Saturday, November 25, 2017

A few thoughts on three digital Switch games: Elliot Quest, Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime, and Slime-san

I don't know about you, but I've spent a lot of time with a lot of different games in the last month.

For instance, I returned to Yomawari: Night Alone for Vita and started through that system's just-released ports of VA-11 HALL-A and Undertale in that time. Also, I both began and finished Golf Story and Super Mario Odyssey for Switch.

I'm still plugging away at the Vita titles, of course, but that doesn't mean I'm letting my Switch collect dust as I do so. In fact, I'm enjoying more Switch games than ever thanks to some kind publishers (which provided me with press codes for the following titles).

Speaking of which, here are a few thoughts on the trio of digital Switch games currently doing their darndest to gobble up my free time:

Elliot Quest--Many have heralded this game as a Zelda II: The Adventure of Link clone. Those are hollow words to me, as I don't have a high opinion of that particular NES "classic." Still, Elliot Quest's art style has appealed to me since I first laid eyes on it, so I promptly added it to my lengthy "play as soon as possible" list despite my lack of love for the first Zelda sequel.

As for what I think of Elliot Quest now that I've put about two hours into it: it's very nice--although perhaps not as compelling as I assumed it would be? I'm not entirely sure why I feel that way about the game, to tell you the truth. It may be due to its rather languid pace, or it may be its overall lack of tension. And it doesn't help, of course, that I'm not yet clear as to why I'm working my way through the sprawling stages of Elliot Quest's beautifully pixelated world.

Another element of Elliot Quest I don't exactly love: I keep getting stuck. I know that's supposed to inspire me to use my noggin, but the tactic only goes so far with me. If I spend, say, 45 minutes trying to figure out what I'm supposed to do or where I'm supposed to go to advance a game's story, I'm not going to stick with it for very long.

Which is a shame, as I really do appreciate a lot of what Elliot Quest offers. As I said earlier, it looks great, it controls well, and its basic gameplay is solid (if not spectacular). Despite all that, I'm not finding it as interesting as I expected to before I first booted it up and thus won't be surprised if I walk away from it long before I reach its credit roll.

Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime--It should be clear with one glance at the screenshot above why this game has intrigued me ever since it was first made available to PC and Xbox One gamers back in late 2015.

Of course, a dayglow, 1980s-inspired aesthetic doesn't mean much if the accompanying gameplay sucks. Thankfully, Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime impresses in that area, too. Rather than speed through levels like you do in most side-scrolling shoot 'em ups, here you alternate between slowly advancing your spherical ship through each labyrinthine stage and utilizing its bevy of weaponry to take out evil oncomers.

In a way, Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime reminds me of both the Mii Force 3DS StreetPass title and an old NES cart called Solar Jetman. Given my love of those games, I guess I shouldn't be shocked that this one has sunk its claws into me as deeply as it has in the short time I've spent with it.

Granted, I'm tackling Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime all on my own, and the vibe's sure to be different if at least one other person joins in the journey. (I believe four can play at once, if you have the right setup.) Regardless, I'm really digging how it feels like a thoughtful, methodical take on the ages-old shmup genre when experienced solo.

Slime-san--While Elliot Quest apes The Adventure of Link, this game apes Super Meat Boy. Or so I've heard, at least. I can't say if that's true or not as I've never played that supposedly masochistic platformer. At any rate, I've had my eye on Slime-san since I first heard it was coming to Switch, as it seems like the perfect play-whenever-you-have-a-few-free-minutes game.

Is it? Based on my experience with Slime-san so far, I'd say the answer is yes. In fact, you can easily breeze through a number of its levels in a few minutes--or at least you can if you're properly skilled. Some of Slime-san's bite-sized stages are absolutely brutal. Expect to die a lot. Expect to die so many times, and so often, that dying no longer means anything to you. That's not a critique, by the way; in fact, I like that dying in this game doesn't bother me in the least. If anything, it prompts me to chuckle and then grit my teeth in anticipation of yet another run at a particular level.

My only complaint about Slime-san: it ramps up in difficulty surprisingly quickly. Walking away from it for a bit has helped me overcome most of the obstacles (aka seemingly insurmountable stages) the game has thrown my way, but there's no guarantee that tactic will continue to help down the road. Oh, well, I'll deal with that issue if and when it becomes a reality. In the meantime, I'll chip away at it whenever the fancy strikes.

See also: 'seven 3DS, Switch, and Vita games I'm determined to at least start before the end of 2017'

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Hirokazu 'Hip' Tanaka's first album is everything an EarthBound, Kid Icarus, or Metroid fan could want

I've been a fan of Hirokazu "Hip"--now apparently "Chip"--Tanaka ever since I discovered he was responsible for Kid Icarus' glorious soundtrack.

My admiration of and belief in his talents blossomed when I found out he also had a hand in crafting the music for classic Famicom and NES games like Balloon Fight, Wrecking Crew, Metroid, and the first two Mother (aka EarthBound) titles.

Tanaka now serves as the president of Creatures Inc., although that lofty position clearly hasn't caused him to turn his back on his first career.

His just-released (not to mention first-ever) album, Django, is the perfect case in point.

Its 13 tracks are everything a "Hip"--or "Chip"--Tanaka fan could want. My favorites: the chunky "Beaver" (listen to it and watch its video here), the jazzy, laid-back title tune, the ethereal "EMGR," and the blippy, breezy "Prizm."

Really, though, you can't go wrong with any of the game-inspired soundscapes offered up by Django. Speaking of which, you can listen to the whole album at

See also: my '10 Most Influential Games' write-up about Kid Icarus