Category Archives: Nintendo Switch

The Witcher Complete Edition review (Nintendo Switch)

This review was originally published on Koru-Cottage.com, which I also write for.

I’m not really sure what alchemy and magic potions CD Projekt Red & Saber Interactive have evoked to enable one of the finest action RPGs of this generation – The Witcher 3 – to run on Nintendo’s handheld console the Switch but, my God, they’ve done the seemingly impossible and made it happen.

I’m not going to give a history lesson in this review retelling the story of Geralt of Rivea, a genetically enhanced mercenary who is the star of this game series based on the books by Polish author Andrei Sapkowski, suffice to say this game – the third in the series – has Geralt tasked with searching for Ciri, his understudy many moons ago who has returned, along with an oppressive evil called The Wild Hunt that wants to destroy everything in its path.

 

The Witcher, It’s a miracle

The fact that Saber Interactive has even got The Witcher running on what is essentially a tablet chipset is a miracle and what’s even more astounding, though, is isn’t some pared back version of the same game that appeared on PC and consoles: It’s the complete edition (just as it says on the tin), with all the DLC (including the Blood & Wine and Hearts of Stone expansions that were released). Sure, it’s a compromised version of The Witcher but it’s feature complete – and that is a miracle.

Geralt of the RivieraWhen it was rumoured that The Switcher was coming to the Switch I didn’t quite believe it but here we are: It’s real and it’s wonderful.

I’ve played The Witcher games right from the beginning and The Witcher 3 on both PC and PlayStation 4. So I know a thing or two about the series, and yes, Nintendo’s version takes a dramatic hit visually. With environments more washed out and fuzzy than its console and PC counterparts (especially vegetation). At times, when a sunset bathes the game world in golden light or light shafts stream through a forest, it really does look beautiful. Also, from all accounts NPC counts and character models are comparable to other versions. Besides, The Witcher 3 was a demanding game on PC at the best of times if you cranked all the bells and whistles up.

Some advice, though: If this is your first time experiencing The Witcher. I advise you don’t start with the Switch version. If you have access to either console or PC versions, play one of those versions first. That’s the best way to play it. Also, I don’t recommend playing it in docked mode (if you have a Switch Lite you can’t anyway). Why, you ask?

It’s really for on the go

Played in docked mode on my Samsung 40-inch 1080p TV, the visuals are frankly a mess and hurt my eyes. Things are blurry – as if a thin layer of petroleum jelly or such was smeared across the screen [especially ground vegetation which is lifeless and flat] – textures take ages to load in sometimes [detailing on Geralt’s shoulder armour took an insanely long time to sort itself out] and to be honest, it just doesn’t look nice.

It’s clear the Switch version is designed for handheld play first and foremost. The 6-inch screen hides all the imperfections and compromises better. Yes, you still notice flat grass and the like, but portable mode is best for this edition of The Witcher. Play it on the bus, on the train. Heck, play it sitting on the toilet. It doesn’t matter where you play it because handheld mode is where the magic shines best.

The Witcher and Roach on the move How does CD Projekt Red & Saber Interactive get the seemingly impossible game onto a console that is dramatically underpowered when compared to its siblings? By using a dynamic resolution to ensure stable performance, that’s  how. The game will drop as low as 540p in crowded and demanding places, but you know what? You don’t notice it that much in portable mode due to the small screen [at least, I didn’t notice resolution drops but then I have old many eyes]

The game seems to hold a relatively steady 30 frames per second (Digital Foundry has done a great performance analysis on things), although dips are noticeable in crowded areas and some cut scenes where it’s abundantly clear that the Switch is being pushed to its absolute limits to keep things running, and like many games ported over to Switch I still found on-screen text ridiculously hard to read at times – even with my glasses on. It’s also a battery hog. Be warned: During one 2 1/2 hour play session, my Switch’s battery went from 100% to 34%. So have a power bank ready to go if you plan to play for extended periods.

That damn horse again

Any niggles? Of course. One is the game’s automatic pathfinding when you’re riding Roach, your horse. Which I’d hoped they might have fixed in this version. When I set a way point and held down the appropriate button for automatic canter to our destination. He’d lose track of where he was going, forcing me to manually steer him back onto the right path. It’s not a game breaker: It’s just annoying that it’s still here. Another is given the small size of the Switch’s screen [and the default quite dark gamma settings for the game], sometimes enemies are harder to spot, which makes combat challenging at times.

The bottom line here is that yes, The Witcher Complete Edition on Nintendo Switch doesn’t look as good as its console and PC counterparts and purists will recoil in horror at that, but The Switcher is an outstanding port of one of the finest action RPGs of all time that is feature complete and I just can’t put it down [I’ve played for hours and hours over the past week]. It’s just perfect for when my better half is marathoning her soup operas and I need something to occupy me.

