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Games are rated relative to other games for the same system.

Nintendo Switch Reviews G-K

Golf Story
Grade: B-
Publisher: Sidebar Games (2017)
Posted: 2019/7/9
Rating: Everyone

screenshotNow here's something unique! Golf Story is a role-playing game (?!) starring a kid who must master several fantasy golf courses on his way to becoming pro. I don't think I've played a game quite like this since World Court Tennis (Turbografx-16, 1991). Its old-school pixelated graphics feature anime characters, checkerboard greens, and plenty of witty dialog. The controls employ a standard three-button swing meter with oversized holes that make putting easy. On approach shots I end up hitting pin a lot.

The story mode begins slowly but gradually gains traction while teaching all the subtle nuances of the sport. The varied courses are set in a desert, a spooky swamp, a bright beach, and snowy mountains. Each is plagued by pests like moles, crabs, or birds you'll help eliminate. The golf-related challenges are incredibly imaginative. You'll bounce balls off turtle shells. You'll hit chicken legs at crocodiles. You'll knock eyeballs into skeletons and hit flaming balls at frozen people. The target-style challenges are super addictive.

Not all the action takes place on the courses; at one point you'll need to solve a murder mystery in a clubhouse! There's even a tongue-in-cheek "8-bit" golf game called Galf! You spend a lot of time wandering around trying to figure out what to do next, but that's the nature of this type of game. There's plenty of text but the prose is entertaining. The use of animated fonts to convey voice inflection is especially effective.

That said, the further I progressed the less patient I became at the verbose dialog. My friend Brent was shocked I was taking the time to read it all! The golf action is quick, easy and fun, but a little shallow. You get a brief overhead view of each hole at the start, but there's nothing to reference afterwards. You can only "see" the course ahead by aiming your shot, and some holes are so cluttered it's hard to locate the fairway.

That said, there's plenty of tension and excitement as you challenge rivals in brisk nine-hole tournaments. Crisp sound effects and catchy (if repetitive) music really add to the experience. I wouldn't recommend Golf Story to golf purists fans but this game has a whimsical charm that will keep casual gamers engrossed for hours on end. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Grand Mountain Adventure
Grade: B
Publisher: Microids (2022)
Posted: 2023/12/27
Rating: Everyone

screenshotThis one caught my eye with its old-school look. You view the action from high overhead, with miniature people and quaint cottages that make you feel as if you're looking down on a Christmas garden. I love the concept! Grand Mountain Adventure has much to offer with its simple controls, smooth animation, and multiple sprawling mountains to explore at your leisure.

After choosing between skis or a snowboard, you're placed at the top of a hill in a resort. The controls seem simplistic at first, but eventually you learn advanced moves like drift turns and aerial tricks. The high camera angle provides a great view of rolling white hills, treacherous cliffs, and quaint villages. You need to navigate up the mountains via lifts, but holding in a button puts them into fast-forward mode. This is a gorgeous game with some truly breathtaking lighting effects. The snow is so soft and fluffy that carving the well-groomed trails feel effortless at times.

Consulting your "piste map" reveals that each mountain is loaded with challenges. Most are timed slalom races but there are others that challenge you to soar off perilous cliffs for distance. Completing these earn ski passes that gradually unlock new lifts and mountains. While exploring you'll stumble upon hidden trails and ski passes hidden in elusive spots. The resort is full of tiny people milling around, some of which will chat with you. The ice-encrusted trees are beautiful and you'll often spot deer and other wildlife. Just beware of bears!

There are a few minor flaws. The camera angles can also throw you off a little, especially when they swing as you weave through narrow gates. I found the soft blue and pink gates a little hard to make out, especially with evening shadows creeping in. Lining up with grinds is a challenge simply because you're so tiny! A more fundamental issue is trying to figure out which way is "up". There's no compass and the overhead view can be a bit disorienting. You'll find yourself flipping to the map a lot just to get your bearings.

This is one of the most relaxing games I've played in recent memory, with gentle piano music and subtle sound effects like the whoosh of snow or the creak of a lift. I love how you're free to explore each mountain of your own accord. There's even a four-player racing mode that's surprisingly playable, with quick loading and randomized courses. Grand Mountain Adventure is an amazing, unique game that provides a zen-like winter experience. © Copyright 2023 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

Hollow Knight
Grade: A+
Publisher: Team Cherry (2018)
Posted: 2019/4/20

screenshotIf there was ever a "slow-burn" video game, it's Hollow Knight. For the first hour or two you might regret purchasing such a bland, melancholy platformer. You have no idea what you're getting yourself into. I've clocked in over 37 hours playing this - far more than any other game in recent memory. Hollow Knight's dark, understated graphics convey a brooding, tense atmosphere. Your character is a modest little fellow with horns in a shadowy world populated with stylized insects ranging from beetles to worms to praying mantis to... jellyfish? Your primary weapon is a sword-like "nail", although you can also unleash energy projectiles.

