Hello gentle readers, and welcome to the SwitchArcade Round-Up for February 1st, 2019. February is usually a quiet month for new releases, but as I’m sure you’re all aware of by now, there’s no stopping the Switch train. Today we’ve got a couple of reviews of new games, some summaries of the rest of the new releases for today, some big new sales, and more. It’s another jam-packed installment, so let’s get into it!
There’s a little too much to cover in the other sections again today, so I’ll be just running through a quick summary of the most important news here in one paragraph. Modern Combat Blackout and Sky Gamblers: Afterburner will be heading to Switch in the coming weeks, with both franchises surely familiar to TouchArcade readers. Darksiders: Warmastered Edition, the remaster of the original Darksiders, will come to Switch in what is looking like a very busy April. Everspace and Cattails both got updates, and Crystal Crisis has been bumped back to a May 28th release date to make it the best it can be. Finally, Kano is the latest character to be announced in Mortal Kombat 11‘s roster. And that’s the summary!
Wargroove wasn’t really on my radar until recently, in spite of the fact that it’s had plenty of nice things said about it since it was first announced almost two years ago. It’s not that I have an aversion to games like this. In fact, I rather like them. It’s just that I’ve been burned a few too many times by games that claim to be following in the footsteps of Advance Wars. That’s a series that is near and dear to my heart, as it is for many, and most of the attempts to create a spiritual successor have turned out a bit flat. With that in mind, I think my brain just kind of automatically sorted Wargroove into the “we’ll see” pile.
Well friends, I have now seen. I have seen a lot. And let me tell you, Wargroove is the real deal. It effortlessly nails all of the things I love about the Advance Wars games but feels very much like a game of its own at the same time. It’s not a clone, but it does such a good job of eliciting the same feelings that I can confidently say that the only thing a fan of Advance Wars could possibly miss here is the modern military theme. Yes, thematically speaking, Wargroove has more in common with the other series the Advance Wars developer is best known for, Fire Emblem. But mechanically? This is Advance Wars advanced.
In the broad sense, your goal on each map is pretty similar to most games of this genre. Defeat the enemy either by capturing their base, wiping them out completely, or taking out their commander. It’s in that last point where Wargroove makes its first break away from its inspiration. Your commander is an actual fielded unit, and generally quite a powerful one at that. Later Advance Wars games sort of put commanders on the field, but they were just regular units that carried your commander along for the ride, mostly for the purposes of giving their special abilities a movable zone. In Wargroove, they’re almost like named Fire Emblem characters roaming among the rabble. The downside of these game-changing units? If your commander goes down, you automatically lose. Mmm, risk versus reward.
Other than that little wrinkle, it’s business as Advance Wars usual as far as the basics are concerned. Occupy towns to earn more income, use that income to deploy units, and try to wrest resources away from your opponent who is doing the same. Units don’t map exactly onto the familiar Advance Wars set-up of strengths and weaknesses, but the idea is the same. Every unit has at least one thing it’s really good at, and at least one thing that will completely destroy it. More than that, each type of unit also has the ability to perform critical hits under certain conditions. Always send out your spear-bearers in pairs, for example. Sword-bearers should probably hang near the commander whenever possible. It’s a little thing, but it gets you thinking more about unit positioning, which is always a good thing.
Wargroove features a very beefy single-player campaign, packed with charming characters and a plot that doesn’t really go anywhere too interesting. The stage designs are great and nicely escalate in difficulty as you get more familiar with the ins and outs of the game. After you’ve beaten the game, you can also run through an Arcade Mode with each of the commanders to learn more about their stories, which is a nice bonus that was not in any way necessary but it more than welcome. Besides that single-player content, there’s also some good stuff here for multiplayer fans. You can play locally or online, cooperatively or competitively, and if you get bored of the included maps, you can just go into the edit mode and make your own. Frankly, there’s a ridiculous amount of content here, and I love it.
At least for me, Wargroove does for my Advance Wars pining what Stardew Valley did for my Harvest Moon gripes. That is to say, I no longer particularly care if Advance Wars makes a comeback or not, and I’m not sure what I’d expect from it if it did. Wargroove has thoroughly scratched my itch for something like Advance Wars, and it did it while advancing the formula in sensible ways. It’s a game that thoroughly understands what makes those games so great, but also understands that it needs to be its own thing and add its own ideas if it wants to stand on its own. Simply a fantastic effort that any fan of turn-based strategy will want to own.