I tip my hat to all the talented individuals involved. Who have shown that magic and alchemy can indeed get a game like this running on Nintendo’s system.

Thanks to Stephen at Namco Bandai in Australia for the review code.

The Witcher on Switch: What is this magic?

I have to admit I was sceptical when I first heard that CD Projekt Red’s The Witcher Wild Hunt was coming to Nintendo’s hybrid console.

Well, colour me surprised and intrigued as it’s on the Switch and by all accounts, isn’t too bad, at least if this hands-on from Digital Foundry is anything to go by.

And if that analysis isn’t enough, BandaiNamco has released a 40+minute gameplay overview featuring commentary from CDPR community manager Paweł Burza and senior quest designer Paweł Sasko, Senior Quest Designer about Wild Hunt and the Hearts of Stone and Blood and Wine expansions.

Go have a watch.

The Witcher Wild Hunt releases on Nintendo Switch in October. 

My Friend, Pedro review: bloody acrobatics & a sentient banana [Nintendo Switch]

If I can make one suggestion when you fire up Deadtoast Entertainment’s side-scrolling shooter My Friend Pedro, it’s this: Do so wearing a decent set of headphones as it has a soundtrack that your ears will thank you for.

Based on an Adult Swim Flash game, My Friend, Pedro, the sound track is driving and relentless and fits perfectly into the on-screen carnage as you (our hero) shoot, pirouette and tumble your way through a 2.5D world, goaded on by … a talking banana. Yes, you read that right: A sentient, talking banana. That banana is Pedro and he offers advice on what to do.

My Friend, Pedro is described by publisher Devolver Digital in its marketing as a “violent bloody ballet about friendship and imagination” and it’s the perfect description: A twin-stick shooter, the game delights in slow motion acrobatics (think Max Payne’s bullet time) as you bound off walls and catapult off weighted doors, kicking 10-gallon drums (and eventually body parts) into foes & dodging automated turrets as bullets fly and heads explode in clouds of of red mist – all punctuated by that marvelous soundtrack (notable pieces are being Requium for Rose & Junkyard King).

This is a game that celebrates forward momentum, too, rewarding you with inventive moves and speed – then scoring you at the end. Every now and then an image of Pedro’s face (actually, do banana’s have faces?) will subliminally flash onto the screen: If Pedro’s smiling, he likes what he sees. If he’s frowning, he’s not impressed so you’d better do better.

My Friend, Pedro is also the sort of game that is perfect for the Switch’s portability and one that you can play in bite-sized chunks when you’ve got a bit of spare time in the evenings, thanks to the size of the levels, but the controls did take a bit of getting used to, as I felt I had to contort my fingers at times to do pull off some manouevers.

Devolver Digital is impressing me more and more with its support of quirky, indie titles [another excellent title is BroForce, which also plays perfectly on the Nintendo Switch]  and with My Friend, Pedro, Devolver has another winner on its hands.

The stupidity that is the Nintendo e-shop’s regionalisation

This is a rant about idiocy.

Idiocy from either Nintendo or from THQ Nordic. I’m not sure which company – it could be both of them, to be honest – but it’s idiotic, nonetheless.

Recently, THQ Nordic released the remastered version of its third-person action game Darksiders on the Nintendo Switch: The Darksiders Warmastered Edition. I was interested in buying it as not only was it, in my humble opinion, the best game in the Darksiders series, last week Digital Foundry did a rather nice video covering how the game has both a performance mode (which locks the frame rate at 60FPS but drops the visuals slightly) and a graphics mode (which caps the frame rate at 30FPS but looks prettier).

“That sounds like a bit of me,” I said to myself this week. I hadn’t bought a game for my Nintendo Switch in some time, and I did like the original Darksiders. So, I went looking on the New Zealand e-shop for Darksiders Warmastered edition. Nothing. Nada. Zip. It wasn’t there.

I was confused. The game was released on April 2. Maybe it had just been delayed. So I searched for it again: Nope. It wasn’t there.

So, I asked the helpful Twitters and was told by one of my Australian chums (Dylan Burns) that it was on the Australian e-shop for $49.95 but he would check with one of his Aussie chums (Daniel Vuckovic), who was knowledgeable in all things Nintendo (he runs vooks.net, no less) on what the situation was. It seemed it was a bit of a mystery.

