Saturday, May 1, 2021

Review Round-Up - April 2021

Rising to the occasion in a big way, Monster Hunter Rise definitely delivered,
 earning Game of the Month honors here at SuperPhillip Central.
An April shower of reviews--eight to be exact--brings May flowers! That's how the saying goes, right? Or something similar to that, at any rate! It's the conclusion of another month, so before we make the march into May, let's review the month of reviews for SuperPhillip Central that was April 2021!

Beginning with some family-friendly fare, we joined Ty the Tasmanian Tiger's Bush Rescue team for the remaster of a 2004 game with Ty the Tasmanian Tiger 2: Bush Rescue HD. It received a C+ grade. Then, we took to the starting line and raced with Nickelodeon's all-star lineup of colorful characters with Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2: Grand Prix, speeding through the slime to get a satisfying C grade. 

We then went cheep--er, cheap, with an ultra-affordable Nintendo eShop game more than worth its one dollar price of admission, Toree 3D, a 3D speed-running platformer with some out-of-place spoopy elements. The game earned a solid B. From 3D platforming to 2.5D platforming, we then took a look at Stitchy in Tooki Trouble, a pretty short and unoriginal game, but also a somewhat enjoyable one, receiving a C+ grade.

We then moved from consoles to mobile with SuperPhillip Central's first ever assortment of Apple Arcade reviews, starting at the tee with Clap Hanz Golf, from the makers of the Everybody's Golf series. The game birdied for a great B grade. The other Apple Arcade exclusive reviewed this month was Way of the Turtle, a side-scrolling 2.5D Metroidvania. It was a shell of a time, getting a B-. More Apple Arcade reviews and content will be forthcoming here at SPC in the coming months.

Concluding the month of reviews in April were two extremes. Effie, specifically the poorly performing Nintendo Switch port, received the lowest score of the month, a C-, while Monster Hunter Rise rightfully earned an A grade and Game of the Month honors here at SuperPhillip Central.

It was a surprisingly busy month of reviews here at SPC, full of variety and good games. Let's continue the momentum as SPC heads towards its 1,000th review, which we're just eight reviews away from at the time of this post. To see all previous reviews ever posted on this site, check out the SPC Review Archive. Finally, for your convenience, here are links and excerpts from all eight reviews published this past month. Until next month, we'll catch you later, Review Round-Up!

