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Reuben Henderson spent his summer reviewing nindies (Nintendo indies) to see if the Switch lived up to its promise as the indie console to own. This week he reviewed 'Deer God', 'Thimbleweed Park' and 'Night in the Woods'.
This wee platformer is a whimsical game that strives for simplicity in it’s play, allowing ease of access to all players but trading off mechanical depth. Ultimately it is successful, with beautiful pixel art graphics and a stunning soundtrack carrying the player through simple objectives offered by in game NPCs. The basic premise of the game has you playing as a hunter reincarnated by the deer God to atone for the deaths of deer kind, and aside from the light story elements accompanying your game objectives, that is the brunt of the story. The player spends almost the entire game running from the left of the screen to the right, vanquishing the occasional boss and attaining unsophisticated power-ups along the way. Deer God’s straightforward nature belies the games satisfying loop, which is hypnotic in its feel. Occasional lighting issues were a source of disappointment, making the platforming unduly punishing in certain areas, but given the overall lack of a challenge, such set backs were hardly debilitating. This game is perfect for anyone new to gaming, or anybody who is interested in artistic approaches to the medium. While eminently worth playing for the uniqueness of its simple approach, gamers looking for a challenge best steer clear.
★★★ (three stars)
Point and click adventures reached prevalence in the late '80s and early '90s, but their clunky interfaces have seen them fall out of favour with modern gamers. Though Thimbleweed Park fails to overcome these issues, it also showcases the genre at its finest, with its humour and quirkiness far overcoming its technical failings. The narrative is ostensibly centred around an unsolved murder in the town of Thimbleweed. Players take control of town inhabitants in order to elucidate the mysterious circumstances of the death, collecting clues, conversing with NPCs and exploring the township in order to progress the game to a baffling and original ending. It is relentlessly funny, with endearing characters and some of the most memorably disarming events in memory. The game was created by the makers of The Secret of Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion, my two all time favourite point and click adventures, and more than lives up to the high standards of these well loved games. Occasionally obscure game objectives were frustrating, and might put some players off – fans of the genre, however, will find such issues familiar, and I can hardly fault the game for sticking to its pedigree. I finished the game on casual mode, but with the hard mode boasting additional puzzles, characters, locations and story branches, I will be returning to Thimbleweed Park for more. Not for the faint of heart, but an immaculate game at the pinnacle of its genre.
★★★★ (four stars)
Night in the Woods
Night in the Woods is the first full-length game from independent games studio Infinite Fall, and what an opener it is! Packaged in a lovingly crafted world replete with colourful settings, characters and diversions, this game handles tough themes deftly, resulting in an emotionally engaging, near perfect debut. Story-driven, the game relies mainly on dialogue options and similar player decisions to drive the narrative forward, with light platforming elements along the way. Night in the Woods stays fresh throughout, offering diversions like a Guitar Hero-style rhythm mini-game and a top-down hack and slash dungeon crawler cleverly worked into the fabric of the game. What really keeps the game rolling is the characters, who are so fleshed-out the player could be forgiven for mistaking them for real people, despite their cartoon appearance. Character development throughout the game rivals some of the best writing in film and television, and will stick with players well after the game is completed. The game is short though, and could be completed in one sitting if so desired. Coupled with the scant different endings available (two, or three for the completionists among us), this game could be criticised for lack of replayability. However, this would be a disservice, as the many optional events and character interactions along the way add to the depth of the story being told, giving a unique flavour to each play through and rewarding the player with some of the funniest and most thought-provoking experiences of the game. There is no challenge to the game at any point, which depending on your style of play could be considered a fault. It makes the game accessible to all players however, which is a strength for a game centred on a compelling story. Night in the Woods is simple yet deep, emotional yet funny, and sacrifices none of these elements in favour of others. It is an example to other narrative-based games on how to emotionally engage an audience, and will have a place in my heart alongside the best of the best in video games.
★★★★★ (five stars)