Hollow Knight is nothing if not polished. Every platform is situated with precision and each enemy placed with exact purpose. Though difficult, the game is never unfair. Larger enemies exhibit distinct attack patterns, often telegraphing their strikes with vocal cues. Defeated foes drop "geo" currency used to purchase items. Though the game borrows elements from franchises like Zelda (health system) and Dark Souls (reclaiming lost loot), there's no lack of innovation. Hitting enemies fills your soul meter which can be used to rekindle health, and this constantly plays into your strategy.

Collectable "charms" add another dimension to the game, exponentially expanding the strategic possibilities. Each charm provides some sort of advantage like improving your range, providing a protective shell, or sending out little fairies to collect loose geo. You can only equip a limited number at a time, and it's fun to mix and match for each new situation. The game saves often and life-replenishing "benches" serve as convenient rest stops.

Despite its substantial grinding and backtracking, the evolving nature of the game prevents repetition from setting in. The brief, often inscrutable dialog is sweetly poetic. An unobtrusive audio track consists of soothing music and crisp, delicate sound effects. Hollow Knight's haunting storyline, somber atmosphere, and gothic scenery makes it like the Smashing Pumpkins of video games. It's hard to believe something that looks so simple and plain can be so engrossing and beautiful. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Horizon Chase Turbo
Grade: F
Publisher: Aquiris (2018)
Posted: 2019/9/22
Rating: Everyone 10+

screenshotI've seen Horizon Chase compared to Sega's OutRun (Genesis, 1991) in reviews, but I think that's being far too generous. Horizon Chase Turbo is an easy-to-play racer with sharp graphics, a smooth framerate, and pulsating soundtrack. But this game has no heart.

Technically it probably has more in common with Pole Position (Atari 5200, 1982) with its winding tracks rendered before static backgrounds. The fluid animation should be expected considering Horizon Chase has all the graphic fidelity of a cell phone game. Some may find the smooth curves and pastel colors appealing, but the tracks are so boring there's little incentive to unlock new ones. The only track I took note of was the Los Angeles skyline, but only because the sunset causes the buildings to light up to dramatic effect.

You select between generic unlicensed race cars which can be upgraded in various ways. Each track is several short laps in length. The racing action is pretty easy as you weave between competitors and slide around corners. You can collect coins and gas can icons along the road, and you feel a satisfying "bump" as you ride over them. The idea of having to collect "gas can" icons just to maintain enough fuel to finish the race is idiotic. Half the time you don't even notice the cans until you've driven by them.

Bumping other cars slows you down, making it frustrating to pass on narrow roads. As you progress you'll unlock tracks in unlikely locations like Iceland, India, and Chile. The mesmerizing electronic music that pumps during each race is definitely the highlight. The lowlight is constant prompts to check your internet connection when playing offline. It happens during every race! Horizon Chase doesn't try very hard and rings hollow. If this were OutRun, it would be called OutRun: Corporate Edition. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Hotshot Racing
Grade: C
Publisher: Curve Digital (2020)
Posted: 2022/3/15
Rating: Everyone 10+

screenshotIf you're a retro gamer, the mere sight of Hotshot Racing will trigger warm memories of Virtua Racing (Saturn, 1995). This throw-back offers the same aesthetic style with bright colors, crisp lines, and charmingly angular landscapes. With tracks like Sea View, Alpine town, and Area 51, I felt right at home. But can Hotshot Racing match that same classic arcade fun?

At first the answer is an emphatic yes. Hotshot Racing is the most silky-smooth racer I've ever played. Heck even the four-player split-screen is fluid. The steering is responsive and the shoulder buttons provide the acceleration and brake functions as God intended.

The key to winning is to generate turbo boosts by power-sliding around turns, and it takes practice to execute these without losing control. You can "bank" up to four boosts, and you'll be wise to keep one in your back pocket for the homestretch. CPU competitors tend to exhibit "rubber band physics" but it's still fun to edge them out at the finish.