...Even as someone who didn't play the original games when they released but has a fond remembrance for games of this era, Ty the Tasmanian Tiger 2: Bush Rescue HD serves as a nostalgic trip for me. The platforming and level design are overall solid, as are the touched-up visuals. Everything else involved with the design? Well, that's better left in 2004. Still, I don't regret having Ty the Tasmanian Tiger 2 take up 15 hours of my time. It was a worthwhile game to play, despite my many misgivings with Ty's not-so-ripsnorting sequel. 
Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2: Grand Prix doesn't necessarily finish at first place on the podium, but it also doesn't necessarily limp across the finish line on fumes, either. I appreciated the improved presentation (lack of character voices and familiar music aside) and increased number of shows and characters included in the game, whether they be playable, chief and crew members, or track designs. Better balancing of the harder Grand Prix speeds would have made for a higher level of enjoyment, as I don't know what kind of kid would not rage at the nonsense that happens during these races when a grown adult almost does, but overall, Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2: Grand Prix 2 is good slime--er, time. Lack of originality and balancing, notwithstanding.
Toree 3D more than justifies its dollar price tag, offering well executed 3D platforming and engaging levels that encourage repeated play-throughs to attempt to aim for those coveted "A" ranks (though leaderboards, even offline ones, would have been appreciated). This is a game that is perfect to pick up and play, put down, and then come back to now and again. It's a beauty to look at, it runs well, and it even has some cool, light spooky elements as well, though these seem to clash with the style of the game ultimately. Still, if you're up for a quick, bite-sized 3D platformer, have a dollar or some Gold Points to spare, then you should definitely download Toree 3D.
Despite my brief and breezy time with Stitchy in Tooki Trouble, I did find myself enjoying the game. There are some well executed ideas and concepts presented in Polygoat's title, and it looks and sounds pleasant as well. Veterans of the platforming genre won't find themselves tested too terribly much from Stitchy's adventure, aside from perhaps certain time trials, and the short length of the game is another glaring issue that might make a purchase less than ideal. For everyone else, there is a lot to like about Stitchy in Tooki Trouble.
Between the over 20 characters to join your golfing team, 6+ themed courses taking place in locales like New York City's Central Park or the Egyptian pyramids, and hours upon hours of thrilling golf gameplay, Clap Hanz's first foray into self-publishing is a great success. While the swing system takes a lot of getting used to, as it has a somewhat steep learning curve, the overall difficulty of the game isn't that high that it creates a ton of frustration. Sure, I wanted to curse the golf gods when yet another shot of mine went off track or I missed a simple putt, but ultimately, I kept plugging and putting away, enjoying myself with Clap Hanz Golf. 
Currently, with what is available in Way of the Turtle feels like a complete title gameplay and length-wise, just with a sudden cliffhanger that left me wanting more. That's a good thing--the "left me wanting more" part, as it shows that I did enjoy my time with the game. Inconsistent touch controls, occasionally poor camera angles, and an unhelpful, undetailed map are issues with the game, but on the whole, Way of the Turtle gets from me a recommendation like a turtle's shell: a solid one!
Sadly, while Ellie is most likely a thoroughly enjoyable, if not short, adventure on other platforms, it simply is not that enjoyable on the Switch. The game is simply put, a technical mess in need of some serious fixing in the frame-rate and the bug department. It's wholly unpolished, which sadly is far too common an occurrence when it comes to ports from other platforms to the Switch. I do recommend Ellie--but with a HUGE caveat that it be for platforms other than the Switch, because what's here is just not worth it. It's a real shame, too, as I genuinely had fun playing Ellie on the Switch despite this port's problems.
All in all, Monster Hunter Rise definitely has risen to the occasion for this player. After so many unsuccessful attempts to fully breach into the series' intimidating defenses, I finally got through with Rise. With its magnificent new mobility options with both Palamutes and to a much greater extent, the Wirebug, I don't know if I'll ever be able to go back to previous Monster Hunter games with the same level of enjoyment. They may just feel like tremendous regressions instead. Regardless, Rampages, wyvern riding, online hunts, expansive maps with not a loading screen in sight, and a robust arsenal of engaging weaponry makes Monster Hunter Rise more than just my favorite Monster Hunter game yet--it's also one of my favorite games of 2021 so far.
Clap Hanz Golf was one of two Apple Arcade exclusives covered
by SuperPhillip Central in review form this past month.

Friday, April 30, 2021

Monster Hunter Rise (NSW) Review

Our final review for the month of April is a big one. It's all been leading up to this for SuperPhillip Central's month of reviews. Monster Hunter Rise launched late last month to equal positive acclaim from both fans and critics alike. Now, as both, I throw my Great Sword into the arena to give my opinion on the latest in a franchise of games that I have a difficult time getting into. Here is the SPC review of Monster Hunter Rise for the Nintendo Switch.

 The thrill of the hunt returns to the Nintendo Switch

I've tried to get into the Monster Hunter series so many times, and so many times I bounce off before even seeing the ending credits roll. I start off promisingly enough, completing quests, hunting smaller monsters, but eventually I get to a wall and just stop playing. Perhaps it's the included quality of life measures added to make the latest game in the Monster Hunter series, Monster Hunter Rise, so accessible that it allows a generally poor hunter like myself to feel actually competent and capable in hunts, but I wound up absolutely adoring this game. With so many new twists on the old, familiar formula, Monster Hunter Rise certainly does rise to the occasion, offering one of the most impressive series of hunts in series history.

Monster Hunter Rise is set in Kamura Village, a blossoming and bustling little burg, which has recently seen a higher number of monster attacks including those known as Rampages. You play as the village's sole hunter, a promising new hunter which is tasked with completing quests and hunting monsters to keep monsters at bay. Though there are still quests where your hunter is asked to gather specific materials like in past Monster Hunter games, the majority of the time you'll be exterminating pests both small and large. Occasionally, you'll enter the aforementioned Rampages, an all-new type of battle in the Monster Hunter series.

Your custom-made character serves as the hunter here at Kamura Village.