SwitchArcade Score: 5/5
You’ll find a lot of people who will tell you that Downwell is the sort of game that needs buttons. I’m not going to join in on that chorus, as I found the mobile version quite playable. But if you are in that particular group, the Switch version of Downwell is another great portable option for the game, and in some ways, the best of them all. It has the advantage of tactile button-based controls, but with a lot more screen real estate than the PlayStation Vita and more comfortable options for playing in vertical alignment. And if you’re one of those oddballs that wants to play a game like Downwell on the big screen, the Switch can of course do that, too.
Downwell is one of those amazingly creative roguelites that draws in some of the more crowd-pleasing aspects of the Rogue family and inserts them into a very different kind of playstyle. You descend into a well with nothing more to your name than a bit of courage and some gun-boots. Wait, those are kind of special and important. Well, anyway. The well is broken down into discrete stages, and each one is filled with randomly generated enemies, platforms, caves, and even the occasional shop. There are also bosses, because why not? As you hop and blast your way down, you’ll collect gems that can be exchanged for goods and services, and between each level you can pick a new perk from a random selection of three. Once you’re dead, you’re dead. But you might unlock a new character style or color palette, as they unlock over time as you play.
The trick to your gun-boots is that they have a limited number of shots before they need to reload. Reloading is as simple as setting your feet down on the ground, but when you’re all out of boot-bullets, even a short distance between terra firma can feel like forever. In addition to being useful for shooting enemies, firing your boots also slows your descent, so when you’re all out of shots your fall can get a little wild. So it’s really all about when to shoot. Some enemies can be stomped on, allowing you to reap rewards while conserving charges. Others must be shot, however, and woe to the player that allows a dogged pursuer to end up above them, where most sensible gun-boots cannot reach.
What keeps the game fresh is the variety of perks and different weapons you can find. Each run genuinely feels different based on the perks you’re presented with, and while all of the weapons are cool, you’ll surely stumble across a favorite that you’ll hope to run into again in the future. One time you might get the perk that lets you eat enemy carcasses for extra health, which will have you scrambling after every corpse that falls. On another occasion, you may end up with the perk that makes enemy bodies explode, which will have you doing pretty much the opposite. Will you get to shoot up when you collect gems? Will you have a slightly longer invincibility period after taking a hit? You never know what the game will give you, and that makes it a lot of fun.
If you have a Flip Grip, you can really enjoy Downwell at its best. The game has an option that lets you change the whole thing into a vertical orientation, and although you don’t technically need a Flip Grip to take advantage of that, it sure is a nice reason to pull that accessory out. That said, even if you are playing in horizontal mode, the size of the Switch’s screen is plenty big enough to show everything clearly. However you want to roll with things is fine by me, friends. The only real downside to the game is that it does indeed have an ending of sorts, and how much you’re motivated to keep going after that will vary from person to person.
But you know, it’s three bucks. I’d pay a lot more than that for Downwell, and the fact that it’s at that miraculously low price on every platform feels like I’m getting away with something every single time I buy it. I suppose that I’ve bought the game so many times says something in and of itself, though. It’s a game I always want to have with me, because I sometimes just want to play it, and who knows where I’ll be and what I’ll be doing when the mood strikes. Better to always have Downwell with you, I think. This is just another fantastic way to make sure you will.
SwitchArcade Score: 5/5
Toridama: Brave Challenge ($5.00)
Toridama is a collection of mini-games based around one core concept: the Chicken Race. In case that’s a foreign concept to you, it’s basically a test of courage (or stupidity, depending on who you ask) where two cars drive towards a cliff edge, wall, or some other dangerous obstacle and whoever brakes first loses. Things were tough before video games. But this game has fun with it, having you fall out of airplanes, control a descending Thwomp-like thing hanging over your head, and so on. Despite the dressing, they’re all the same: whoever presses the button first loses. Obviously more fun in multiplayer, but I guess the price is right for a party game.
Solitaire Klondike Black ($5.00)
Well, you probably don’t need me to tell you what this is, but just in case: it’s a Klondike Solitaire game. The “Black” part of the title is, I think, referring to the visual style, but don’t quote me on that. Klondike is the most popular type of Solitaire in the West, most famous for being packed in with every copy of Windows for a couple decades and dragging office productivity to a halt. This particular game offers 300 levels to play through, covering a wide array of difficulties. I think everyone needs one Solitaire game on their handheld game hardware, so maybe this is the one for you?
