Thursday, March 26, 2020

Mekorama (NSW) Review

SPC's next review is a smaller scale game. It's yet another mobile game turned Nintendo Switch release in the form of Mekorama. SPC previously reviewed the mobile version in 2016. How does the Switch version compare? Let's check it out with this review of Mekorama for the Nintendo Switch.

Wrap your head around the miniature world of Mekorama

Mekorama originally released as a mobile game in 2016, akin to games like Monument Valley, and probably more familiar to Nintendo gamers, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker. It's a 3D puzzle/platformer that sees you controlling a robot named B, navigating it through myriad 3D diorama-like levels with the objective of reaching the goal, indicated as a red, glowing portal on top of a brown block.

The Nintendo Switch version of Mekorama may not be free like its mobile counterpart (but the latter is a great way to "demo" the Switch version, if you'd like), but it does include approximately double the amount of levels as the original. The downside is that the game's level creator, which allowed mobile players to share levels via QR codes, does not currently offer sharing functionality in the Switch version, which sort of defeats the point of having the feature on Switch.

The actual game levels are split up into four categories: Easy, Medium, Tricky, and Hard, and they start out simple enough, introducing the player to basic concepts and allowing them to grow accustomed to the controls. Levels themselves offer a nice difficulty curve that start off with the simple requirement of traversing the environment to reach the goal. Slowly and gradually new elements are implemented to keep things fresh, such as blocks that can rise and lower based on player input--used smartly in a double-decker maze level that features an upper part and a submerged lower part--and even enemies and hazards that if B comes one space near them, he'll get electrocuted and the level will be failed. I found the Easy levels to be a good deal of fun, but even early on in the Medium stretch of levels, I found some truly brain-busting puzzles. Thankfully, there is a hint system implemented in the game for when you get stuck.

Mekorama can be played via touch screen or via analog input, though the latter is a bit cumbersome. You have to drag the cursor around the screen manually with the analog stick, and when you want to spin the camera around, you have to hold down a button while moving the analog stick in a "swipe" motion. Not exactly the most intuitive means of input, is it. Otherwise, with the recommend touch screen controls, you're tapping on squares where you want the robot to move, if a maneuver can be made, and sliding your finger on the Switch's screen to spin the map around to get a better view.

Unfortunately, even with the ability to spin the level around in a 360 degree fashion, you can't move the camera angle itself. This results in plenty of levels where you B easily becomes obstructed by the environment, requiring a lot of trial and error to move around obscured parts of levels. Adding on top of that, many levels have it where B can get knocked from a platform and fall to the ground, making the level impossible to complete. This isn't so much of a problem as it is that the game forces you to manually restart the level instead of automatically doing so. It's a design element that slows down the experience considerably when most of the time I just wanted to immediately retry the level without being forced to pause and then hit restart.

Mekorama doesn't have the same level of polish or as vivid a presentation as other games of its ilk. You won't be dazzled by its visuals or understated music, as the presentation is overall pretty sterile. What you will be with Mekorama is engaged with its ultimately well designed levels, be they focused on puzzles, platforming, precision, or a combination of the three. Mekorama is hardly a game that will make a lasting impression, but it's one that's a nice time-waster for the experience that it does deliver.

[SPC Says: C+]

A review code was provided for the purpose of this review.

Ninjala (NSW) Announcement Trailer

Kick butt with katanas, hammers, and more as you chew bubblegum in Ninjala! What is Ninjala? It is a free-to-play 4v4 team-based action game coming to the Nintendo Switch. Announced several months ago for Japan, Ninjala will finally arrive on the Switch on May 27th on this side of the Pacific as well!

Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics (NSW) Announcement Trailer

One of my favorite Nintendo DS games gets a much overdue sequel with Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics, bringing with it a variety of 51 games, such as Go, Solitaire, Dominoes, Bowling, Fishing, among many others. See all 51 games featured in this collection in this trailer. Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics launches on Nintendo Switch on June 5th.

Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition (NSW) "Nintendo Direct Mini" Trailer

Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition received a new trailer during a surprise Nintendo Direct Mini presentation this morning. With it, a glimpse at the dazzling new remastered visuals, updated HUD, and additional epilogue. Embark on an adventure into the world of Xenoblade Chronicles for the first time or all over again when the Definitive Edition launches on the Nintendo Switch on May 29th.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The Wonderful 101: Remastered (NSW, PS4, PC) Release Date Trailer

Successfully funded on Kickstarter (as if there was any doubt it would be) and originally a Wii U exclusive, The Wonderful 101 reunite for an all-new remastered version on the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Steam. This remaster has a staggered series of release dates with North America getting the game first on May 19th, Europe on May 22nd, and Japan on June 11th. In the meantime, check out this brand-new trailer for the game in all of its wonderful glory.

Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled (PS4, XB1, NSW) "Grand Prix Content" Trailer

Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled won the "Game That Keeps On Giving" award at SuperPhillip Central's Best of 2019 Awards, and this trailer is a good, quick visual example of why. With an abundance of new characters, tracks, cosmetics, and more, CTR: Nitro-Fueled powered up its roster and game with an astounding amount of free content, as evidenced by this new trailer from Activision.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX (NSW) Review

With our world in an unpredictable and scary state, let's travel to a different world as a means of escape, if only temporarily. It's a world of Pokemon with Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX, and SPC has a full review for you to enjoy. 

Want a solid Mystery Dungeon game? Then, Pokemon to the rescue!

Over a decade ago, the first games in the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon series, Red Rescue Team for the Game Boy Advance and Blue Rescue Team for the Nintendo DS debuted, offering a Pokemon twist to the tried, true, and to many, tedious gameplay of the Mystery Dungeon series. While this brand new remake, improves in almost every way on the original games and adds an absolutely lovely watercolor aesthetic to the game, Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX won't exactly make those who haven't exactly loved this style of game suddenly start doing so with this entry. That said, those that already do will find an engrossing Pokemon world to lose dozens of hours in.

Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX starts you off with a questionnaire that determines which of a selection of Pokemon you will be. Personally, it is rather pointless and a bit of a waste of time, since you can just pick whichever of the offered Pokemon you want after the fact, but for those undecided or just open to being whichever Pokemon the game recommends, it can be helpful. You then choose your partner Pokemon from the same selection and your journey into the world of Pokemon as a "human turned Pokemon" begins. 

I choose you, Pikachu! (Or should I say, "I choose ME, Pikachu"?)
True to its name, Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX sees you entering mystery dungeons with a team of up to three Pokemon, completing various "rescues" (so, THAT'S why the game is called that!) from Pokemon posted on the game hub town bulletin board, and advancing the story. These jobs are as simple as talking to the stranded job-giving Pokemon in a dungeon, giving a Pokemon a desired item, or reuniting two Pokemon together to enable them to escape safely. After a dungeon is complete, either by making it to its end or escaping when given the option, the Pokemon you rescue and jobs you've completed grant rewards. It can be a bit of slog to go through the reward results, especially if you complete a high number of rescues in one go, but the rewards are definitely worthwhile. In addition to money and items (occasionally rare ones, at that), you also gain points that increase your rescue team's rank, allowing for more item storage, Pokemon to recruit, and much more.

Of course, dungeons aren't as safe as the town that your Pokemon call home, where you can purchase and sell items, store your money, and take on new rescues. No, dungeons are not nearly as safe at all--quite the contrary! Enemy Pokemon make these dungeons their home, and they're all too content to make your life a living Poke-hell if you aren't prepared. Dungeons are made up of multiple floors, and while starting out, the amount of floors is paltry in the early dungeons, by the post-game you'll be trekking through dungeons that seem to go on forever with floors in the tens of dozens--and even one that has 99. 

As you can see, I chose to have my partner be the ever-adorable and awesome Squirtle.
Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX plays similarly to other games of its genre. Pokemon in dungeons take turns moving, attacking, and using items, one after the other. However, it's different from a traditional Pokemon game as it's done in a grid-based format and also instantaneously. Enemy Pokemon do not act until you do. With this in mind, you have a game that requires a mild amount of strategy to overcome encounters. Not only is it important to consider what move you make, but it's also important to consider where you position your Pokemon. Some attacks have a long range instead of being only viable for close quarters, while the Pokemon series's Pokemon types during battles--such as fire, water, grass, psychic, poison, etc.--is ever present in Rescue Team DX to consider as well. Using a fire Pokemon against a rock Pokemon is a recipe for disaster.

Many Pokemon attacks are like my puns in every one of my reviews--they reach quite a bit!
Pokemon moving through dungeons get their HP restored slowly but steadily, as long as they don't have any adverse status effects. However, traveling can be quite exhausting, also causing Pokemon to grow hungry, also slowly but steadily. If a Pokemon wanders a dungeon on an empty stomach, their health will begin to deplete. Only through consuming apples will their hunger be satiated to safe levels. Thankfully, only the currently controlled Pokemon in your party has its hunger level increase, so when one Pokemon got low, I simply switched control to another. That didn't alleviate the need for apples, but it did help considerably with rationing my supply.

Unlike the original Rescue Team games, you don't have the option to conserve PP from using a normal attack. Instead, you just have your four Pokemon's moves to work with, and each use of a move drains its PP by one. Run out of PP for a move, and you can no longer use it unless you drink an Ether of some type, making these items more of a must-have than they were before. Your partner Pokemon also use attacks that consume their own PP, so it's wise Using an attacking move enough will strengthen it, and not just for the Pokemon that uses it. If you have a Pikachu that uses Discharge a lot and later recruit a Zapdos that also has Discharge, it will be at the same upgraded level as that of the Pikachu. 

By holding down the ZL button, you can bring up your Pokemon's choice of four moves,
also showing how effective each are against the enemy.
Speaking of recruiting, sometimes when a Pokemon you fight has been defeated, they'll be motivated to join your dungeon-exploring cause. Unlike the original game, you can have a group of up to eight Pokemon in a dungeon at once--three of which are your starters and five that join you. This makes getting through the dungeons easier as you have more attackers at once, but it can also cause some bottlenecks when it concerns traffic, especially in the numerous narrow passageways of the dungeons. 