Rampages are one of the new features presented in Monster Hunter Rise. These are essentially tower-defense battles where you place and plant a certain amount of defenses, such as turrets, cannons, bombs, and more, in an attempt to slow down and turn away the monsters that seek to destroy the last line of Kamura Village's defenses, a large gate. You can operate the defenses yourself, or you can jump in and attack monsters directly. The former offers the ability to attack foes from a safe distance, while attacking monsters directly delivers a substantial amount of more damage. Rampages not only have resource management to worry about but also micromanagement as well. Some monsters will attack your defenses, while others will charge gates, making them practically required to center your attention on immediately as your number one priority. 

These Rampage battles can get a bit tedious and frustrating at times, especially when you're operating a defense like a cannon or Gatling gun, for instance. It's annoying when you're constantly smacked around by a monster when you're just trying to get on the turret, or worse, in the chaos you accidentally uninstall the defense itself. This results in a mad dash to reinstall it and attempt to operate it without getting smacked on your butt again. Still, despite some annoyances with Rise's Rampages, they're overall a welcome addition and were quite enjoyable to me.

No, thanks, Royal Ludroth--I'm not interested in a bath just yet.

There is more that is new feature-wise to Monster Hunter Rise than just the Rampages, however. The biggest, most groundbreaking addition to the gameplay side of Rise and the Monster Hunter series as a whole is the Wirebug. This tool lets your hunter zip through the air quickly with short, intermittent slings. It's perfect not just for getting around and reaching higher places in a faster fashion, but it also helps in both retreating from a monster's attack and charging straight into a monster to deliver your own hunter's brand of offense. The Wirebug has a short recharge period before it can be utilized again, so you can't just use it freely with reckless abandon. Heck, if you do use it with reckless abandon, you'll often find yourself unable to escape from a monster's clutches in time--possibly resulting in getting knocked out in battle. 

The open, expansive maps of Monster Hunter Rise are the perfect playground for the Wirebug. These areas are all one map, rather than what previous Nintendo-centric Monster Hunter games possessed, which were individual areas or essentially "rooms" separated by loading screens. The level of verticality in these maps is impressive, and they're absolutely packed and dense with content, whether they be places to spawn Great Wirebugs, which launch you a further distance--many times across a large expanse of map--areas where materials can be picked, mined, or otherwise gathered, or find sub-camps to serve as fast travel points in hunts to instantly become transported to them for easy convenience.

What also makes Monster Hunter Rise so wonderful is how much more accessible it is as a game. Part of that is due to the ease of use of the Wirebug, but also another substantial part is that so much of the hassle from past Monster Hunter games has been streamlined. For instance, you don't have to craft consumable whetstones just to sharpen your weapon. Instead, you automatically have an reusable whetstone on you that does that itself. The addition of companions in the form of Palamutes and Felynxes that join you on hunts in single player, offer a means to not only distract monsters at times, but also deliver damage and occasionally heal you as well. The Palamute is especially helpful because you can ride on top of it to get around maps quickly. One of my favorite things to do in Rise with a Palamute is ride on top of it, rush towards a large beast, jump off my canine companion, and slam my weapon straight into the beast's back to deal some preemptive damage to it, starting the battle in style.

Here's some Great Sword in your beak!

The amount of hunts and monsters featured in Monster Hunter Rise is quite sizable. You start off with smaller--though still twice or three times the size of your custom character--monsters to hunt, and these have easier patterns to pick up on, simpler attacks to avoid, and deal less damage. As your Hunter Rank increases from completing quests, the hunts get predictably harder, offering large behemoths of beasts to battle, complete with massively challenging and stronger attacks to evade. These are ones that can cause status effects like poison, burn, and weakened stamina, a kiss of death to unprepared hunters. 

One of the new innovations to battles in Monster Hunter Rise involves when two or more monsters enter into the same section of map and engage in a turf war. One monster will usually weaken the other, resulting in the ability to hop aboard the beast and ride it. From there, you can either bash into the other monster, slowly weakening it while chipping off rare resources in the process, or charge into walls, damaging itself in the process. It's a blast to ride one monster, weaken the other, and then luck out by being able to ride the second monster, starting the wyvern rodeo all over again.

Two insanely powerful monsters going claw to claw? Let them fight.

