Those of you who have been visiting Nintendo Life since the days of the Wii and Wii U will have no doubt noticed that we're struggling to cover all of the content that hits the eShop each week. While we used to review every single game that arrived on the Wii U and 3DS, the avalanche of games coming to Switch means we simply can't hope to keep up. With that in mind, we've decided to introduce the Nindie Round-Up, which - while not totally solving this problem - should help us give wider coverage to more eShop games.
In each Nindie Round-Up, we'll give short impressions of various eShop games to help you make up your mind about a potential a purchase. Each entry comes with a 'yay, nay or maybe'. If a title is worth a look, it'll be given the coveted Thumbs Up. If it isn't so hot and might not be worth the time it takes to download, it'll get a Thumbs Down. If it's up in the air and could appeal to a niché crowd, it'll get a Maybe.
Hopefully that all makes sense - now let's take a look what this week has to offer...
A standard arcade shoot-a-thon, The Bug Butcher has you slaying hordes of ugly enemies resembling rejected Pokémon designs within a time limit, allowing you to take only a few hits. It’s standard wave-based fare, though the lack of an option to shoot horizontally as well as vertically is a bit of a surprise when you first boot up. After a few minutes of play, however, you’ll get the hang of it and find a simple shooter that grows appropriately harder as you progress and the hordes get increasingly larger, bigger and tougher. You’re of course armed with an array of power-ups which are generously dispensed, especially on easier difficulties. A particular joy is getting the laser beam that shoots straight up, allowing for a quick sweep of the room. After a certain number of kills, you’ll be rewarded with a brief 'God' mode, bestowing invincibility and a faster strain of fire upon you. The Butcher also has a sweet dash at his disposal, which can be useful for tight spots.
The game modes are split into three sections, with the section dubbed 'Arcade Mode' strangely acting as the main story. The other two modes are what you’d commonly refer to as an 'arcade' mode, here dubbed Panic Mode. It essentially has you fighting waves with no context, instead inviting you to make your way through a variety of different stages. The third is Panic Mode again, but with co-op, which is pretty much unchanged from the base mode, except with two players.
Presentation-wise, it’s ok, but not great. The art style harkens to Saturday morning cartoons, but the alien designs are bland and unoriginal. It’s also jarring how the enemies are generic aliens/monsters rather than resembling the titular bugs. The sarcastic dialogue between the Butcher and the Scientist gives our protagonist a little more personality and the Animal Crossing-inspired chibi sounds they make in place of words renders it that bit more amusing. Overall, The Bug Butcher is enjoyable but forgettable.
Well, you can’t say it doesn’t do what it says on the tin. RocketsRocketsRockets is a simple but surprisingly addictive competitive arcade shooter with a really pretty visual style, a banging soundtrack and great multiplayer action. After choosing your rocket, your goal is to land three hits on your opponent(s) by utilising your artillery of forward-shooting missiles and rear-facing mines. You have the ability to perform a small boost which keeps action frantic and is further complemented by the modest art style; the frame rate never falters, keeping gameplay sublime and smooth.
Multiplayer is where the action really heats up, however, leading to intense confrontations and rematches that’ll have you saying ‘just one more game’ several times over. Using one Joy-Con is simple and effective and due to the rudimentary arcade style, almost feels preferable to using both.
The game unfortunately doesn’t offer many modes and the basic deathmatch mode in a shallow pool of stages is all you’re going to get. There are single matches against the CPU, though it’s clear this is made to be played with friends. The only other modes are a standard tournament set up for multiplayer and 'Zen' mode. This is a bizarre yet pleasant addition that has you doing… well, nothing. You’re free to roam around a map and use your stream to literally colour in the sky while listening to the tranquil soundtrack. It’s a strange addition that proposes itself as a meditation tool, of sorts. You can even be zen with a friend. The option to change the music on the menu and skip between tracks is also a nice bonus.
The strange addition of Zen mode, a pleasing aesthetic and a smooth menu interface give RocketsRocketsRockets far more personality than you’d think its generic title would afford. Simple, enjoyable matches make this a great pick to play with friends, despite a weak single-player offering.