Vooks looked into it and this is what he said (in Twitter form):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sure, enough, I clicked on the NZ e-shop link and got this:

I clicked on the Aus e-shop link and got this:

This is just idiotic, Nintendo and THQ Nordic. How does this sort of ridiculous situation come about?

Seriously, though, how does such an idiotic thing happen? How is that Australia is three hours away from New Zealand by plane, yet I can’t download Darksiders Warmastered Edition????  Some states in Australia take longer to fly to than it does to New Zealand, yet they haven’t been penalised.

New Zealand and Australia are lumped into the same region by video game publishers all the time yet here we are with a mind-bogging situation like this where one country is penalised over the other.

Does Nintendo and THQ Nordic think so little of Switch owners in New Zealand that they won’t release the game in our e-shop? Probably, to be honest. I really don’t think either of them give a shit about little ole’ NZ. It’s just a smack in the face for Nintendo Switch owners in New Zealand [NZ doesn’t even have a distributor of Nintendo product: Everything has to come from Australia].

I was quite happy to pony up and pay for Darksiders Warmastered Edition because it looked like a good port, but you know what? I’m not going to now, just out of principle. And not even selling a physical version? It’s as if THQ Nordic don’t actually want people to buy the remastered version of its game on a portable platform, especially in Australasia.

Sure, I could buy it from another e-shop but, frankly, why the hell should I? Why should I give either company my money when they show disregard to the country I live in? [Apparently, the first two Darksiders are free on Xbox Gold, too, so that’s another reason not to spend my money on the Nintendo Switch version.]

So much for living in a connected world where there are no boundaries …

 

Gaming news: Hot & fresh

Marvel’s Spider-Man most searched for Kiw gamers

PriceSpy got in touch this week, telling me that Marvel’s Spider-Man (PS4) was the most searched game in New Zealand for January.

Insomniac’s rather good swinging simulator was released in September last year but is obviously still a favourite with PS4 games in Aotearoa. I rather liked it, if my late review is anything to go by.

PriceSpy says the game has also had “significant” price drops since it was released, the biggest savings coming in December, 2018 and January this year.

Rounding out the top five most searched games were Kingdom Hearts III (PS4), Super Smash Bros Ultimate (Nintendo Switch), Red Dead Redemption 2 (PS4) and New Super Mario Bros U – Deluxe Edition (Switch).

Star Wars Republic Commando coming to Games with Gold

During a post in January, I lamented that one of my most favourite Star Wars games Republic Commando was a brilliant game but we would never see a sequel. Well, it seems that while we’re not getting a new game or a sequel, Xbox is releasing the original Xbox title (which also supports Xbox One backward compatibility) is coming to Games with Gold during March.

This brings joy to my heart so I’ll definitely be checking it out and see whether the Xbox One ups the graphical fidelity any. I’d still like to see a sequel or remaster of Republic Commando, though, although, given that EA has the license to create Star Wars games and really has no idea what it’s doing with it, I won’t hold my breath.

Meanwhile, over at PlayStation …

The Witness_20160128200456

Not to be outdone, PlayStation Plus members are also getting some digital treats next month, with Call of Duty Modern Warfare Remastered and Jonathan Blow’s pretty but perplexing puzzle game The Witness both coming to Sony’s current console.

Sorry, PlayStation, but Xbox wins this month for me simply because one of my favourite Star Wars games of all time, Republic Commando, is on Games with Gold. Plus, there’s also the fact that I don’t actually have a PlayStation Plus account, either …

Dead Cells: A frustrating, challenging game that has me hook, line & sinker

Happy New Year to you all, dear readers. This, the first post of 2019, is the first of many this year. I hope you enjoy it.

 

Dead Cells, from indie developer Motion Twin, is a hard game. In fact, it is a very, very hard game, especially for an old man gamer like me!

Yet, Dead Cells is one of the most enjoyable games I’ve played in a long, long time and it has an element about it that despite you dying many times during each play through  – and you will die many, many, many times – you’ll restart again, trying to go further and further each life into the rogue-lite ever-changing world that Motion Twin have created [each time you die, the dungeons are randomly generated so no two are the same, which means you can’t memorise specific paths].

The developers describe Dead Cells as a “rogue-lite, Castlevania-inspired action platformer” and many people describe Dead Cells as a metroidvania-like game but I’m not sure it is, really. Sure, there is a little bit of back tracking as you find the right path to the exit door that will lead you to the next level but by my understanding, metroidvania-like games limit access to other parts of the world by locked doors or obstacles until the player gathers specific items/tools/abilities.

Sure, there are doors in Dead Cells that are locked but they generally get unlocked by a pressure pad or similar so I’m not really sure you can class this game as a metroidvania-like, can you?