The Grand Prix mode pits you against seven CPU racers through a series of circuits, and each track looks like a dream vacation getaway. These fun locations incorporate sunny beaches, suspension bridges, flashy casinos, volcanoes, ski resorts, and amusement park rides. I enjoyed working my way through all 20 tracks, but many are very similar, and there are no secrets or shortcuts to uncover.

My friends were less enamored with this game. They could appreciate its pretty graphics but frowned upon its power slide fixation. In addition, each car comes with a stereotypical driver who belts out unfunny quips around each turn. Were these characters even necessary? I think not.

Hot Shot Racing is fun until you beat all the circuits, but that won't take long. Once you do, the game loses its appeal. Still, this is a good value for the money. Like a piece of bubble gum, the game is delicious for a while but once it loses its flavor you'll be ready to move on. © Copyright 2022 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 

The House of the Dead Remake
Grade: C
Publisher: Forever Entertainment (2022)
Posted: 2022/7/8
Rating: Mature (17+)

screenshotDespite its chunky, muddy graphics, I've always had a soft spot for the original House of the Dead (Saturn, 1998). Considering how many times its sequels have been reissued over the years, this remake is long overdue. Sad part is, it's arrived at a time when light guns aren't really a thing anymore.

Remake's graphics are utterly fantastic. Each area conveys an ominous, sometimes claustrophobic atmosphere while retaining the arcade style of the original. With terrifying creeps lurking around every corner, Remake is like a haunted house thrill ride. The shooting action is satisfying. It's fun to blow body parts off advancing ghouls before watching them dissolve into a puddle of bubbling goo.

In many ways Remix fulfills the promise of the original, fleshing out creepy locations like the courtyard, mansion, and underground laboratory. Its high-energy soundtrack contains creepy undertones and the dialog has that vintage B-movie quality ("Help - everyone is getting killed!") Unfortunately the constant calls to "reload! reload!" drove me so batty I was forced to shut off the dialog completely.

You have two control options. You can drag the cursor around the screen with the thumbstick (lame) or use the gyrometer feature to aim by tilting the controller. This option is remarkably precise with very little movement required. Problem is, after a little while your "center" begins to drift, and over time you may find yourself holding the controller sideways just to hit the middle of the screen. Some kind of cursor reset button would have been nice.

Another problem is the whole scoring system. You're given ten continues which is non-configurable, and can purchase additional continues for 5K points each. That's okay I guess, but you can only rank in if you finish the game, which kind of defeats the purpose of keeping score in the first place. And while there's supposed to be a two-player mode, my friends and I could never get it to work.

My copy of the game included a few doo-dads but what I could really use is a proper manual. None of the various play modes, control schemes, or scoring systems are explained anywhere. House of the Dead fans will appreciate Remake, but after a while this starts to feel like a case study in missed opportunities. I'd really like to see somebody remake this remake. © Copyright 2022 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

I Am Setsuna (Japan)
Grade: D

screenshotI purchased this after hearing it was a winter-themed role-playing game (RPG). What could be better than curling up with a good RPG on a bitterly-cold winter night? I Am Setsuna is a Japanese title but all the text (including menus and dialog) display in English so it's not a problem. The game certainly has a nice sense atmosphere with its snow-covered forests and quaint villages. Gentle piano music nicely complements the falling snowflakes.

I like the anime style but "monsters" like walrus, rabbits, and penguins are almost too cute to slaughter! Almost. The character conversations tend to be brief and inconsequential. The two responses you're asked to choose from are basically the same answers worded differently, so there's little if any impact on events. I find it odd how whenever a new character is encountered the game asks if you want to change their name. What is the point? Is there really somebody out there who wants to change Setsuna's name to Shirley?

The exploration element is fun thanks to the frosty scenery but the combat system leaves a lot to be desired. Each character must wait for their meter to fill before they can act, resulting in an uneasy mix of real-time and turn-based combat. When multiple meters are full, it's hard to tell who you're controlling. Worse yet, the stat boxes across the bottom of the screen aren't presented in the same order of the characters on the screen, which is confusing. Nothing worse than accidentally "curing" someone who already had full health! Pressing the Y button during an attack adds "momentum" for extra impact, but it's not clear when you timed it correctly.

The game makes a big deal of telling you it does not automatically save your progress, as if that's some kind of badge of honor. The save points in fact are few and far between. You'd think there would at least be one in each village, but nope! There were times when I felt like the game was holding me hostage for crying out loud! As if to rub it in, there is a "save" option on the menu but it's disabled.