As the saying goes, to the victor goes the spoils, with ample opportunities for monsters to reward hunters with rare materials for battling them, defeating them, capturing them via pitfall or shock traps, or even carving up their corpses (macabre, yes, but it's not THEY'RE going to need their materials anymore!). These materials, like any Monster Hunter game, can be used to craft new weapons and armor, offering stronger attack power, defense, and even elemental advantages (as well as DIS-advantages). Petalaces and decorations are also available, with the latter being able to be equipped in certain weapons and armor to grant bonus abilities when worn. Of course, the rarest and most impressive of weapons and armor require the rarest of materials, and many times you'll need to battle a specific monster to either capture or defeat it multiple times before you ever get the specific material you're looking for. This can be frustrating at times, but I found hunts so fun in Rise that it wasn't that much of an issue for me, unlike past Monster Hunter games.

Getting attacked right now could make my hunter go a bit batty.

There are two types of quests in Monster Hunter Rise: Village and Hub quests. Village quests are solo affairs that are basically the tutorial of the game. That isn't to say the monsters you face are pushovers, but they're but an appetizer to the hunts that occur in the Hub quests. Essentially, the real game begins once you start tackling Hub quests. Monsters have more health, as well as take and give more damage, meaning that those who play alone will be at a bit of a disadvantage. However, those with a Nintendo Switch Online account and subscription can join up with three other hunters for some online hunts. You can either create a lobby to have players join you--this is better for people you know and can coordinate with--or do a Join Request. These Join Requests have you either creating and entering a Hub quest by your lonesome, with players eventually joining in, or have you joining in the middle of another hunter's quest like players will do if you create your own Join Request hunt. Either way, all of my countless hunts online were nothing short of lag-free and immensely enjoyable.

While several familiar monsters from past games return, many possess new moves and attacks this time around.

Monster Hunter Rise is one of the more captivating Nintendo Switch games in the visual department. The RE Engine really struts its stuff and looks incredibly lovely in Rise. Monsters are magnificently detailed and superbly animated, and the environments are full of strong ambience with lighting and shadows that look utterly phenomenal. I absolutely love the short but sweet narrated introductory sequences that play at the start of hunts featuring new monsters. They ooze with personality and charm. The music, too, strikes a sensational chord, bringing with it captivating tracks, awesome themes, and pieces of music that absolutely dazzle and impress. 

All in all, Monster Hunter Rise definitely has risen to the occasion for this player. After so many unsuccessful attempts to fully breach into the series' intimidating defenses, I finally got through with Rise. With its magnificent new mobility options with both Palamutes and to a much greater extent, the Wirebug, I don't know if I'll ever be able to go back to previous Monster Hunter games with the same level of enjoyment. They may just feel like tremendous regressions instead. Regardless, Rampages, wyvern riding, online hunts, expansive maps with not a loading screen in sight, and a robust arsenal of engaging weaponry makes Monster Hunter Rise more than just my favorite Monster Hunter game yet--it's also one of my favorite games of 2021 so far.

[SPC Says: A]

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

The "Worst" Things About SuperPhillip Central's Favorite Games VI

It's time for your pal Phil to take on some of his favorite games with this sixth volume of The "Worst" Things About SuperPhillip Central's Favorite Games! Emphasis on the quotations around "worst", as some of these picks for "worst" things might be stretching things a bit or seem petty. Though I'm of the opinion that the pettier the pick, the more impressive the game is, considering that would be my greatest grievance with a given game. Either way, I adore these games a ton, but I certainly am not putting my blinders on as to my biggest issues with them. 

If you want to see more possibly petty picks for "worst" parts of my favorite games, check out these previous volumes:

Volume One
Volume Two
Volume Three
Volume Four
Volume Five

Ghost of Tsushima (PS4)

We begin with a game that delighted me on the PlayStation 4 last year, coming in as one of the top ten games of 2020 as part of the SPC Best of 2020 Awards. In fact, four games on this list are part of that exclusive group! For the moment, however, I'm referring to the excellent Ghost of Tsushima from developer Sucker Punch, known previously for the studio's work on the Sly Cooper and InFamous series. 

Ghost of Tsushima is an utterly gorgeous game, even on the base PS4, so my particular problem with this samurai epic clashes with being able to thoroughly enjoy the scenery. More importantly, it concerns a mission variety problem, one that pops up quite often. 

