Co-written by Kosta and Alex Andreadis
In terms of sales the Nintendo Switch is well on its way to becoming a global phenomenon, thanks in part to its almost perfect realisation of the hybrid device. That being a console with dual-duties - something that can sit comfortably next to a TV whilst also serving as a powerful handheld gaming device to take on the road.
The latter part in particular creates a special place for indie games. Even for those that have been released on other platforms prior to their Switch debuts. The portable nature of the Switch lends itself to quick pick-and-play sessions in addition to more engrossing, and contemplative affairs. Plus, everything just feels more impressive when running on a handheld.
And so we bring you Volume 2 of our Nintendo Switch Indie Game Round-Up.
Urban Trial Playground
Release Date: April 05, 2018
With the actual Trial series from Ubisoft making its way to the Switch early next year, for those looking for some physics-based side-on bike action you could do a lot worse than Urban Trial Playground. And although that may sound a little harsh, the try and try-again setup of the Trials series is something that we’d love to see more of on the Switch. And hey, in terms of knock-offs Urban Trial Playground is pretty good - even if it straight up copies quite a few of the now classic Trials mechanics. What it does bring to the table though, is a new mode other than the staple “reach the end if you can” formula normally associated with Ubisoft’s series - in the form of a points-based stunt showcase. Where intricate track design makes room for jumps and long straight sections to pull of tricks and combos to rack up a high-score. With Urban Trial Playground alternating between its Trials-like stages and stunt courses, the variety means that there’s a definite pick-up and play quality to the package. But even so it begins to repeat itself far too quickly, and in the end that makes it hard to shake the feeling you’ve just bought a pair Adimas pants with four stripes instead of three.- Kosta
Developer: Matt Makes Games Inc.
Release Date: January 25, 2018
Taking on the role of Madeline in her journey to reach the top of Celeste Mountain, when trying to describe what type of game Celeste is - one can’t help but think back to Super Meat Boy. Similarly tight controls, pixel-perfect platform sections, dash mechanics for fluid traversal, and a responsiveness that plays directly into the near perfect and challenging level design. In Celeste new mechanics are introduced gradually, adding to the challenge while also changing up how you approach each obstacle. With such a solid foundation, that’s already enough of a reason to make Celeste a must play title. But what really nudges the experience into the masterpiece and all-time realm is the interplay between the mechanics, level-design and progression, with Madeline herself. How she evolves as a character is told in a deeply personal way throughout her journey up Celeste Mountain. This game is so well crafted that the only real barrier for entry becomes its overall difficulty - which thankfully can be adjusted. But striking the right difficulty balance is key, because the challenge ties into Madeline’s emotional and genuine tale of struggle, anxiety, and her battle with depression. - Alex
Fox n Forests
Developer: Bonus Level Entertainment
Release Date: May 15, 2018
Fox n Forests features a 16-bit art-style that at times feels like an homage to Rare whilst also drawing on the types of action-heavy 2D titles from developers like Capcom. Taking on the role of the weirdly-named Rick the Fox, there are some modern flourishes with RPG-lite mechanics like equipping new and more powerful items and weapons and upgrading stats like health. With the main gameplay addition being the ability to draw on a limited magic pool to change the season, say from Spring to Summer. Which cleverly opens up new pathways, secrets, or simply freezing some water to overcome an obstacle. The season stuff is executed quite well and plays directly into the level design, but even so Fox n Forests is still very much a retro-game. In that overall it plays in a similar fashion to something you might find on a Super Nintendo or a Sega Mega Drive. Which, we assume could handle the season-change tech - cartridge size permitting. Definitely fun, and not that difficult or frustrating to progress early on, Fox n Forests fits nicely into the Switch library as an alternative to actual 16-bit titles from the ‘90s ported to the system.- Kosta
A Robot Named Fight!
