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Buying Switch Games For £15-£20 – A Retrospective Review Special

The Switch has no shortage of games. In fact, the Switch has a lot of games…

The third chapter of this Retrospective Review Special series is here and today we’re looking at four Switch games within the £15-£20 price range.

The plan? Get straight to the point; are these games worth your time and do they represent value for money?

FutureGrind / Price: £15.29

What do you get?
A single-player Trials-like high score chaser. You take control of a two-wheeled futuristic, and brilliantly agile, stunt bike which – you guessed it – grinds.

In the career mode you’re given assignments from companies who build the vehicles, offering a bit of light dialogue and context between levels, there’s a little narrative built but it’s merely a vehicle to add variety. As a primary objective, each assignment involves a straight start-to-finish run along rails which are spaced out to facilitate jumps and tricks. It’s the additional objectives where the true challenge and creativity lies.

There’s a deep satisfaction in pulling off a long combo of upside-down grinds, flips and manuals, especially as the controls are so responsive. There’s no speed control as such, so it’s effectively an auto-runner in that respect, but FutureGrind contextually feels more Trials than Bit Trip Runner.

Multipliers are added for stringing tricks together by hitting rails which match the colour of the wheel you’re grinding with. It’s elementary in concept but the skill-ceiling feels infinite in the mid-late game, allowing you to freestyle your approach.

The ‘Grindpedia’ does a fair job of explaining the basics and acts as a non-interactive tutorial but, honestly, you’re better just throwing yourself in and working it out, perhaps referring back on occasion to work out how to achieve the best scores, with more advanced moves.

While the developers added some accessibility options, they also effectively state that it’s a tough game so, while there is an assist mode, it ruins the challenge. I wonder whether some alternative level designs could have opened the game up to more players, but the options here are appreciated, nonetheless.

Neon sci-fi visuals appeal to me so they didn’t have much to do to impress. FutureGrind plays it straight and keeps everything clean, offering bright, trailing lights while turning in a great performance; locking in a smooth framerate without any drops and complimenting the pin-point controls. The style’s far from unique and there’s nothing here to push any graphical boundaries, but it works as intended for the style of gameplay-hook.

Was it fun?
It was great fun, after a bit of a slow start, it didn’t take me long to get to grips with the mechanics and become competent enough to tick off the challenges through the career mode. After that, I had a blast racking up scores.

The first brand rep unironically called me ‘fam’, though. Not cool.

Will you play it again?
No doubt. It doesn’t hook me for long playthroughs but as a jump-in, jump-out experience it’s always a thrilling prospect.

Score: 8/10

Publisher: Milkbag Games
Developer: Milkbag Games
Age Rating: PEGI 7

Degrees of Separation / Price: £15.49

What do you get?
An artistic 50/50 split. Degrees of Separation wastes no time in setting the scene. A warm, radiant evening glow sharply sliced to accommodate the other half; a peaceful snowy landscape that captures the essence of a winter forest walk. No points for guessing the genre.

This puzzle-platformer tells the tale of two souls, both with unique powers. Enter Ember and Rime, the two protagonists drawn to the edge of their respective kingdoms to investigate the shift in climate. Balance is lost. On one side what’s usually warm is beginning to wilt and, on the other, the sharp embrace of the icy cold is under threat through the increased heat. With a united goal, the two accompany each other in their journey. It’s a simplistic set up but magically fused into the presentation to profound effect.

The striking visual style gives off Vanillaware vibes, though without the budget to accommodate the strength in animation to pull off an Odin Sphere, what’s clear is that we have a very talented team who knows exactly how to cohesively drive visuals to aid a narrative.

Ember, as you can guess, represents a fiery glow that envelops an entire area, her powers shifting all scenery as she walks. Rime, rather than be an embodiment of a dark and harsh winter, brings a bright sun-kissed glacial glow with him, his powers being the equivalent of Ember’s. There is a visible line centred between the two at which point their powers create a barrier of sorts; on one side Ember’s warmth, the other Rime’s serene cold. A frozen body of water can be used as a bridge by Rime and, at the same time, can be used to reach an underwater path by Ember. A mechanism requiring heat to run can stop a platform in place when Rime arrives. It’s in these interactions and the layout of the levels that the game excels.

