeps making me come back and it might be the same for you.
Overall, this is a fantastic port of a phenomenal game. Dead Cells should have a permanent place in every Switch owner’s library.
If you haven’t heard of this game, you’ve probably been living under a rock. But for all the Patrick’s out there, Stardew Valley is a farming RPG that lets you play as a farmer living off the bounty of the land. Befriend and romance the residents of sleepy Pelican Town, fish by the pier, or explore the cavernous underground. Despite already being 2 years since its initial release, the game is still going strong, the addition of multiplayer stoking new excitement in existing owners.
With a Nintendo Switch, bringing Stardew Valley along your daily commute is no longer a pipe dream. I’ve put sixty hours into the game on PC, but I couldn’t resist having it on a portable. Purchasing what is essentially the same game can seem weird, but I love owning games I like on multiple platforms. If you’re one of the lucky few who have yet to experience the joy of Stardew Valley, getting it for the Switch will be your best decision yet.
Farming is pleasant enough to make your mind wander, but engaging enough to keep you interested. Scoff if you must, but the act of planting, watering and harvesting crop is by far the ultimate stress relief. The rote nature of each day in Stardew Valley is comforting: get up at six, pet your pet, grab the stuff you need for the day and get out there. I still remember stepping out of my character’s ramshackle house for the first time. The realisation that I beholden to nobody but myself, is gratifying beyond words.
At the beginning, your character is given sizable amount of money to buy some seeds. Variety as they say, is the spice of life. Figuring out which vegetables and fruits give you the most profit, watching them grow as the season progress, is half the fun. Before that, you’ll be staring over the farmland you own, clearing the weeds, branches, stones, and obsessing over how to arrange your crop in an aesthetically pleasing manner. When the next season rolls around, you’d be itching to do the same thing again.
Then, there are the residents of Pelican Town. A smattering of personalities with hopes, wants and dreams, hidden till you get to know them better. Farming might be what you came for, but I feel like building relationships with everyone in town is what you ultimately stay for. I realised this after starting a new save on the Switch. I do enjoy the farming aspects, but the highlight of my current playthrough is getting to know the characters I fell in love with for the second time.
Farming ties in nicely with relationship building. Choosing to part with the harvest you toiled over is hard, but necessary. A rule of thumb is to plant more than you think you need, because gifting the residents with coral, clamshells, and flowers get old pretty fast. Though getting your first ‘Ew, gross!’ can be discouraging and painful, through trial and error and determination to figure out the preferences of each character, getting your first ‘I love this!’ is one hell of a reward.
The underground mine slash dungeon is a nice place to mix things up if the monotony of farming or socializing sets in. Within the dank and decrepit dirt walls, dig for ores and fight your way through monsters of varying sliminess. The presence of monsters ups the pressure, your energy meter isn’t infinite and overstretching can mean dying at the hands of a rogue bat, providing an enjoyable break from the cycle of plant-water-plant. Ores are important materials that can be smelted into copper, iron, gold bars to build new machines or upgrade tools.
Some may choose to concentrate on their farms during the first three seasons and tackle the dungeon during Winter, but staggering my visits made it feel more like a adventure than a mind numbing grind. The beauty of Stardew is that it gives you free rein. Do what you please, whenever you feel like it. Find the schedule that works best, and you’d enjoy yourself no matter what.
Ultimately, I thoroughly enjoyed my Stardew Valley experience on the Switch. If you own it on another platform and can’t get enough of it, like me, buying it again is a no brainer. The sensation of planting crops, talking to townsfolk, feeding your animals bales of hay, is somehow ten times sweeter when you’re en route to a destination with a Switch snug between your hands.
Descend into the depths of the Dungeon of Doom and complete your quest: steal the Amulet of Yendor from the fearsome dragon and make it out alive. Make your way deeper into the dungeon while fighting off the monsters and creeps that live there. Gather jewels and artifacts son your way to become a wealthy adventurer upon success, or to become a treasure trove for the next adventurer who stumbles upon your corpse. UnExplored is a roguelike game that makes good use of the term, with the minimal armor and slight movements, you truly feel like your life’s on the line in every room.
Right from the start you are given different options on game mode, anything from the basic easy/medium/hard, to a gold rush, a creature killing, and a timed mode. The games different modes all have high score boards which show the farthest you’ve gone each time and ranking how much gold you’ve returned with. Once you start the game, you are greeted by a shop menu, I recommend buying a couple items here, you’ll have slightly less gold coming out of the dungeon, but while inside it will help tremendously.