In general I found the game to be rather dull, with boss encounters that go on forever. I Am Setsuna satisfied my appetite for winter but I feel like it tried to reinvent the wheel and it turned out square. Note: I'm told the save option is available when you are on the world map, but I still don't like the system. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Jay and Silent Bob: Mall Brawl
Grade: D+
Publisher: Interabang (2020)
Posted: 2021/3/22
Rating: Teen (crude humor, fantasy violence)

screenshotI've been a Jay and Silent Bob fan since I first saw Clerks way back in 1995. The prospect of watching this quirky duo in an old-school brawler sounded like a lot of fun. It's worth noting this is technically an NES title. I just happen to be reviewing the Switch port which was more readily available.

On the surface Mall Brawl looks a lot like River City Ransom (NES, 1988) and Double Dragon (NES, 1988), with short, boxy characters. Using jump, punch, and kick combinations you methodically beat up skateboarders, ninjas, security guards, and furry mascots in various sections of the mall.

The lack of detail in the scenery is somewhat disappointing. The mall location has so much potential, so what are these empty storefronts all about? Is this mall going out of business? At least the food court stage offers some degree of color and detail. The fighting action is okay but nothing special. Enemies take a lot of punishment and it's really hard to avoid getting sandwiched between them. You can pick up weapons like bats, brooms, and hockey sticks, but they usually break after a whack or two.

The game does have one excellent feature missing from side-scrolling fighters since, well, forever. When a player expends all his lives, he can be brought back into the game if the second player kicks enough ass. What a great idea. In single player mode it means you'll always have another "life" waiting in the wings, providing you don't screw up too badly.

Breaking up the monotony is a dodge-the-obstacles shopping cart-riding stage. This could have been the highlight of the game, but loose controls and piss-poor collision detection turn it into a dead end. Jay and Silent Bob Mall Brawl feels generic. Outside of the character likenesses (which I admit are pretty good) there's not much here for fans to grasp. Instead of a tribute to Jay and Silent Bob's zany adventures, Mall Brawl feels like a run-of-the-mill beat-em-up with a license slapped on top. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Jurassic Park: Classic Games Collection
Grade: B-
Publisher: Limited Run (2023)
Posted: 2024/6/1
Rating: Everyone 10+

screenshotI'm not sure why I purchased this considering I already own all of the original Jurassic Park games. I guess I just wanted to prove to the world I was the ultimate Jurassic Park Superfan (TM). There's also something to be said for experiencing these oldies in crisp high definition with a handy save feature. If you played any of these back in the 1990's there's a better-than-average chance you'll still enjoy them today.

This Classic Collection includes one NES title, two SNES, two Genesis, and two for the original Game Boy. I find it curious how the NES is referred to as "8-bit", the SNES "16-bit", and the Game Boy "Portable". Only the two Genesis games specify the actual system. There are a few glaring omissions in this collection, specifically the Jurassic Park games for the Sega CD, Game Gear, and Sega Master system game. Had those been included this would have been A material.

The first Jurassic Park game was released in June 1993 for the NES. The huge T-Rex head on the title screen looks absolutely crazy with saliva dripping from its teeth. The game itself is fun but the tilted overhead view and cartoonish dinosaurs aren't very scary. I love the music but the game has its share of annoyances like baby dinosaurs that pester you to no end. The Game Boy edition is pretty much the same, albeit with less-responsive controls and blockier, colorless graphics.

The SNES Jurassic Park is a better-looking version of NES game, except it's far more aggravating. The dinosaurs are larger but harder to shoot because you're always in tight quarters. Raptors tend to hide in the brush, so you don't even see them until it's too late. The Wolfenstein 3D-style interior stages are a minor disaster, and this emulated version makes their controls feel even more stiff and delayed.

Also hailing from the SNES is Jurassic Park II, which is unrelated to the Lost World. It's a good-looking side-scroller that's hard to play. Right from the git-go you're hounded by raptors who take about 20 shots to take down. The Game Boy edition looks cartoonish but is a lot more fun and far less confusing.

The two Genesis games are the cream of the crop. Both are conventional side-scrolling platform shooters with graphics that appear practically digitized! The dinosaurs not only look real but sound real as well. The graphics may look grainy but at least the gameplay captures the sense of urgency of the film. Jurassic Park: Rampage Edition is a bit more polished but uses locations not seen in the original film, like a cargo ship and lost ruins.