I'm alluding to all of the tracking sections of missions in Ghost of Tsushima. On multiple occasions (see: A LOT) protagonist Jin Sakai needs to follow footprints or tracks left in the dirt or mud and follow them to a specific point. It happens so often that it gets pretty tedious, especially when lighting conditions aren't optimal for searching for and following dark, difficult-to-decipher tracks on the shadowy ground. Going back to my love of how beautiful Ghost of Tsushima as a game is, it's a shame that instead of getting to enjoy the wondrous, immaculate scenery, Sakai and the player are so often forced to have their face to the ground. Not to say the ground is ugly--far from truth--but it doesn't compare to picturesque and postcard-worthy landscapes featured on the island of Tsushima.

Final Fantasy VII Remake (PS4)

Focusing an entire game on just a small portion of Final Fantasy VII, a 40-hour or so epic of a game, and having to make a full-fledged $60 title out of it was no easy task. Understandably, there would be some added content, some stretching, some lengthening of activities and scenes to make the game more worthwhile and not just a 10-hour experience. Final Fantasy VII Remake's first part is set entirely within the boundaries of the cyberpunk-esque city of Midgar, whether it atop the city's plates or underneath where the slums and downtrodden call their home.

The problem with turning the approximately five hours that it took to get through the Midgar section of the original Final Fantasy VII and stretching it to a 30-40 hour experience is that there is a ton of padding and filler to be found. I don't just mean instances where Cloud must saunter slowly through corridor environments as he speaks to other characters, or squeeze through yet another tight gap. No, this includes entire chapters and sections of the game as well. The most notable of which is Cloud and company's return trip to the sewers. 

To make a long story--or in this case, chapter--short, the entire trip through the sewer is essentially for naught as the character you're trying to help already had in their possession what Cloud's party was seeking. Thus, it makes the entire excursion pointless other than to pad the length of the game further. Final Fantasy VII Remake is full of these moments and sections, which while I still very much love the game wholeheartedly, it does make return play-throughs occasionally challenging for me.

Marvel's Spider-Man (PS5, PS4)

There's no doubt in my mind that Insomniac Games's first take on making a game starring Marvel's iconic webhead was an amazing--nay, spectacular success. Web-slinging and soaring through the skies, streets, and expanses of New York City was an absolute blast, and the majority of Marvel's Spider-Man is top notch superhero action in video game form. Of course, there is a glaring piece of Insomniac's freshman offering that is highly criticized and notable for being less than amazing by comparison.

Feel free to just skim or skip this entirely if you know where I'm going and what I'm alluding to, as I'm really not going to make any original points here. Nonetheless, yes, for those in the know and those who guessed correctly, I'm talking about the mandatory stealth sections in Marvel's Spider-Man. These aren't horribly done, but they absolutely slow the pacing of the game to an absolute standstill. Some don't even make sense in the context of the game. I mean, is it really worth not being late for school to risk sneaking through a high security area where getting caught means serious repercussions to your health, Miles? I don't think so. On the subject of Miles Morales, Insomniac must have felt the same about the execution of the stealth sections in their original Spider-Man game (or at least caved in to the criticism), because their follow-up starring the awesome Miles Morales did not feature these types of stealth missions. While there was stealth in the sequel, getting caught did not fail the mission.

DOOM Eternal (Multi)

A game that seldom gives you time to catch your breath before throwing you into another intense firefight with Hell's demons, DOOM Eternal certainly turned up the dial to 11, and then proceeded to rip and tear that sucker off! The single-player campaign is a seriously exciting one, but that's not what I'm going to focus on for this particular "worst" thing about the game. Though, I could easily make an argument about that final boss. Oof.

No, instead I'm going to briefly delve into the all-new multiplayer mode introduced in DOOM Eternal. It pits two demons against the Slayer in a multi-round mode, where the objective is to eliminate the opposing side before they eliminate you. The demons have their own powers and special abilities, while the Slayer has their host of weapons available to them. However, this mode just didn't stick with me in the same way that DOOM's 2016 offering did. 

I definitely applaud the developers of the multiplayer component of DOOM Eternal for being as bold as to try something new instead of resting on their laurels. It's just that the execution is not to my personal liking, it was nowhere near as addictive or enjoyable, and I would have preferred a more iterative, improved version of the deathmatch multiplayer as seen in DOOM's 2016 showing.