Verdict: Thumbs Up
An unexpected gem, Escape Doodland is an on-rails platformer that has you constantly outrunning a kaiju-sized creature by the power of sheer determination and flatulence. Its premise is simple, its art style hilarious and its gameplay devilish. You play as a chap called Steve, though other characters are available from the shop following the successful completion of levels and the cashing in of beans, matches and other collectables found during gameplay.
Tongue-in-cheek is the name of the game here, with the silly, crude art style being matched by an equally mischievous sense of humour. The game establishes itself by offering you the difficulty levels of 'hard' and 'harder', delivering on that promise thoroughly. A slightly mistimed jump, fart or dash fart can spell a frustrating end, taking you back to either the start of the level, or one of the fairly distributed checkpoints. This becomes the game's main issue, however, as deaths can sometimes feel a little cheap and frustrating, rather than deserved. As a result, the levels can become an exercise in trial and error, as you sail through the earlier parts you’ve nailed in order to make it back to that one jump that got you.
Despite utilising a rudimentary list of controls, the charming and irreverent tone of Escape Doodland makes it really quite entertaining and genuinely funny. The touch of having Steve shout ‘no’ in his silly high voice as the monster closes in for the kill is delightfully grim. Despite the slightly frustrating elements, Doodland ‘escapes’ the clutches of mediocrity thanks to its smooth physics, subtle wit and memorable art style.
Verdict: Thumbs Up
Fans of both the decaf latte and the beat ‘em up genre can rejoice, thanks to Coffee Crisis. Taking control of either Nick or Ashley, both of whom are skilled baristas, this offering from Mega Cat Studios (previously available on the Sega Mega Drive / Genesis) has you taking on hordes of enemies with special moves aplenty to navigate the insane, self-referential plot. The premise includes aliens, the deep web and coffee bean-based skills and power-ups, just to name a few. The narrative is told in short cutscenes either spliced with in-game action or as still images, harkening back to the 16-bit style.
Gameplay wise, it’s what you’d expect from a beat ‘em up. It plays very similarly to retro titles like Golden Axe or Streets of Rage, with stilted, stiff walking animations, jumping and an attack button that can be charged for a greater hit. There are also the aforementioned special moves which, again typical of the genre, can be used at the cost of a fair chunk of health. Also typical is the arcade-level difficulty, which isn’t held back. The curve may be steep, but even for those new to beat ‘em ups, it’s very easy to get to grips with the controls and after a while, you’ll have adjusted to its 'tough love' approach.
Coffee Crisis is a great throwback to arcade beat ‘em ups of the early '90s. Its 16-bit aesthetic screams retro Sega, though we would’ve preferred a traditional chiptune soundtrack truly reminiscent of the Mega Drive, rather than the heavy rock score the developers have opted for. This doesn’t take away from the polished style and traditional gameplay, however. Combined with the quirky story and indie humour, this promises a great time.
Verdict: Thumbs Up
Perhaps the most realistic police game ever, this simulation puts you behind the camera and the phone, allowing you to take calls, instruct the emergency services and prioritise incidents based on their severity. It’s all done from a top-down perspective of the map, showing you where your units are patrolling, with blue, red and white incidents popping up over the course of a game, requiring specific services for each.
The gameplay is good and allows a steady build of tension as the night progresses and more and more incidents appear, with limited units to dispatch. You must make the call (literally) and decide whether the cat stuck up the tree is of higher priority for the fire brigade than the burning house down the road. Of course, rejecting an incident will hurt your reputation, so it’s a balancing act. Incidents, however, are not just limited to flashing icons on the screen, as you must also take calls and handle them appropriately. The calls are incredibly lifelike and encourage you to actually act responsibly; whether that be scolding an irresponsible pocket dial, or trying to decipher information from a man slowly losing breath while stuck underneath a car. It doesn’t glamourise or make light of the situations it presents, which is both admirable and educational. However, this does make the game a tad repetitive. After you’ve been playing for a while, you’ll have likely taken the same call a handful of times.
Presentation wise, it’s a bit dull. It’s a very basic map screen, with stock generic icons representing each of the three services. Their paths are represented via lines on the screen which are incredibly thin, so it might be preferable to play this on the TV, rather than the Switch screen. That also goes for the audio, which can be a little hard to hear when projected from the console speakers. On the whole, however, 911 Operator is a fun way to pass the time and its realistic depictions of how to use the emergency services make it all the more commendable. It is, however, repetitive and may not be picked up again after an initial play-through.