If you're a Jurassic Park fan this collection is worth your while. Not only do the graphics really pop in HD but the ability to save and load at any time is huge. A CRT filter option conveys that old-timey feel, but I prefer the clean look. There's even a rewind feature, also known as cheating. None of these games are gems, but they will transport you back to those glory days of awe and wonder. Of course we're talking about the 90's! © Copyright 2024 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Katamari Damacy: Reroll
Grade: C+
Publisher: Bandai Namco (2018)
Posted: 2024/2/6
Rating: Everyone

screenshotSeveral words come to mind when I hear Katamari Damacy. Quirky. Charming. Eclectic. Weird. I have fond memories of the original Katamari Damacy (PS2, 2004). It was a boldly original concept with a fresh, offbeat style. To this day, it's still a one-of-a-kind experience.

A vaguely creepy Burger King-like deity presides over the game, creating all the different worlds you explore. He's pretty funny although sometimes long-winded. The idea is to roll a ball around each stage, causing objects of smaller size to stick to it. The snowball effect is strangely compelling as your "katamari" becomes increasingly large and unwieldy. Your goal is to reach a certain diameter before time runs out.

The game begins with a room loaded with household objects: tacks, forks, matches, apples, knives, spatulas, alarm clocks, lipstick, batteries. The variety of items is truly astounding. They thought of everything! As you progress the venues increase in scope, eventually reaching gargantuan proportions.

Bumping into larger objects causes you to drop items, and moving hazards like angular cats and remote-controlled cars can also knock stuff loose. But your biggest enemy is the camera. You can only see straight ahead and I often felt like I was "rolling blind". You can find yourself in some claustrophobic areas, losing objects but not knowing why.

That said, collecting stuff is fun and addictive. Katamari gives you that satisfying "cleaning up" feeling not unlike Centipede (Atari 2600, 1983) or even Tetris (NES, 1989). The music is silly and childlike, but after a few minutes you'll be humming along to it. The stages get a little repetitive however, as they tend to repeat and build upon each other.

Reroll is less of a sequel and more of an excuse to re-introduce the game to a new generation. That's not a bad idea but they could have tightened up the interface, or at least added an autosave feature. As it is, Reroll feels more like a rerun. If you've never experienced Katamari Damacy before, give it a try. You'll have a ball. © Copyright 2024 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Kirby and the Forgotten Land
Grade: A
Publisher: Nintendo (2022)
Posted: 2023/5/31
Rating: Everyone

screenshotI had been suffering from Kirby fatigue for the last decade or so. While so many of their storied franchises have fallen into neglect, Nintendo has continued to crank out Kirby games like there's no tomorrow. Nothing against the chubby pink guy, but I'm not sure his "star power" warrants the over-exposure. Kirby was one of the final 3D holdouts, but with the Forgotten Land he finally took the leap.

The fully-3D style reinvigorates the series, starting with the spirited musical intro featuring a Japanese girl belting out a bouncy pop tune. With responsive controls and a simple button configuration, Forgotten Land is practically effortless to play. There's a "spring breeze mode" for extra-young kids, but it's hard to imagine this game being much easier.

Like the original Crash Bandicoot (Playstation, 1997) Kirby finds himself washed up on a sandy beach before venturing into a forest. He emerges to the sight of a post-apocalyptic, overgrown city where all of its human inhabitants are long dead.

Kirby can jump, float, and swallow enemies to assume their abilities. He might become a sword-swinging Link, a bomb-tossing wizard, or a fire-breathing hothead. You can even wield a giant Donkey Kong-style hammer. Your goal is to save cute "Waddle Dees'' imprisoned by equally-cute fluffy animals. It's fun to experiment with various abilities, and the cleverly-disguised hidden areas are great fun to uncover.

This game's sense of imagination is off the charts. Not only are the levels highly original, but some of the powers you can possess are outrageous! Ever wanted to be a tornado or a giant water balloon? How about a vending machine that can rapidly spit out cans? There's only one correct answer to these questions, and that is an emphatic yes.

The stages are as inventive as they are beautiful, from an abandoned amusement park to an ice-encrusted city. Doing the doggie-paddle through shimmering blue waters of an abandoned beach to the sounds of steel drum music is an act of pure joy. Everywhere you look there are subtle details and interesting animations that are easy to miss if you're not paying close attention.

If Kirby is guilty of anything, it's being too "floaty". I do sometimes get the buttons mixed up, which is odd considering there are basically two. Still, this game is relentlessly enjoyable, with fun that keeps coming in waves. I knew Kirby and the Forgotten Land would be good. I knew it would be polished. What I didn't expect was one of the best 3D platformers I've ever played. © Copyright 2023 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

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Screen shots courtesy of IGN.com, MobyGames.com, Nintendo Everything, Nintendo Life, Polygon, Nintendo Difference