Once inside the dungeon the only ways out are to survive or to die, preferably the former. You will have to explore large caverns in order to find exits leading down and items to help you later on. Some of these items are weapons, others could be mysterious scrolls and potions that will not reveal themselves until you use one, some are good, like magic mapping which reveals the entire map, some are not good, like pain, which can deal enough damage to kill you twice over.
The enemies you will come across are not going to be easy, although most will go down with just a single hit, some, like the ogre, will be a brutal battle where you need to move in to strike and then retreat so as not to get hit by its enormous club.
The game has a good story to follow through the books you can collect and read throughout the dungeon, but it also has some very interesting special modes which enrich the story even more. In the timed mode, you are tasked with bringing down an evil cult and you must do it before they summon an ancient demon, your time starts as soon as you spawn and then it’s a race to find the exits and defeat the evils below.
Aside from gameplay, the graphics are very good and fit the theme of the game well, they are very simple and allow for a lot of imagination on what certain things can be. The music in the game is also very peaceful, it is soft but can pick up very quickly when enemies are nearby.
Unexplored is an amazing game and I highly recommend picking it up on the switch with a link placed below, it is also available on steam, which I will also link below. However, this review has been done for the switch version, if there are any differences between the switch and the steam versions I do not know about them.
Devious Dungeon is a slick, medieval focused action platformer, with five unique dungeons and complete level randomization. The player assumes the role of a Knight, sent to dispatch the monstrosities that have invaded the catacombs beneath the kingdom at the order of the King. Overcome fowl beasts and misshapen monstrosities to become the true champion!
Platform games are tricky things. On one hand, there are games which grab my attention and leave me hooked. On the other, there are those which leave me stewing in misery and never feel fun, no matter how much I play. I’m happy to report that Devious Dungeon fits into the former category instead of the latter. My time spent with the game was short but it satisfied my craving for an action platformer with its tight controls, cool pixel art style, and just the right amount of challenge.
It is a delicate balance to keep levels hard yet fulfilling, I find this holds true especially for platformers. Depending on the developer’s vision, the act of keeping players from throwing up their hands in an impotent rage could be considered a feat in itself. If you’re looking for a hardcore no holds barrelled platformer, Devious Dungeon won’t be for you. However, if you haven’t played any sort of platformers or dislike extremely challenging games, I’d say this is right up your alley.
There are 65 levels for you to test your platforming mettle. Level randomization ensures each level will be unique, peppered with a nice variety of enemies such as Goblins, Skeletons, or Executioners with a wickedly sharp axe. The goal of each level is simple: Find a key to unlock the portal in order to progress. There is an incentive to go exploring, you might luck out and find enough treasure to make a hoarding dragon jealous, or an item which gives you a nice EXP boost.
The game’s level randomization is not without its cons. It seems like a great idea on paper, but it doesn’t work out so well in reality. There are five kinds of worlds a level can be set in, differing in scenery and enemy types. There is an element of surprise when you don’t know what kind of world you’d be thrown into next.
Unfortunately, I would often find myself trawling the same looking levels for fifteen to twenty minutes. The setting of an icy dungeon teeming with enemies feels thrilling at first, but when the subsequent levels consist of the same tiles, decorations, and enemies, it’s hard not to grow weary. The game tries to break up the monotony with Bosses, but it doesn’t quite erase the dissatisfaction of playing through four or five same-y levels.
But the game’s shortcomings are minor. Something I really liked in Devious Dungeon, was the upgrades system. It’s rare for a platformer to give me solid a sense of progression but that was exactly what this game did. The more gold/treasure you collect, the more equipment you can purchase. Along with potions and amulets, armors and weapons also permanently increase your character’s stats.
Other than the ultimate goal of reaching the 65th level, there are quests in place to keep your coin purse filled, rewarding you for say, ‘Killing 5 Goblins’ or ‘Finding 2 keys’. The rewards make it easier for players to continuously upgrade to newer, better equipment without needing to slog for it.
Devious Dungeon is definitely a must own for any Switch owner. It is the perfect game to occupy yourself between big releases and is worth every dollar. If you don’t have a Switch, fret not, because the game is also available for the PS4 and PlayStation Vita. There’s no reason not to buy it!
After a long time of waiting, debating, and pouring over whether to buy the fabled Nintendo Switch, I finally did it. After three solid years with my beloved 3DS and PS Vita, it’s come time to change gears and jump on the new generation train – Destination: More Games.
I’ve been playing around with my Switch for a couple of weeks and I thought I’d get down my thoughts on the device, praises, grievances, and all.
Portability has remained a major advantage for me even though I rarely get out of the house. You’d think I’d prefer gaming on hardier, more powerful platforms like the PC or Playstation 4 but the number of hours I put into my handheld far exceed the time I spend on home consoles.