Both characters can be switched between a tap of the ‘L’ button and tapping the ‘R’ button calls the other over to follow your movements. They’re controlled in exactly the same way, with the same floaty jump, chain climbing and block pushing movements.

Co-op is a built-in experience, simply replacing the sheep-like AI with a player and, though better in a two player setting, you’re not losing out by going solo. It’s easier to coordinate with another head to turn to but there are rarely any great advantages in co-op beyond added convenience.

Was it fun?
Both positives, while technically repelling, come together in the core gameplay hook of extremely clever puzzles built around a dynamic gimmick. As is often the case with puzzle-platformers, Degrees of Separation is not about accurate platforming but instead about tone, emotion and puzzle solving. It was damn fun.

The narrated story pulled me in to this fairytale of a game and the various environments were brought to life by the powers of our dynamic-climate duo.

Will you play it again?
This is the type of game best played through in a single run but it’s something to return to after allowing some time to pass.

Score: 8.5/10

Publisher: Modus Games
Developer: Moondrop
Age Rating: PEGI 3

At Sundown: Shots in the Dark / Price: £17.99

What do you get?
A multiplayer arena shooter with online and local play including bot options (woo!) all from a top down perspective. Espionage is part of the arrangement but At Sundown is a run and gun at heart.

Each theme of stage has a number of variations in layout. Stages like the Garden are more open, the Mansion’s small stages are divided into rooms and corridors in a simple maze-like fashion. Each arena comes a with varying number of spotlights casting their circular light on patches of the map. Under the light your agent, as you can imagine, is visible, however, movement under the cover of darkness renders you completely invisible not only to your enemies but to yourself. It’s in this where At Sundown mixes its own favour.

Accurately tracking your character when hidden is extremely difficult, especially while you’re trying to look for any signs of your opponent’s presence, be that stepping into a spotlight, dashing (utilising your dash button gives out a trail, helping you pin-point your current location but also giving your location away), shooting or simply respawning. This adds a unique dynamic to what’s mechanically otherwise by-the-numbers twin stick run and gun shooter. That said, the basics are tight, the variety of weaponry vast and the suite of options available immense, all of which is encased in an easy to navigate UI.

Movement is nippy thus death comes quickly matches are extremely fast-paced and often over quicker than you can blink. It suits the berserk run and gun gameplay. This speed clashes with the smooth lounge jazz music that accompanies each round.

Levelling up unlocks more options for limited scope matches or additional gimmicks to levels. For example, ‘Back to Basics’ arms you with one shot of your shotgun, prevents running and removes your dodge roll.

Remember those VR-training missions in the original Metal Gear Solid that they made a standalone game with? At Sundown’s training mode, while not as glamorous and expansive as the MGS example, really gave more than a simple means of learning the motions. It’s a timed affair so simply trying to beat your last time by a split-second became an inescapable-but-extremely-fun time-sink in itself. Using the single pre-chosen weapon for the level (of an arsenal which includes a sword, pistol, revolver which can ricochet bullets off walls, SMG, rifle, umbrella, lobshot, shotgun and more), you are tasked with level specific challenges which s. however playing this mode made me quickly yearn for a fully fleshed out story or arcade mode of single-player or co-op challenges.

Unfortunately, at the time of writing it was impossible to find any online opponents so, hopefully, At Sundown will get a second wind from a sale or perhaps expanding the pool via cross-platform play.

Was it fun?
At Sundown is a hell of a time in local multiplayer and manages to hold up well enough in bot matches with the difficultly options doing a decent job of scaling the AI. Having the ability to adjust so many parameters or perhaps force all opponents into using the same weapon helps level the playing field if you’re looking to make skill count for more.

However, throwing all the power-ups in and having weapon switching between spawns viable makes for a better party game.

It’s a great shame then, that there’s no active community left for the game which means, at its current price point, it’s difficult to recommend unless you’re happy with local play and bots.

Will you play it again?
I can see this as a go-to for a quick local multiplayer round between games.

Score: 7/10

Publisher: Versus Evil
Developer: Mild Beast Games
Age Rating: PEGI 12

Double Cross / Price: £17.99

What do you get?
2D platforming, Mega Man style, from the creators of Runbow. Double Cross spans across the multiverse, populated with many people who can freely travel between dimensions. This amount of freedom brings a need to police an age in which crime, risk and time/space disruption can take infinite forms. RIFT is an agency designed to protect reality, clear up misunderstandings and regulate travel. That’s quite the job.

