This week’s Nindie round up features a delightful array of genres that’ll take you from role-playing as a light-hearted baker to a psychotic murderer. We have slasher strategy in Party Hard, a simplistic gravity manipulation platforming in Dexteritrip, a retro 8-bit platformer in Kuso, an anime-infused cooking sim in Waku Waku Sweets and a rhythm puzzler (also featuring anime inspiration) in Akihabara - Feel the Rhythm Remixed. Not a single 'thumbs down' in sight this week, so all five will at least appeal to someone.
Without further ado, here are this week’s impressions:
Despite the deeply grim premise of playing as a house party slasher, Party Hard somehow manages to craft its concept into an amusingly horrific top-down stealth strategy game. You play as a chap called Darius who goes on the killing spree for the disturbingly trivial reason of ‘just wanting to get some sleep.’ His crusade leads you to a number of levels, through different house parties, all with large amounts of guests for you to silence. It’s morbid as heck, but is combined with a sense of humour that is as dark as it is quirky, which somehow works.
The pixilated gameplay is equally quirky, with an emphasis on stealth and creativity. You have an extensive horde of victims to get through and are encouraged to slay in as many interesting ways as possible. You can, of course, just stab your way through the party and dispose of the bodies, but the real fun comes from spooking a horse and delivering a drunken party goer a fatal kick to the head. The options are vast, including, but not limited to; burning down the house, causing electrical failure and rigging an exploding oven. And that’s just the first stage! Later levels provide even crazier options that help to keep things fresh.
Unfortunately, monotony can sink in quickly, as despite the number of creative ways to kill, this will be your only task. It’s a slow burn too, as you have to take your time on each stage, though this does admittedly add to the tension, incentivising you to be more careful and less all-guns (or knives) blazing. The potential for boredom is there, but the reward of finally killing all patrons after taking your time is a strong reward. Additionally, the mixture of an upbeat techno soundtrack, hilariously shocking gameplay and decent number of unlockable extras – as well as a fun multiplayer mode – make this a fine (if sometimes samey) experience.
Verdict: Thumbs Up
A simplistic yet fun platform game, Dexteritrip takes a minimalistic approach to its presentation and focuses on increasingly difficult platforming-problem solving gameplay in two distinct modes. Each feels unique enough to justify its existence as a separate entity, giving a seemingly simple indie title a little more depth. The art style is incredibly basic, but looks smooth and serves its purpose, contrasting basic avatar design with beautiful bright colours that give it a really cool techno-space vibe.
The first of the modes is ‘kill them all’, which has you traversing through basic, blocky levels, collecting orbs and stomping on blocks Mario-style, with the aim being to kill all of the enemies on each level. The challenge comes from the number of times you can jump being tied to the number of lives you have, so every jump counts. Unfortunately, the jump physics are rather frustrating, with landings being challenging to stick.
Fortunately, you also have the ability to warp gravity, which often makes for a far more reliable stomp. You’ll also need to take advantage of this power to navigate the puzzles, which means the game almost resembles a severely stripped-back version of Portal in some places. Multiplayer takes the form of co-op, with two players working together with separate lives to achieve the same purpose. It makes things a little easier, as you can distract some enemies while the other player racks up the kills. The use of dual Joy-Con also seems perfectly suited to the simple nature of the controls.
The other mode, ‘keep the flow’, is also fun. It focuses on your button pushing skills as you take your block through increasingly tough floating mazes, a la Flappy Birds, but with enough changing obstacles to make it engaging and unrepetitive. This is also where vs. multiplayer lies, which also works, adding another layer of tension. All in all, the simple yet addictive style of Dexteritrip makes it a great time killer, with its well thought out gameplay making up for some weak presentation.
Verdict: Thumbs up
An 8-bit platformer that revels in being ‘NES hard,’ Kuso is an enjoyable challenge, despite how rudimentary the gameplay and aesthetics may seem. Taking inspiration from a plethora of platforming titles, Kuso seems to owe most of its identity to the Mega Man series. The long, maze-like levels with tough jumps and even the future-tech setting positively reek of the Blue Bomber.