Developer: Matt Bitner Games
Release Date: April 26, 2018
As a fan of all things Metroidvania it didn’t take much to fire up A Robot Named Fight!. And by not much, that’s downloading and installing the game after not even reading the synopsis or checking out the attached trailer. That’s either laziness, or complete commitment to a specific sub-genre. Booting up the game though and first impressions were that A Robot Named Fight! was a poor-man’s Super Metroid. But after the first death that came after clearing a few rooms before finding a save-point - finding out that it was a rogue-like with a procedurally generated layout that would play differently each time added a new layer to the story. Where the more you play, the more you unlock new items that can spawn the next time around. So instead of high-jump boots, you can equip a jetpack. Created by a single person, A Robot Named Fight! captures the feeling of playing Super Metroid for the first time. Where the delicate balance of challenging combat merges with exploration and finding new areas and secrets. Boss fights are both varied and challenging too, with a presentation that is all Super Metroid. In the end A Robot Named Fight! is both a homage to Nintendo’s classic and a fresh modern remix of one of the all-time greats. - Alex
Release Date: June 28, 2018
A blast from the not-so-distant past, come the Nintendo Switch release of Playdead’s 2010 cult classic Limbo. Where, not that this comes as a surprise, the gameplay holds up and the experience still feels fresh and original. And by that we mean overly dark and depressing for a game where you need to push a block into a specific position to reach a rope that sits just out of jumping range. Puzzle asides, Limbo’s appeal comes from its stark setting. Where you take control of a small child in a monochrome world full of imminent danger. Dying is a key part of progressing through Limbo’s various chapters, where although it’s hard to gauge exactly what’s happening story-wise other than the fact you need to get somewhere safe - there’s no mistaking being impaled by the leg of a giant-spider as anything but tense and horrific. Another game best experienced with headphones for, you know, sound - Limbo remains as emotional, intense, and interesting as it did when it first creeped us out all those years ago.- Kosta
Developer: Team Cherry
Release Date: June 12, 2018
Hollow Knight has been sitting on the top of Switch charts for a few weeks now and it’s easy to see why - this home-grown Adelaide gem is one of those rare instances where the end result exceeds the hype. That being said, as a fan of the whole Metroidvania sub-genre it did take a few hours for Hollow Knight to click. But when it did, it clicked harder than Adam Sandler in that film he made about clicking - called Click. Ahem. Hollow Knight is the real deal, and best experienced with headphones on and with your complete attention. The look, sound, and feel is nothing short of experiencing one stunning moment after another. Everything from the character and boss design to background art and animation to the sound effects and music - all have a timeless quality that is hard to shake. Screenshots do not do this game justice - it looks absolutely gorgeous in motion. The adventure itself is surprisingly huge too with well over 20 hours of challenging Metroidvania-style action. In addition to the exceptional level design, it’s easy to find a connection to the poster-child of all-things difficult Dark Souls. Boss fights, like in Souls, represent a new level of challenge in Hollow Knight where it’s all about figuring out patterns and tells. Like what Matt Damon did to John Malkovich at the end of Rounders. And on that random movie-reference note, throw in the fast Rocky Solid Balboa 60fps presentation on the Switch, and you’ll also be saying (in a thick Russian accent) “Pay that man his money” while purchasing a copy for yourself.- Alex
Release Date: July 24, 2018
Hot off the presses, in that it’s out this week, comes Semblance - a new platform-adventure where the main character is a malleable squishy thing that can change shape ala playdough. What’s interesting and fun about this mechanic is that puzzles can be tackled in more than one way. More often than not you can find shortcuts or little ways to bypass entire obstacles, which is refreshing. This is partly due to the world itself, and large sections being as malleable as the main character. Where, you can adjust platforms to create new pathways and avoid being destroyed by a laser beam or falling to your doom. Like with other indie titles that offer similarly distinct and interesting mechanics in the platform-meets-puzzle genre, Semblance features a wonderful art style and great atmospheric soundtrack. Even though there’s a gradual build-up in difficulty for the various puzzles to solve, which are related to reaching and collecting special orbs, the ability to move on to the next area or come back at a later time is a nice touch that adds to the feeling of being part of a larger world.- Kosta
Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon
Developer: INTI CREATES CO., LTD.
Release Date: May 24, 2018
This game was first announced as a Bonus Tier promise in the Kickstarter campaign for the still to be released Castlevania spiritual successor - Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. Unlike Ritual of the Night though, the graphics featured in Curse of the Moon are intentionally bad. Well, in that they conjure up the old school 8-bit NES glory days of the first Castlevania games. And so, this definitely feels like an unofficial sequel to Ye Old Castlevania. Bloodstained: Curve of the Moon is oldschool to a fault, with flickery NES-style sprites to emulate transparency. Although it looks and feels an 8-bit game, it does have a few modern twists, like the ability to play as multiple characters that you pick-up along your journey. You can change characters at any time (as long as they’re still alive), which ups the number of ways you can tackle enemies. Also, each level has multiple branching paths to encourages multiple playthroughs. Which is good because Curse of the Moon is a small game in scope, but a welcomed addition to the Switch library nonetheless. Here’s to Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, may your arrival be as swift as the crack of an 8-bit whip.- Alex