Sackboy: A Big Adventure (PS5, PS4)

The runner-up for Game of the Year at last year's SuperPhillip Central Best of 2020 Awards, Sackboy: A Big Adventure enchanted me with excellent level design--which surprised and delighted me with every new level and concept introduced--tighter precision platforming than seen in the LittleBigPlanet series, and terrific multiplayer, which I enjoyed with my older brother.

There was so much to love about Sackboy's latest foray into platforming, but it wasn't entirely perfect. No, like past LittleBigPlanet games, there was some niggling issues that occasionally came up with regard to the collisions of the game. On some occasions, when Sackboy tries to grab onto an object, particularly when in midair, he won't do so. Instead, he'll bounce right off it. This sometimes happens on surfaces where Sackboy is launched feet-first on, meaning he can't realistically grab something with his hands and instead hits it with his feet. This resulted in some unfair deaths, but they happen so irregularly that it wasn't a severe issue for me. It is important to mention, nonetheless.

Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin (NSW, PC) Trailer 3

A new trailer for Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin soared onto the scene during Capcom's big Monster Hunter-focused presentation this morning. With it, comes fresh footage from the game detailing a lot of story elements for Stories 2. As an aside, if you have yet to play the original and wish to in the lead up to Monster Hunter Stories 2's July 9th release, I wholeheartedly encourage you to do so, whether by playing the Nintendo 3DS or mobile versions of the original game. In the meantime, check out the trailer below!

Monday, April 26, 2021

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart (PS5) Gameplay Trailer

Introducing... Rivet! The mysterious female lombax from another dimension finally has her name revealed with this all-new gameplay trailer for Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. There's more to come gameplay-wise as well, as on Thursday a brand-new State of Play featuring and focusing heavily on this newest entry in the Ratchet & Clank series will air! For the time being, marvel at this ultra impressive trailer for Rift Apart, launching on the PlayStation 5 on June 11th!

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Effie (NSW) Review

Sometimes I struggle with review taglines. I want to be clever, but it doesn't always work out. Then, there are those review taglines that just come to me like water from a stream. They're so obvious that I think I am cleverer than I actually am (which is reality, I am about as smart as a box of rocks). Regardless, with Effie on the Nintendo Switch, this tagline I am--and forgive me for tooting my own horn--especially proud of. It's just a shame that I had to write it in the first place, as the game looks like a winner on other platforms... except this Nintendo Switch port, the subject of SPC's latest review.

An unpolished port that will make you go, "What The Effie?!" 

Originally releasing in 2019, Effie is a game that plays out with an older man telling a tale to Effie, a young child. The tale is one of a man named Galand, who upon neglecting to help an elderly lady due to his own laziness, finds himself cursed with an older appearance. In a journey to recapture his lost youth, Galand must go on an adventure to free three cities from corruption by reclaiming Gems of Evil in each destination, as well as defeat the witch that cursed him. 

A hero like Galand is only as good as his weapon, and Galand has one seriously versatile weapon in his repertoire: a magical shield. It's great for attacking, sure, but it also serves a role as a means of traversal in the hub world. Galand can hop on his shield and ride it like a hoverboard of sorts. It's a bit clumsy to control, but otherwise it gets the job done serviceably enough. The hub world itself is open to free explore, containing the major cities that Galand needs to free from the witch's clutches, but also various side content as well. There are fortresses and enemy encampments, towers to scale, and shield races to participate in. The latter are somewhat unwieldy due to both the handling of the shield and the total lack of an arrow to point in the general direction the next waypoint is located. 

Horses are SO passé. The cool way to travel is to surf on one's shield!

While the overworld exploration is competent enough, it's when Galand enters into the three cities that Effie as a game truly shines. These are large, expansive, exploration-filled areas complete with plenty of platforming challenges to test your hand-eye coordination and puzzles to wrap your head around. Areas are designed relatively well, offering a nice amount of traveling off the beaten path to reveal hidden treasures--the most rare of which being relics. Relics are basically log entries to expand the game world's lore and do little else. Still, it is fun to uncover a gold chest containing these relics, but in the Switch version there is no real motivation to do so, since achievements don't exist. 

Don't pull an Augustus Gloop and fall into that dangerous water, Galand!