Occasionally, a defeated Pokemon will want to tag along.
Up to eight Pokemon can be in one party at a time.
Regardless, if you're able to keep a Pokemon alive to the very end of the dungeon or if you escape without your team being defeated, you'll get the option to have them join your rescue team permanently. That is to say as long as you have the right rescue area for that Pokemon species to stay at, which are unlocked by spending money at Wigglytuff's shop in town. If you don't have the correct rescue area, or you opt to not have a Pokemon join you at the end of your dungeon run, they'll depart and leave behind money as a "thank you" for an enjoyable expedition.

It's good to recruit different Pokemon as a means to "catch 'em all", but it's also good to have a variety of types, such as the aforementioned grass, fire, electric, water, psychic, and so forth. Furthermore, some Pokemon you recruit can have rare qualities to them. These grant special bonuses in battle, such as being able to attack flying Pokemon with moves that they'd normally be resistant against or being able to sell items in dungeons for more than you'd normally get for them. Many Pokemon of the same species have different rare qualities, so even if you get the same Pokemon of the same species, it's worth to recruit ones with the quality that works best for you and your play style. 

It's a Pokemon party! ...Well, that is, if instead of presents each guest brought pain.
Recruiting new Pokemon was as much of an addiction for me in Rescue Team DX as it was in the mainline games. I loved fighting a Pokemon, especially rarer ones in dungeons, and seeing them remain on the battlefield after their defeat, allowing me to recruit them to join my team and my cause. Switching in and out different Pokemon as my initial team to explore a dungeon until I found the best combo that fit my play style was something that took some patience and a lot of trial and error, but at the same time, it was rewarding and most importantly, fun to do for me. 

Pokemon level up through experience through defeating enemy Pokemon, and the experience is shared between your three starters who enter the dungeon. Pokemon who are recruited mid-dungeon do not gain experience. While earning experience through dungeons is the main way to gain levels, you can also use special tickets at a dojo in town to level up Pokemon quickly via playing timed one-floor dungeons where the enemy Pokemon you face are weak against the Pokemon you select for training. Dojo tickets come in bronze, silver, and gold forms, and obviously the rarer the ticket you use, the more time you get to spend training and the more experience you get per Pokemon defeated. Outside of training, you can also use items to boost a Pokemon's individual stats. 

Between dungeons, do all of your necessary preparations in this peaceful village.
Dungeons aren't too exciting design-wise, as while they are randomly generated, they are always similar square or rectangular type rooms connected by narrow, claustrophobic pathways. Outside of predictable locale changes that are mere window dressings for the dungeons, they do attempt to spice things up with a but of unpredictability with random traps, monster rooms--where upon entering a room filled with items you're ambushed by a copious amount of enemies who drop into the room--and special floor effects like hail, sunlight, sandstorms, and more. The latter affects Pokemon in different ways. Some cause damage to Pokemon on a per-square-movement basis, while others strengthen the power of certain elemental attacks, for instance. 

The Mystery Dungeon games are games of risk, though with Rescue Team DX, the consequences of being completely defeated in a dungeon aren't as severe as other games of the genre. Still, there's the risk of losing everything currently in your possession item-wise, as well as losing the Pokemon you currently have recruited in your rescue team if you fail. So it's a matter of asking yourself is continuing in a dungeon is well worth it, or whether it's better to escape while fortune shines on you. Sometimes, all it takes is a string of bad luck, or something catastrophic happening at just the wrong time. Perhaps you step on a trap that puts your Pokemon to sleep while in the midst of a monster room, or perhaps you get hit by a room-wide attack that wipes out your entire team before you can utter, "what the Poke-heck?!" 

The new cutscenes in Rescue Team DX rarely fail to dazzle and delight.
Fortunately, the kindness of strangers is available in Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX. You can send out a rescue request via code or through the game to have others attempt to rescue you within a dungeon, retrieving everything you lost and giving it back to you automatically to you upon a successful rescue. You can also rescue other players in their games as well for great rewards, too. It's a fun addition to the game that adds a nice community aspect that I found enjoyable.

However, with all of the bells and whistles that Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX has, it's ultimately a very repetitive game. The prospect of plodding around similarly designed dungeons, looking for staircases to make progress, all the while battling Pokemon after Pokemon, escaping said dungeon, and then starting the process all over again can be quite tedious for many--much more to actually do. However, while others might find Rescue Team DX and games of the Mystery Dungeon variety to be a slog, I found cultivating a powerful team of Pokemon, taking on the myriad post-game dungeons where the game really opens up freedom-wise, and recruiting as many Pokemon as possible all to be well worth the grind. Essentially, those that love the series will continue to find reasons to love it (like myself), and those that don't won't necessarily find anything in Rescue Team DX to change their minds--not even a fresh coat of paint, as it's the same basic game underneath the updated graphics, monotony and all. 

[SPC Says: B]