By: Michael Savich
Hello, I’m Michael Savich , a writer for The Goucher Eye. I occasionally do reviews of larger games, but as the local cyber-hipster, I also play a lot of smaller, quirky games that nevertheless deserve a shoutout. So, instead of doing a regular review for each one, I’m going to do a roundup of micro-reviews every few months, to highlight some of these gems. The idea is that if you see a game that interests you, you should feel free to look it up online and read a full review from one of the major video game news outlets. Who knows? You might find a new favorite.
In the interest of brevity, I’m instantiating a simple rating system, not a rating of the game itself, per se, but rather the degree to which I suggest you check out the game for yourself. The ratings are:
- Green— A game that is fascinating, a title which deserves to be recognized.
- Yellow— Game isn’t broken, but it fails to stand out from the crowd for one reason or another.
- Red— Don’t buy this game. Don’t even look in its general direction. Avoid eye contact.
So, without further ado let’s get set, get ready and… GO!
Night in the Woods (PC, Mac, Linux, PS4) $19.99
Upon dropping out of college, all 20-year old Mae Borowski wants to do is return to the aimless life she led as a grade schooler. Unfortunately, in an all-too-familiar twist of fate, Mae finds that her home has changed in her absence: old hangouts have closed for business, friendships have drifted apart, and the population is dwindling as more youths leave town for the city.
Night in the Woods is more interactive fiction than game, you’ll spend most of your time wading through dialogue, uncovering the mysteries of Possum Springs and its multifaceted cast of characters. It’s a story about the transition to adulthood, what you hold onto and what you let go. These very real fears of adult life are set against a backdrop of Lovecraftian horror. You see, there’s something hiding deep in the woods… Oh, and I almost forgot: all of the characters are drawn as cute cartoon animals. That’s a plus in my book.
Mr. Shifty (PC, Mac, PS4, Xbox One, Switch) $14.99
Mr. Shifty is very clearly inspired by Hotline Miami with its top-down perspective and action-strategy fusion. However, whereas Miami is a deconstruction of the senseless violence in video games, Mr. Shifty leans in the other direction, going full Die Hard in its absurdity. There isn’t much dialogue in this game, but every line of it is pure comedic gold. (“You want to keep going? Terrible plan. I’M IN.”)
Mr. Shifty himself is so-named for his teleportation ability, which in effect allows you to zip across the screen and execute moves as fast as your brain will allow– which hopefully is faster than the enemies can respond. It’d be a stretch to call this mechanic innovative, but it makes for satisfying gameplay. What is innovative, however, is Mr. Shifty’s sense of fashion: a red baseball cap and a blue cape? Somehow, he pulls it off. Now that’s a superpower.
Snake Pass (PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch) $19.99
Snake Pass is an example of a game that does one thing and does it well. You play as a snake named Noodle, and he doesn’t move like any character you’ve played as before, because he moves like a snake, naturally. One button allows you to move forward and another to strain upward, while the analog stick is used to move the main character’s body left and right. Climbing up structures and just generally moving about present a challenge, but it never feels harder than it should be, you know, for a snake. Beautiful environments complement clever puzzles to make Snake Pass a real gem of a game.
Has Been Heroes (PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch) $19.99
Has Been Heroes is an acquired taste. The core game mechanic revolves around matching up your character’s attacks to deplete your enemy’s stamina precisely, leaving them vulnerable to a final devastating attack. It quickly becomes a frenetic game of addition as you calculate the most efficient way to distribute your attacks. A variety of spells add another dimension to the strategy, and acquiring items enhances your party’s abilities, resulting in you developing a specialized set of skills on each run-through. This game is brutal though and demands you understand its mechanics inside and out before you can make any real progress, which can be a turnoff for many. Though, I’ve really enjoyed this game, the difficulty, combined with some really subpar stale writing, holds this game back from being a must-recommend.
Graceful Explosion Machine (Switch, TBA) $12.99
GEM is a side scrolling shooter where you control a spaceship with a variety of powerful weapons, tasked with taking down a seemingly impossible number of grub-like aliens. You spend most of the game switching between the basic Blaster, the defensive Sword, (an energy beam that encircles your ship, killing all it touches) the offensive homing Missiles and the Sniper laser, which can be used to make short work of larger enemies. The movement of your ship as it cuts through enemies starts to feel almost like choreography, and coupled with the chill soundtrack it’s easy to see how the developers arrived at the adjective “graceful.” Unfortunately, while the execution is fine, the overall concept of the game- a ship shooting at space aliens— is an idea that has been done a thousand times already, and we’ll see a thousand more games like it in the future. GEM’s problem then is that it is unambitious, a solid game that offers little to ensure it won’t be instantly forgotten.
1, 2, Switch (Switch) $49.99
This is the only Nintendo Switch exclusive game on today’s list, but it’s featured heavily in Nintendo’s marketing for their console, so it’s not impossible you’ve seen it in one of their commercials. The basic premise is that you hold one of the controllers and look your opponent in the eye, using only vibration feedback from the controllers to know what is going on. While the game can be quite fun at times, it never really convinces you that you need a $300 console and $50 game to play imaginary air ping pong. Oh yes, did I mention this game is $50? 1, 2, Switch would be a cute game if it came packaged with the system, but it’d be overpriced at $30. Selling it for $50 is honestly just offensive.