I thought I might take some time to write about a recently-released 3 minute video that basically serves the purpose of an elevator pitch. Without further ado, here are my opinions on the Nintendo Switch:
The Nintendo Switch
To start things off, Umihara Kawase is a platformer from 1994, released for the Super Nintendo exclusively in Japan. Like many Japanese games, it has a very light and cheery tone among extremely tight and challenging gameplay. Your main mechanic, outside of moving and jumping, is a hook and rope you can attach to almost all surfaces. Once the rope is attached to a wall, you can swing from it and pull yourself up or down, while maintaining momentum. This rope can also be used to kill the fish-themed enemies that inhabit the surreal landscapes you are tasked to traverse. After hitting an oversized, walking fish with the hook, you can pull it in, removing it from the field and gaining points. The best part of Umihara Kawase, however, is the level progression. Each level is exited by entering a door, but sometimes there are more than one of them. This means there are multiple routes to the exit, enhancing replayability and encouraging exploration. That swinging mechanic comes in use here; a door that will put you further ahead may be in a riskier spot. There can even be multiple paths to one door. Instead of climbing over a large structure, why not go under? The open areas and swinging momentum gameplay give countless ways to improve times and perfect paths. Umihara Kawase was released on Windows in western regions a year ago, but emulation of the original works just as fine.
Nelson Tethers: Puzzle Agent is a puzzle adventure game released in 2010, right at home with Professor Layton. A joint effort between Telltale games and Graham Annable’s Grickle universe, the game mixes a somewhat disturbing story with humorous dialogue and interaction. The story follows Nelson Tethers, a member of the Puzzle Research Division of the FBI, on a field mission to investigate a shut-down eraser factory in Scoggins, a sleepy town in Minnesota. It just so happens that the people of Scoggins love puzzles, so Nelson has to overcome a series of these to find the real story behind the eraser factory (and the rest of the town). The puzzles in the game are generally well-constructed, in the sweet spot between easy and hard. Naturally, later puzzles are more difficult than earlier puzzles, and a handful of them build off of each other, or add twists to puzzles you solved in the past. You’re employed by the government, so each time you fail, you rack up more taxpayer dollars. Hints can be requested, represented by pieces of gum (it helps Nelson think). More pieces of gum can be collected by finding used pieces stuck to walls, tables, or various objects. Hey, don’t complain about how nasty that is, beggars can’t be choosers.
Finally, Teleglitch is a 2013 survival horror top-down procedural death labyrinth shooter by Test3 Projects. The indie roguelike-like genre may be a little bloated, but Teleglitch is definitely uses its procedural levels and pixel graphics to its benefit. First, the combat is very tight and quick-paced, reminiscent of Hotline Miami. Melee combat lets you strike quickly by mashing the left mouse button, but leaves you open to attack and has a very small hitbox. Holding the right mouse button brings up a gun, if equipped, shows an aiming line and slows down player movement speed. Firing the gun almost always delivers a powerful bang (more on the sound later) and a shake of the screen, and the bullet follows a predictable trajectory, so accuracy is mostly determined by player skill and not by luck. Explosives can be operated in a similar way, though there is a fuse which must be accounted for.
The game’s strengths carry beyond combat, with a wide selection of items to hoard and craft. Various weapons, powerups, and health items can be crafted at any time, with items found around each level. Since each level layout is randomly generated with different side-rooms and secrets, foraging for crafting materials rarely gets boring. These items will help get an edge on opponents in later levels. The levels are fairly traditional, usually with one exit. The layout generation pattern and assets are fairly distinct from level to level, so the fatigue usually generated by seeing the same reused patterns is diminished. Boss fights pose a big threat, encouraging proper preparation, and optional computer terminals fill you in on the backstory.
Now for the sound. This game can be traumatizing with its sound, especially with how the volume is mixed. Footsteps and ambient noises are quiet, and what is listened to 90% of the time, but gunshots, enemy noises, generators, and other various events are much louder in proportion. Later levels throw small rooms with multiple exits in a chain, so enemies could come from any one of the exits, and you can hear the doors move from beyond the current room as the enemies get closer and closer. This traumatizing effect happens when you hear the doors open closer and closer, resulting in a very loud, powerful, and nerve-wracking battle between multiple extremely powerful enemies.
I haven’t even beaten the game yet (I don’t claim to be particularly good at games), but it’s a game I keep coming back to for this reason. Teleglitch was free on humble bundle a while back, which is surprising, because that’s usually a spot for a game to play for an hour before uninstalling. Despite the game’s aspects that follow the stereotypical indie game to a T, this game has a lot of love put behind it, and it shines through the gameplay.