In the opening moments the crew is faced with a security lock down in which an unknown masked enemy steals a powerful resource. And this douche must have had the credentials to access the system. An inside job? The cheek of it. You don the boots of Zahra Sinclair and set off to find clues and investigate the whereabouts and motives of this criminal mastermind.

Residing in their HQ in the Extraverse, Zahra and the rest of the RIFT crew open portals to different renditions of Earth. Acting as the hub area, it’s here you’ll do some light RPG stuff like manging upgrades and chatting to messed up aliens with an alarming number of tentacles.

You’d be forgiven for thinking this sounds like a Saturday morning kids show and, well, it kind of is. Visually capturing that American toon feel without feeling a little cheap can be difficult. The art direction just about manages it and it certainly fits the tone of the game. I can dig the colourful, bold look with over-the-top expressions and mannerisms against a backdrop of kid-friendly sci-fi but everything in presentation feels drained of character. Dialogue, while occasionally witty, is mostly redundant and stale, falling hard not only on tropes, but boring tropes at that. The music aims for goofy while the story isn’t sure whether it’s supposed to be an out-and-out gag or semi-serious, feeling maligned as a result. Animation during gameplay isn’t the smoothest, with a low number of frames resulting in some stiff, puppet-like movements.

The platforming action involves floaty jumps, wall-hopping and the game’s hook-shot gimmick, the Proton Slinger. The Proton Slinger, simply put, is slick. It’s far from an original idea and it’s certainly not exactly best-in-class for execution, but there’s a joyous satisfaction in the right-stick targeting while floating in slow-motion, allowing for some impressive beats of acrobatic platforming. Additionally, the tool is used for grabbing and throwing, which isn’t quite as exciting. Exploration in tougher to reach areas is rewarded with upgradium (in game currency for upgrades) which can be spent in the HQ for permanent upgrades or equipment.

Combat is a simple matter of using a mixture of light and heavy attacks, and, in the beginning it’s shallow though palatable in the platforming context. However, abilities were quickly unlocked through levelling up, allowing for a range of slides, kicks and combos. Gathering energy from defeated foes and successfully dodging attacks fills your Energy Meter which can be partly or entirely expended to perform healing or special attacks of various strength (think Hollow Knight).

The next noteworthy component is far and away the worst of the bunch by a mile. Zarah’s ‘investigations’ involve finding ‘clues’ before presenting them to the correct NPC. Gating progression behind tasks which involve, pick up random item A, B and C then make sure you take them to the right person. There’s no sign-posting, which would be fine if it was an interesting task but it’s not. It’s all one slog of a fetch quest, while having to mindlessly mashing through repeated messages because you had the gall to present an item to the wrong person. Shantae, this ain’t.

Controls are not customisable which isn’t great considering there aren’t any alternate control schemes. It’s not a game-breaker, as the default layout is fine however, in an absolutely bizarre design choice, the developers left out the option to use d-pad controls. For a 2D platformer it should be the most obvious and basic feature to implement. The d-pad isn’t used for anything either, making its neglect ever more baffling.

The Extras menu includes the achievement list as well as an art gallery and music player which are unlocked by beating the game.

Was it fun?
It was when it was doing the right thing, but it was difficult to not be distracted by the game’s desperation to resolve its own identity crisis. Ignore this element and Double Cross is a solid platformer that lacks anything to elevate it above the competition yet does an admirable job of entertaining through varied use of its core mechanics.

Despite my faith in the core platforming, it’s bookended by the arbitrary key-item fetching that adds absolutely nothing of worth.

Will you play it again?
Not in a hurry but I can see myself giving it another playthrough. That’s if the nagging reminder that the investigation elements exist don’t firmly put the brakes on that idea first.

Score: 6/10

Publisher: Headup Games
Developer: 13AM Games
Age Rating: PEGI 7

Well, I hope you enjoyed this merry tour of the some of the Switch’s budget range. Keep it at Reggie Reviews for more to the point reviews!

Review copies provided by respective publishers

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