First party titles, third party titles, worthwhile indies. Nintendo has covered all its bases. It’s such an amazing feeling to browse the eshop and see familiar titles from the Steam store on almost every page, the fact that I can bring my Switch and thus, those games, wherever I go makes me ridiculously overjoyed.
Over the past year of the Switch blowing past every expectation and milestone, I regularly found myself looking over a game on Steam and thinking, “I should just wait till it gets a Switch port.”
Not everyone cares about how powerful a console is, but portability is definitely one of the major considerations when buying a handheld. In the days of yore, the PSP and DS proved it. Then the 3DS and Ps Vita confirmed it. The number of units moved for the respective devices speak for themselves. Don’t discount mini-PCs either, such as the GPD Win and it’s successor, the GPD Win 2, which smashed their crowd funding goals. I’ve personally owned the first GPD Win and it was nice for indies, but it had its own problems.
If you’d told me Skyrim would end up on a Nintendo console, I’d have busted a gut. But it’s no pipe dream. Skyrim, the epic RPG which has been ported to every conceivable platform and been rereleased so many times Bethesda must be swimming in cash, is playable on a handheld console. You can fusrodah assassins, khajits, dragons, and guards with arrows in their knees over cliffs and into oblivion (that isn’t the realm).
And that’s not the only major third party title that’s come to the Switch. Don’t forget about the DOOM reboot and Wolfenstein 2. But about the Switch’s first party titles? Well, you have The Legend of Zelda, Mario Odyssey, Mario Kart 8.
What’s that? You want indie games? Hell, then what about Hollow Knight, Dead Cells and Shovel Knight, and tons more that I can’t list because this post will get way too long?
Dissenters like to bring up that Nintendo is porting way too many games, Splatoon 2 being one example, but for many people buying the Switch this will be their first time with many of those games. I did not own a Wii U so I look forward to Nintendo eventually porting its library to the Switch. It might sound a little crazy, but one easy solution is to not get the game if you already have it on other platforms. Personally, if my favourite games on the 3DS do end up coming to Switch, I’ll buy it in a heartbeat.
This point doesn’t apply to me per se, but I’ve read about many people loving the heck out of the Switch’s removable joycon ability. A couple waiting for dinner playing a match or two in Overcooked, two friends killing time during lunch with several thrilling rounds of Mario Kart. The handheld already comes with two controllers out of the box, it’s awesome that it has the option for multiplayer without needing to fork out extra cash at the start.
I have big hands. Playing the 3DS gave me cramps like you wouldn’t believe, but I eventually did get used to it. The Switch hasn’t really given me that option. With a flat back and non-ergonomic shape in general, my wrist and palms start protesting barely an hour into gaming sessions. I know I’m not an isolated case since I’ve seen a number of complaints across the internet, but similarly, there are people who have no problem with the design and have none of those problems. That’s just how the cookie crumbles I suppose.
The 3 hour or so battery life takes some getting used to, especially if you’re coming from the 3DS. It is hard not to notice how fast the battery drains, especially when you’re out the entire day with the Switch as your only source of entertainment. I’ve played with the idea of getting a power bank, but it is a difficult investment since I’ve never needed one, not even for my smartphone.
The Switch trades battery life for power, I can’t complain if it allows me to play Skyrim or DOOM during my daily commute. Other than having less gaming time and the need to lug around a power bank, I’d say the trade-off is worth the hassle.
I’m glad Nintendo is dunking its feet into the indie scene, but after seeing the price tags on several games I want, I’m certain I almost had a seizure. Not all indies are culpable but some seem to be taking advantage of the ‘portability means you pay more!’ argument. This applies not only to indies, I’ve seen a fair number of triple A games guilty of this as well.
I’m someone who doesn’t mind buying the same game multiple times, I’ll go the extra mile if I adore it, but when your game costs triple the price compared to other platforms, I have a hard time justifying the purchase. Not to mention the extra eshop tax!
This problem is especially hard to ignore for people who own a PC along with the Switch. Portability might be awesome, but if I have to shell out an extra fifteen to twenty bucks so I can take it on the train, I’d just stop myself from buying it. Frankly, that’s a lose lose situation.
As of writing this article, Stardew Valley on the eshop costs around $3 more than it’s steam counterpart. Patobox, another indie title I’ve had my eye on, costs $4 to $5 more. I hope indie developers thinking of publishing or porting games to the Switch in the future take this into consideration.
Is the Switch a perfect console? Of course not. But is it a worthwhile investment for people who love handhelds and crave portability? A resounding YES. With a whole new way to game and more indie titles than ever to dabble in, I’ll be a happy camper for a very long time to come.
Looking for an awesome Switch title to pick up? Check out The Final Station, here!