In each city of the game, formerly home to friendly faces but now infested with baddies of all types, Galand can learn a new shield skill. These range from a dash that can be used to get around faster and gain extra "oomph" to carry him over chasms that are otherwise impossible to cross, to two different shield attacks. One of these throws the shield around in a circular pattern like a discus, while the other performs a quake-like move in a cone-shaped pattern spreading outward to damage enemies. 

Galand decides to take his shield out for a spin.

This leads to one of the glaring issues with Effie, and that's with the game's combat. Combat is extremely sloppy, and this results in the best recourse being to simply button-mash for the most part with an occasional manual evasion to regroup and recover. By the time I received the improved shield attacks, combat went from boring and somewhat tedious to completely effortless. All it took to defeat most small enemies was a throw of the shield as a discus or a shot of the quake attack. Sure, these moves consume magic, but acquiring rune energy from either runes themselves or defeat enemies makes running out of magic a moot concern.

For what it does right with exploration and level design, combat isn't really one of Effie's strong suits.

At the conclusion of each city's combination of platforming, puzzle-solving, exploration, and key-fetching, there is a boss encounter. It's similar to Sonic the Hedgehog in how you're facing the same boss every time--in this case, the witch who cursed poor Galand, but each encounter is unique in how you have to approach it. Well... sort of, unique. A fair number of encounters involve battling enemies while avoiding the witch's attacks, while others involve performing precarious platforming to make Galand's way to various switches to ultimately deal damage to the witch. Fortunately, checkpoints are common in these battles, coming after every piece of damage Galand delivers to the witch.

That said, there is an even more glaring issue with Effie than the combat. For one, the game does NOT allow manual saving. The game saves at certain points automatically, such as reaching certain points in the game and when Galand perishes. However, I had to learn this the hard way, when I entered the first major city of Galand's adventure, made my way to the first windmill, and was greeted with a floor I feel through because the game hadn't properly loaded the area. I was trapped underneath where the game should have loaded the level, meaning I had no choice but to quit the game. Imagine my "amusement" when I discovered the game last auto-saved my data 30 minutes prior. Thus, I had to do that whole city all over again from the beginning. 

This wasn't even the only instance of a glitch ruining my enjoyment of Ellie. On more than one occasion, when Galand fell in a pit, he didn't die like he was supposed to. Instead, he just stood there, and not even the option to pause and quit the game was possible, as the game was in a state of purgatory essentially. I had to quit out of the game to the Switch menu and reload my save. Plus, when deaths actually DID function correctly, they were still obnoxious due to the 20-30 seconds it took to reload the game to a checkpoint.

But, that isn't the worst of Ellie, at least with this Nintendo Switch port of the game. Ellie on the Switch is a totally unoptimized game, struggling to hold its frame-rate and oftentimes diving into slideshow territory. It sometimes made otherwise simple platforming an agonizing thing to do at best, and at worst, it was legitimately headache-inducing for me. It's just not a well optimized port for the Nintendo Switch, and that's a darn shame, as what's here with the gameplay and level design is enjoyable. Truly, it is. 

Unfortunately, these screens aren't exactly representative of the Nintendo Switch version of Effie
 and the game's poor performance on the system.

Furthermore, Ellie is just not a good looker on the Switch either. In docked mode, textures are fuzzy and blurry, and in undocked mode/handheld play, they're even more of a mess. The screens you see in this review are far too clean and crisp to have come from the Nintendo Switch version of the game. That said, there is a bright spot to the presentation, and that concerns the audio. It's amusing and entertaining to have the old man narrate throughout the story, even during gameplay itself. I like how if Galand dies or somehow fails, the narrator will exclaim, "No! That's not how the story happened!" It's cleverly done. The music, as well, while nothing that sticks with me after playing, fit the fantasy world of Ellie wonderfully.

Sadly, while Ellie is most likely a thoroughly enjoyable, if not short, adventure on other platforms, it simply is not that enjoyable on the Switch. The game is simply put, a technical mess in need of some serious fixing in the frame-rate and the bug department. It's wholly unpolished, which sadly is far too common an occurrence when it comes to ports from other platforms to the Switch. I do recommend Ellie--but with a HUGE caveat that it be for platforms other than the Switch, because what's here is just not worth it. It's a real shame, too, as I genuinely had fun playing Ellie on the Switch despite this port's problems.

[SPC Says: C-]

A code was received by SPC from the publisher for the purpose of writing this review.