The gameplay is as basic as one can imagine, with the only functions being jumping as well as checkpoint and respawn features. This makes some of the more challenging areas slightly more forgiving, as you can use the checkpoint button to save while positioned on a block before a tough jump. While this does make death a tad meaningless, it keeps the game's pace rapid, with instantaneous respawns and multiple fatalities aplenty. The two-player mode also offers a great split-screen experience, with a vs. mode that has you racing to the finish. It’s simple stuff, but works, and again makes use of the dual Joy-Con as the best interface option, due to how rudimentary the controls are.
Visually, it isn’t much to write home about, but likewise, it doesn’t strive to be anything more than an 8-bit throwback. You play as a barely identifiable avatar and traverse simple yet effective landscapes while avoiding hazards made of block white. The soundtrack is also great, with a yet another techno vibe, creating a well-crafted score that compliments the swift pace of the action. Overall, Kuso knows what it is and delivers on its goals. It’s hard, fast and fun, and will provide a visual nostalgia trip for lovers of hardcore platformers and NES-style visuals.
Verdict: Thumbs up
A 3DS port with some funky new motion controls, Waku Waku Sweets is this year’s answer to Cooking Mama, albeit with a dessert-based focus. You play as a young girl called Lime, an amateur baker of sweets and other confectionaries who strives to be the next Mary Berry, beginning her trade in the Fil Rouge patisserie. You can go about this the more traditional way by earning coins by completing baking jobs. You can also, however, take the advice of Lime’s talking rabbit companion, Paffi and cook to increase the happiness of the townsfolk, which will give Paffi enough power to grant her wish of being the very best. If it sounds silly, that’s because it is, but the nauseatingly upbeat anime plot manages to keep it cute, if a bit dialogue heavy.
By replacing the stylus controls with the motion of the Joy-Con, the responsiveness can sometimes be a little temperamental. The game advises you upon booting up that Joy-Con are the way forward, though you’ll have far less potential for problems using the Pro Controller instead. The minigames themselves are usually well thought out and span a vast array of different dishes from different countries, with over 100 to choose from. This keeps things generally fresh, though not all minigames are created equally, with the odd one being a repeat or a dud. Still, the number of recipes to buy or unlock creates a solid reward system that makes the less engaging bakes feel worthwhile.
The ultimate goal is easily achievable with low stakes and incredibly one-dimensional characters that offer little conflict, but progression is at least offered via story mode. Waku Waku Sweets will absolutely not be to everyone’s taste, hence the 'maybe' rating. However, much like a chef’s speciality dessert, it’ll be devoured by fans of its distinctive happy-go-lucky visual style and those who enjoy the cooking sim genre. As is, its lack of challenge, silly plot and niche visual style make it difficult to recommend to everyone, but it certainly isn’t without merit.
A fun one to finish off this week’s Nindie Round Up; Akihabara - Feel the Rhythm Remixed is a blend of a puzzle game and rhythm action with a focus on precision timing that has to be juggled with its Tetris-influenced gameplay. Also featured are an anime-inspired aesthetic and a techno soundtrack that gets you appropriately pumped and rhythmically involved while playing.
Gameplay involves dropping two blocks which can be swapped around horizontally. The idea is then to line up four or five of the same kind of block in a row to remove them. The rhythm aspect then comes into play as you destroy the rows by hitting a white line that glides across the screen, hovering over the row you wish to obliterate. The skill factor comes from hitting the row in time with the music as for maximum points. It’s a simple formula, but one that gets addictive quite quickly and manages to make you think, as you must prioritise whether you focus on the two falling blocks or the white rhythm line. As you progress through the campaign, you’ll learn to juggle the two and improve at managing timing with block choice. You are also limited to using the d-pad rather than the joystick, though this is the optimal choice considering the static gameplay.
While the concept is unique, the presentation is a bit lacklustre. The anime images are bland and generic and even the colour palette looks a tad washed-out at times. The soundtrack, however, is groovy as heck and offers you three albums to choose from, each with ten tracks, which can be played in an arcade-style mode after completing the campaign. All in all, Akihabara is a fun blend of genres that uses its Tetris-inspired roots to produce some fine puzzling. However, the lack of modes, repetitive gameplay and poor presentation make this one for the more hardcore puzzle fans alone.
So those are this week's games - will you be picking any of these up? Let us know with a comment below.