If you can’t afford Super Smash Bros. Ultimate this Friday, then perhaps you’ll prefer something indie-flavoured to entertain you. This week, we have mediocre puzzling that belongs on iOS/Android in Soap Dodgem, point and click fun in Paris with Demetrios: The Big Cynical Adventure, combos galore in beat em’ up I am the Hero, a beautiful but criminally short adaption of the novel of the same name in Storm Boy, and finally, brilliant FPS multiplayer in Screencheat: Unplugged, which finally arrives on Switch. All set? Then let's begin.
A puzzle game that has you cleaning up stains and germs from the sink, Soap Dodgem is a classic example of a simple, Angry Birds-esque game that is born to be a time killer. While it controls fine on Switch, it still feels out of place thanks to its repetitive and rudimentary puzzle gameplay. While there is a level creator option which works quite well and does include player-created levels to try, the core game has little to offer and gets boring real fast.
Each level has you removing stains, sticking to a gridlocked template that allows you to travel straight up, down, left or right, with obstacles to block your path to the end square. While there is variety within the obstacles which increases the difficulty, Soap Dodgem remains incredibly basic and lacks any depth. Like many iOS and Android games, you’re able to complete each stage with a lower ranking if you miss any stains, allowing perfectionists to rinse-and-repeat (no pun intended) to get the coveted three-star rating. The gameplay can best be described as essentially being increasingly difficult variations on the ice slide puzzles from Pokémon Gold, Silver and Crystal, which themselves could be very frustrating.
In review, Soap Dodgem is perfectly functional as a five-minute app to get you through your train journey but doesn’t feel worthy of a console port. The simplistic gameplay may give you some challenge in navigating its increasingly difficult puzzles, but there simply isn’t enough here to recommend.
An enjoyably crude and dark point-and-click venture, Demetrios lives up to its title by providing a sarcastic, nasty story with a hefty amount of detail in its dialogue. You play as Bjorn, an unlikable protagonist who becomes the victim of a break-in, assault and theft. It’s then up to you to navigate between his bachelor pad and various other locations to investigate via points and clicks.
It’s cool to see a game of this genre satirised in this way, with a carefree, self-parodying vibe running throughout. In fact, every character is pretty vile – including the one you're playing as – giving us no one to root for and successfully making us cynical to the whole experience. Bjorn himself is a typical man-child, living a slobby life while running an antique shop; sure, he isn’t the first unappealing playable character in a video game, but his sheer ignorance is a joy to laugh at. Demetrios wants to appeal to a smutty and dark sense of humour, and it achieves that.
The story is obviously the most appealing element, with the point-and-click gameplay being pretty standard fare. If you’ve played anything from the genre before then you won’t find anything new with Demetrios. However, this almost feels intentional, as the game pokes fun at the stereotypical characters and plot points, as well as the mechanics themselves. The art style is also pretty nice, with the comic book panels working alongside the plain-looking characters and detailed settings. Each item in a room has a shockingly large amount of text associated with it, so you can read for hours if you want to get the full breakdown on everything.
While not a revolution in the genre, the crude humour and amusing story keep Demetrios feeling fresh and fun. While it won’t be to everyone’s tastes, if you’re a fan of cynical commentary and games that self-satire, then you won’t go far wrong here.
An interesting beat em’ up that pays homage to the greats like Streets of Rage by having you play as a mostly anonymous hero taking down an evil organisation, creatively named, ‘evil ideas.’ I am the Hero lacks in story, with a quick, basic intro cutscene, though this isn’t much of a detriment as the focus is firmly on the action-packed, combo building fun.
You traverse 16-bit, 2D levels in typical retro style, clearing the screen of enemies before being able to progress, eventually coming face to face with a unique end of level boss. The interesting part comes from the combos available, which, while not unheard of in the genre, closely echo fighting game combinations, making for a unique experience. You can perform unique button commands and experiment by mixing them up for a large number combo while fighting the horde of enemies. Beating a level will allow you to choose between unlocking further secret moves, or additional characters, who all have their own unique attacks and special abilities.
I am the Hero is aesthetically pleasing, with its pixilated characters at home on the SNES. The soundtrack also keeps you pumped, with a steady beat that compliments the fast combo-building pace. There are occasional lag issues sprinkled around when enemies start to swarm the screen and particularly when you knock multiple foes into a wall. This is especially evident in co-op multiplayer, which only doubles the amount of chaos on the screen. However, this is a minor fault in an effective beat em’ up with layers of depth. While some may find it a tad on the easy side and lacking in story, the unlockables, great visuals and just plain fun combo-building make it a great time.
This interactive story game is based on the 1964 children’s book of the same name by Colin Thiele. It retells the key events of the novel with a beautiful visual style but short run time. That said, it’s certainly something different and manages to generate a strong emotional response and ‘the feels’ with its compelling story of boy and Pelican.
The gameplay is largely a 2D race to the right of the screen, chronicling the main story beats in text over the action. There are mini-games to be found, including a ball-throwing game, a flight section and the opportunity to take a raft out and go diving. None of these present much of a challenge and can actually all be skipped, but they’re still charming. Their aim is clearly to immerse the player further into this world, to which they succeed. This is complemented by a gorgeous hand-drawn art style that evokes classic children’s illustrations, making the beach setting all the more appealing, even during the titular storms. There are, however, some graphical issues, with textures not always rendering properly. In addition, though the mini-games are charming, their controls are stiff and unintuitive. Though the story told is gorgeous, most of the gameplay elements are unfortunately lacking.
In review, Storm Boy is a compelling emotional tale that has a phenomenal soundtrack that will get even the stoniest heart tearing up. It’s gorgeously presented and is a wonderful piece of interactive art, but its length severely diminishes its value. If you rush through, you can finish the game within ten minutes. However, writing it off entirely would be doing a disservice to its brilliant atmosphere and immersive plot. If you’re a fan of story-driven experiences and gorgeous soundtracks, then you may wish to check it out.
An old steam favourite finally comes to the Switch, delivering all of its split-screen glory. Screencheat: Unplugged takes the classic complaint of ‘screen watching’ in first person shooters and rolls with it, using it as its main mechanic. It’s exclusively multiplayer, though you can play alone with bots. The premise is simple: you kill one another and the most kills wins. So, what’s the catch? You’re all invisible and you have to rely on screen-watching to find your opponents.
The brilliantly simple concept turns into multiplayer chaos and incredible fun, especially as you gain more XP from matches to unlock further weapons, gameplay modes and maps. Screencheat has each map split into different coloured segments, allowing for an easier way of establishing location. This basic concept is brilliantly fluid and presents some of the tensest and most nerve-racking FPS matches going. The colours may help at first, but experienced players who know their way around the maps will clean house, so learning the layouts becomes essential for more advanced play. As you improve, the game rewards you with even weirder weapons, including a fatal melee Candlestick and a ‘Bear Bomb.’
Screencheat is highly recommended and will provide hours and hours of multiplayer fun. The matches might start off basic, but you’ll be itching to unlock more and more content to dial the crazy factor up to eleven. This is a great concept with smooth gameplay that culminates in really enjoyable multiplayer pandemonium.
A lovely selection of Nindie games for you this week - but will you be picking any of these up? Let us know with a comment below.