Freecell Battle King ($7.99)
But maybe Klondike isn’t your game? Perhaps you’re more the FreeCell sort? In which case, no worries. The Switch has you covered today. This is a bit more colorful than Solitaire Klondike Black, aiming more for a fun look than a cool one, I suppose. It’s the same basic idea, though, giving you a bevy of stages to play through on your own and even supplying a multiplayer mode for those who want it. So while I said everyone should have one Solitaire game, at a certain point a deck of cards becomes a better choice. Plus, it makes you look mysterious and cool if you carry a deck of cards with you everywhere. Ha, just kidding. It will only make you look weird. But do it anyway. Weird is good.
Arcade Archives Moon Cresta ($7.99)
For Japan, the first truly big video game was Space Invaders. Thus, much of early Japanese game development was focused on cloning Space Invaders directly, or making very similar games. Moon Cresta, which came from Nichibutsu in 1980, was one such game. It’s a very old, very early shoot-em-up, and it very much feels that way. I’m not sure I’d call it historically significant, but it’s not insignificant either, so I guess it’s cool to see it around again. I feel like its later sequel, Terra Cresta, is much more popular. Still, it’s a Nichibutsu game that doesn’t have any boobies in it, which is a rare situation in and of itself.
Hey, there’s a review up near the top you should check out. But if you somehow made it here without reading that, let me help you out: Wargroove is an absolute must-have. I’ve seen so many people try to make a spiritual successor to Advance Wars and their efforts always come off as either too derivative or way off-course. Wargroove just gets it right. If you like Advance Wars, you’ll like this a lot. If you had things about Advance Wars that irritated you, there’s a good chance Wargroove fixes them. It’s a very good game.
Thea: The Awakening ($17.99)
Described as a turn-based strategic survival game, Thea: The Awakening is a kind of 4X sim with a lot of extra systems rolled into it. So yeah, be ready for some roguelite stuff, a little card battle stuff, and even some survival-ish Minecraft stuff for good measure. One cool thing about this one is how steeped in Slavic mythology it is. Reviews on this one were lukewarm on other platforms, and I’m not sure if this version added anything or not. But even if it didn’t, lukewarm on the TV can sometimes be pretty good on a handheld. It’s not really my sort of thing, but if you have an interest in the theme and are willing to put up with some rough edges that come from stitching a few too many pieces together, you might be more open to it.
Spoiler Alert ($4.99)
Clever idea, crap game. Is there any sadder outcome for a video game? Oops, I think I just spoiled Spoiler Alert, didn’t I? The idea here is that you start at the end of a side-scrolling platformer, with the final boss defeated and the princess rescued. You then play the entire game in reverse from there, hitting the button to unjump and unfireball and so on. If you mess up, it’s a time paradox, so you’ll have to try again. There are lots of levels, but once you’re over the cute set-up, all you’re left with is a relatively bland auto-runner that gets old fast.
Farm Together ($19.99)
Okay, hear me out. I know this looks like a generic, junky farming game. The sort that are a dime a dozen on mobile and flash sites alike. But this one is actually pretty good! I mean, it’s not as good as the slightly cheaper Stardew Valley, but it’s aiming for a very different experience. This is a more relaxed experience. Don’t worry about timers. Don’t worry about things spoiling. Don’t worry about not watering things in time. Just build a nice little farm on your own or with friends and chill. No, it’s not going to be for everyone, but this might help tide you over until Animal Crossing arrives to give us our real slow life fix.
Well, so much for the peace and quiet, eh? Between NISA running a sale on its full line of titles and Nintendo holding their Weird and Wonderful sale, there are tons of great games worth picking up at sale prices right now. For the RPG fans, I’d recommend Labyrinth of Refrain and Ys VIII. If you like quirky stuff, Snake Pass and Octodad are awesome. If you want more traditional gaming experiences, dig into Freedom Planet and Flashback. Oh, and do grab West of Loathing if you haven’t picked it up yet. It’s a funny RPG that is a lot of fun to play through.
