Review Roundup: 5 New Switch Ports Worth Checking Out
Cube-love, ollies, and lots of aliens to shoot.
Nintendo’s little console is getting quite the reputation for ports of previously released games. That’s partly for its thriving eShop, but also who can resist playing on-the-go?
So here we’ve picked out five recently released Switch ports to satiate your appetite, providing another chance to sample these delectable experiences if you missed out the first time. They’re short but (mostly) oh so sweet.
OlliOlli: Switch Stance
Back in 2015, up against the likes of FIFA, Football Manager and Forza Horizon 2, the BAFTA for best sports game went to this innovative little skateboarding game from developer roll7. Originally released for the Vita in 2014, it was followed by a sequel the next year and both games now find themselves on Nintendo’s Switch, cleverly titled Switch Stance.
Unlike games like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater that require complex button inputs in a 3D space, OlliOlli is a sidescrolling game all about simplicity. Flick the control stick in any direction to perform a trick; hit the B button for a balanced landing. And that’s it! Yet there’s plenty of mileage here, with multiple worlds comprising short stages that each require different objectives to beat: top scores, huge trick combos, and collectable markers. It emphasises timing and rhythm above all, with simple, clean graphics and a cool techno soundtrack.
The sequel ups the ante, with more stylish graphics and an ‘Olliwood’ cinema theme that sees you flicking and tricking your way through fantastical film sets and hilarious puns. More so, it introduces manuals that allow you to extend combos between jumps and grinds for more intricate – and rewarding – play. There’s even a multiplayer mode and a single trick mode to vary things up. Short levels, swift load times and addictive gameplay make this perfect for gaming on the go.
Portal has a lot to answer for. It’s arguably one of the best puzzle games ever made and it’s the unabashed inspiration behind the Q.U.B.E series of games from Toxic Games. Q.U.B.E. 2 was released in early 2018 across the usual consoles, so it only makes sense it would finally appear on the Switch.
Like Valve’s opus, this is a story-driven first-person puzzle game, but instead of creating portals you’re manipulating cube blocks that sprout from special square panels around the environment. They come in three flavours: blue is bouncy, red is long, and green can be moved around the environment (yellow is a bit of twist). Add to this moving levers, magnetism, oil, fire and more, and you’ve got the recipe for an intricate and hugely satisfying puzzle game.
There’s a pleasingly gradual learning curve as each new colour or environmental hazard is introduced and, later on, the puzzles start to interlink across multiple rooms. Q.U.B.E. 2 manages to hit that sweet spot of being easy to comprehend, not too obtuse, and just taxing enough on the brain. It’s also fairly short (you could conceivably finish it in one sitting) and is divided into bite-sized chunks so it’s perfect on the Switch, even if there is a lot of texture pop-in during later levels.
The story is of an archaeologist stranding on an alien planet who must… solve puzzles to escape? Plot and writing are not Q.U.B.E. 2’s strong points, lying deep in Portal’s shadow, but on gameplay terms this stands alone as a very gratifying experience that comes recommended.
The King’s Bird
We could go on about how lovely The King’s Bird looks. Developer Serenity Forge have outdone themselves with some truly striking visuals: the characters and level design are all in silhouette, while each level is characterised by a different colour, mood and culture, from Romans to Mayans and Asia. Animations are gorgeous too, as your main character swoops and glides through the world. It’s just a shame the frame rate is not so smooth on Switch.
The story is that of a mischievous young girl who runs away from home and, presumably, the king. It’s a little trite, but what’s outstanding is the way dialogue is told through music. Each character is given their own instrument and/or voice, so speech translates into snippets of melody and rhythm. It’s very well done and complimented nicely by a playful score.
It’s in the gameplay, though, that The King’s Bird proves to be flawed. This is a precision platformer where, ironically, you don’t have precise control. Instead, you must use momentum to dip and arc between platforms. What seems initially innovative ultimately frustrates, as you find yourself fighting the controls to build necessary speed. As gorgeous as it is to look at, a simple jump would’ve been preferable to experience this world.
Defense Grid 2
My gosh, this is fun old chap! There’s plenty of chatter from a variety of characters in this tower defense game from Hidden Path Entertainment, though it’s the British general who’s particularly amusing. Whether he’s meant to be, we’re uncertain.
The plot sees you travelling around a plethora of industrial space environments as you fight to protect power cores, save AIs and shoot the crap out of those darn “motherless aliens.” In the background, your team of commanders and generals witter on giving advice before babbling some story beats that are ultimately pretty forgettable.
Story aside, Defense Grid 2 is slick and polished. As with other games of this type, you plant various towers along the path of incoming aliens to stop them stealing your power cores and taking them back to their base. Each tower has different effects such as damaging groups with fire, depleting shields with electricity, or shooting high-powered missiles at larger enemies from a distance, so it’s imperative to use them all tactically. There’s depth too with special commander skills, tower upgrades, and handily seeing a heat map of your path of destruction to ensure your strategy is watertight. The game isn’t shy about throwing new aliens your way either, to keep you on your toes – later levels prove nicely challenging.
There are tonnes of tower defense games out there but this, while not overly original, is well balanced and fun. It’s visually detailed, intuitive to pick up, and has plenty of levels and achievements to keep you occupied.
Did we say there were tonnes of tower defense games? Well here’s another, complete with more schlocky sci-fi.
This time, though, X-Morph: Defense is set on Earth and has you playing as the aliens attempt to stave off waves of human attacks intent on stopping you harvesting their resources. Between each wave, towers can be placed around the map and barriers erected between them, allowing you to funnel incoming attacks and deal with them more easily.
It’s also part twin-stick shooter – during each wave you control an alien ship to fly around the map destroying both air and land-based attacks in real time, assisted by the towers placed. Different weapons are suited to different enemy types and after each mission, you can level up the abilities of both your ship and your towers through extensive ability trees.
There’s plenty of fun in all the chaos, but it is, perhaps, a little too much going on at once. There’s quite a steep learning curve to this mix of genres and it’s more free-form and loose than other tower defense games, lacking the chess-like satisfaction of rigid grid-based maps. The story is minimal, merely a framework for the action, but the game looks great and runs smoothly on the Switch. It’s certainly solid enough to entertain for a good few hours.