Five new Switch indies to jump onto.
The platformer is one of those classic genres that remains popular for a reason – particularly for indies. Whereas there’s scope to mix up the action with shooting, puzzles or RPG mechanics, there’s something satisfying about the pure simplicity of platforming.
This month, our review roundup features five new indie platformers on the Nintendo Switch, arguably one of the best systems for them to live. Check ’em out!
If you happen to have a few friends in your living room who also happen to love old school side-scrolling run and gun action mixing classics like Contra and Metroid, Hive Jump is the jam you need. Supporting four players in local coop (the console versions don’t support online play, sadly), Hive Jump tasks your jetpack-endowed troopers with raining hell upon presumably evil bug aliens throughout procedurally-generated hives. The action is straight up old school run n’ gun, but the levels and visuals have a distinct 16-bit Metroid vibe.
There’s even a weird strategy game element between shooting bits, where you spend credits earned by collecting the goopy remains of dead aliens on fortifications for the human outposts. Mostly, though, the game is definitely about shooting things. Hive Jump is also on the brutally hard side of things and anyone going in solo will be punished severely by the endlessly respawning critters and ubiquitous environmental deathtraps. Hive Jump spices things up further thanks to special “challenge” rooms that pop up in the levels and unlockable weapons and gear.
All in all, while the lack of online play is annoying, if you’ve got the players, this is a retro blast.
If you peruse the Switch’s digital store, you’ll notice a lot of mobile games quickly ported over to cash in on the popularity of the system. Sometimes, that’s not actually a bad thing. Case in point: HoPiKo has hit every major consoles, along with PC, and both Android and Apple-based mobiles. It’s pretty clear this is a game designed for a touch screen, but that doesn’t make it any less quirky or amusing with a control pad in hand.
The premise is absurdly simple. Aim your little digital character to fling them to a nearby platform in a race to reach the level goal. Time is tight though, so tarry too long and you’ll explode. Hit any of the myriad of obstacles in the way and you’ll explode. Really, make any mistake and you’ll explode.
The simplistic gameplay comes to life thanks to vivid, heavily retro geometric graphics (think Atari 2600-stylings and you’re close). HoPiKo is oddly fun and even though it can get quite challenging, has a nice zen-like flow to the levels.
Octahedron: Transfixed Edition
Another geometric-infused game that melds neon lighting with otherwise simplistic, yet effective visuals, Octahedron is a very clever 2D puzzle platformer. It also has an interesting habit of never telling the player anything about what the hell is going on or what to do. You’re apparently just some guy who had the misfortune of encountering an alien modron who replaced your head with an (as the name suggests) octahedron. Transported to a strange virtual-looking world of geometry, you must traverse a deadly landscape by jumping and creating instant, temporary platforms
Why? Who knows! Who cares!
Octahedron just sort of throws you in there after the most basic of explanations. After that, you’re on your own. This isn’t a criticism though, as it encourages and rewards experimentation to figure out each room-based puzzle. The level progression works particularly well, getting you used to the current mechanics and obstacles, and then just throwing brand news ones at you. Respawn points are generally conveniently placed, so constantly dying just figuring out what to do isn’t a particularly frustrating affair. The game is quirky, challenging, and clever enough to warrant a look.
Heavily worshipping at the altar of Treasure and their classics like Gunstar Heroes, Double Cross feels very much like a Genesis side-scroller shined up to modern standards. The colorful graphics are sharp and decidedly not at all pixelated and the levels feel open, while still being largely linear.
Hailing from the developers behind Runbow, Double Cross is a little too overloaded with its story and dialogue sequences. There’s a lot of chatter here for a game that revolves around running and jumping through quirky levels, using what is essentially an energy-based grappling hook. This ‘proton slinger’ is the game’s main gimmick. You can use it to grab hooks and flip to other hooks or swing to platforms.
More interesting, the slinger will also pick up objects (like the heads of fallen robot enemies) and fling them at enemies. There’s an odd lack of traditional shooting though. You mostly whack at bad things until they explode. The game lets you pick the order of missions, where you are looking for clues about the main bad guy. Find enough pieces of evidence and you can form a case to bring to your boss, thus moving the plot onwards.
The level diversity is fun–there are future cities, dinosaur worlds, caverns, busy freeways, and other fun locales. Still, Double Cross didn’t grab us quite as much as, say, Freedom Planet, but still has an amicably enjoyable style.
The one game in this month’s round-up that isn’t old-school side-scrolling, Elli is a charming 3D puzzler and exploration game. It’s meant to be for all ages, so the focus is on puzzles and platforming, not combat. Puzzles are usually color or timing based though, so it can get surprisingly challenging at times.
The complete lack of camera controls means the pre-set viewpoints of the isometric perspective can make jumping (and even running across tight paths) imprecise. There are traps to avoid, keys to find, strange little characters so hi to, and even a shop for buying new hats and outfits. Largely, the game is simply about getting from one door to another on the other side of each room or location.
To that end, Elli works well. Once you get into the groove of its logic, it has solid pacing, clever puzzles, and enough charm to keep players engaged.
[All games reviewed on Switch]