New Games on Sale
SNK Heroines – Tag Team Frenzy ($29.99 from $49.99 until 2/6)
Snake Pass ($7.99 from $19.99 until 2/8)
The Stillness of the Wind ($11.04 from $12.99 until 2/14)
Merchants of Kaidan ($8.99 from $9.99 until 2/14)
Guess the Character ($2.09 from $2.99 until 2/14)
Rain World ($11.99 from $19.99 until 2/7)
Harvest Life ($24.99 from $29.99 until 2/14)
ATV Drift & Tricks ($24.49 from $34.99 until 2/6)
Moto Racer 4 ($24.49 from $34.99 until 2/6)
Croc’s World ($3.99 from $4.99 until 2/18)
Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle ($9.99 from $19.99 until 2/7)
Pinstripe ($10.49 from $14.99 until 2/14)
Big Buck Hunter Arcade ($17.99 from $29.99 until 2/20)
Rapala Fishing Pro Series ($17.99 from $29.99 until 2/20)
Goosebumps the Game ($17.99 from $29.99 until 2/20)
A Case of Distrust ($7.49 from $14.99 until 2/14)
Reigns: Kings & Queens ($3.99 from $7.99 until 2/7)
Surgeon Simulator CPR ($9.09 from $12.99 until 2/7)
Time Carnage ($6.49 from $12.99 until 2/14)
Lifeless Planet: Premiere Edition ($9.99 from $19.99 until 2/14)
Freedom Planet ($9.74 from $14.99 until 2/7)
Realpolitiks ($6.24 from $24.99 until 2/14)
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes ($8.99 from $14.99 until 2/7)
Crossing Souls ($7.49 from $14.99 until 2/7)
Spheroids ($3.99 from $7.99 until 2/11)
Pool Panic ($5.09 from $14.99 until 2/7)
MUSYNX ($20.99 from $29.99 until 2/14)
Flashback ($13.99 from $19.99 until 2/6)
Beekyr Reloaded ($6.99 from $9.99 until 2/20)
West of Loathing ($8.47 from $11.00 until 2/7)
Die for Valhalla! ($7.19 from $11.99 until 2/14)
Coffin Dodgers ($6.49 from $12.99 until 2/14)
Crawl ($9.74 from $14.99 until 2/7)
Human: Fall Flat ($7.49 from $14.99 until 2/7)
Superbeat: XONiC ($10.49 from $29.99 until 2/14)
Octodad: Dadliest Catch ($4.99 from $14.99 until 2/7)
Wheels of Aurelia ($4.99 from $9.99 until 2/7)
Cartoon Network: Battle Crashers ($17.99 from $29.99 until 2/20)
The Flame in the Flood ($7.49 from $14.99 until 2/7)
Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime ($8.99 from $14.99 until 2/7)
Slime-san ($5.99 from $11.99 until 2/7)
GoNNER ($5.99 from $9.99 until 2/7)
World of Goo ($6.99 from $9.99 until 2/7)
Tokyo School Life ($13.49 from $14.99 until 2/14)
Mercury Race ($7.19 from $7.99 until 2/7)
Solitaire Klondike Black ($3.50 from $5.00 until 2/20)
Toridama: Brave Challenge ($3.50 from $5.00 until 2/20)
Yomawari: The Long Night Collection ($29.99 from $39.99 until 2/6)
Disgaea 1 Complete ($39.99 from $49.99 until 2/6)
Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk ($39.99 from $49.99 until 2/6)
God Wars The Complete Legend ($29.99 from $39.99 until 2/6)
Touhou Genso Wanderer Reloaded ($29.99 from $49.99 until 2/6)
Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana ($41.99 from $59.99 until 2/6)
The Lost Child ($29.99 from $49.99 until 2/6)
Happy Birthdays ($29.99 from $39.99 until 2/6)
Fallen Legion: Rise to Glory ($29.99 from $39.99 until 2/6)
Penny-Punching Princess ($19.99 from $39.99 until 2/6)
The Longest Five Minutes ($19.99 from $39.99 until 2/6)
Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle ($9.99 from $19.99 untill 2/6)
Disgaea 5 Complete ($29.99 from $39.99 until 2/6)
Hello Neighbor ($19.99 from $39.99 until 2/7)
Guts & Glory ($7.49 from $14.99 until 2/7)
And that’ll do it for today, and for this week. My hands and my eyes are both a little tired from this week’s coverage, so I’m going to go… I don’t know, stick my hands in some ice and my head in a pillow. I’ll be back on Monday with the latest news and such, so make sure to check back in then. As always, thanks for reading!