What makes Dead Cells interesting is that it has permadeath, and no in-game checkpoints, which means when you die [and again, you will die and die and die], your character gets re-incarnated at the beginning of the dungeon, fresh and ready to begin again. Let me make that clear: You don’t re-spawn at the last checkpoint, you re-spawn at the beginning. As Motion Twin says, “Kill. Die. Learn. Repeat“.

I thought long and hard before buying Dead Cells for my Nintendo Switch. I’d heard people rave about it, saying it was the best game they’d played all year, but I’d also heard about how insanely difficult it was, how unforgiving it was and how maddeningly frustrating it was at times. It sounds, though, I was wise to wait a bit to pick it up on Switch as it suffered frame rate issues at launch, which seem to have been rectified now thanks to a patch which lets you lock the frame rate.

It was a good few weeks [perhaps months?] between me thinking about buying it to me actually buying it. Ultimately, I didn’t want to buy a game that I would die constantly because, well, I suck at games like this.

I fired it Dead Cells for the first time and was proud of myself that I lasted 25 minutes to reach the second dungeon [The Promenade of the Condemned]. The foes didn’t seem too difficult and I got to grips with the controls easily enough.

“This isn’t too bad,” I said to myself. “What the feck were people talking about saying it was insanely hard?”, I said to myself. I then ran into guys with large swords and spikes that I didn’t realise drained health if I stood on them for too long [I know, right? What was I thinking?]. I died – and was transported back to the opening dungeon, having to find the new route to the next dungeon doorway.

But you know what? I didn’t curse. I didn’t scream. I didn’t turn off Dead Cells and go play Full Throttle. I continued on. I made my way through this newly generated dungeon. I was hooked.

I died within minutes, mind you: These new enemies were more brutal and tougher and smarter – One variant carried large broadswords and could telport about  – but I carried on. Dying, respawning, delving deeper.The further you progress, the more secrets, weapons and abilities you unlocked. Statistically speaking,  I shouldn’t like this game but I do. I like it a lot. Well done, Motion Twin, well done.

I was most pleased with myself when I found myself quite a way into the Promenade of the Condemned, entering a rather strange room that featured what appeared to be a garden variety archer. Sadly, he appeared much stronger than the others and when it seemed I had him on the ropes, he morphed into some sort of super archer and, yes, you guessed it, lopped my head off and sent me back to the start!!!

Despite me not buying Dead Cells until almost the end of 2018 – I can’t believe I waited so long to pick it up – it has turned out to be one of my favourite games of the year. Funny how that works, eh?

I’m loving the art style, too, and the intricately animated characters: Dead Cells is a damn good game that, for me, is a stand  out in a year that had a fair few bloody good games.

Right, enough talk. If you’ll excuse me, I’m off to fire up Dead Cells, collect some cells and have my arse handed to me on a plate. Several times, I’m sure, but like the line in that song by Chumbawumba says, “I’ll get knocked down, but I’ll get up again …”

Katamari Damacy Re-roll: Craziness ramped up to 11!

Think of the craziest game you’ve every played – then quaduple it: That’s Katamari Damacy Re-roll, the very definition of Japanese crazy ideas at its finest.

The Katamari Damacy series first graced the PS2 waaaaaay back in 2004 and even back then, it was a large scoop of whacky mixed with a side order of “WTF?” While the game spawned a few sequels over the years, it’s now available on Nintendo’s Switch console – and it’s a perfect fit for the device.

The story is simple enough: A tiny prince must rebuilt the stars, constellations and moons that his wayward King father, The King of All Cosmos, destroyed when he decided to go on a drinking binge. Crazy, right?

To make his father happy, the prince is tasked with rolling a small, adhesive ball – called a katamari – around locations on Earth, collecting pretty much as much as he can  – people, animals, pins, balls, dominoes, playing cards, people, even mountains – until the ball is big enough to become a new star in the sky.

The story is as bizzare as the game play, with the prince having to rotate and guide the katamari around earthly locations, slowly growing bigger and bigger until the King of All Cosmos deems it big enough to become a star.

Adding to the pressure of creating more stars is the fact the tiny prince is often under a time limit to reach a certain size katamari ie 10cm, 15cm, meaning the prince will have to often sprint around the location, adhering more and more objects to said katamari. You have to be careful, though, as banging into some items will knock objects off the katamari, reducing its size. Yes, it’s as off-the-wall as it sounds.

Katamari Damacy Re-roll is a perfect fit for the Nintendo Switch, as each location is perfect for bite-sized gaming sessions if you only have a few minutes to play. Visually, it looks nice, with a colour palette of bright colours and a graphical style that is as far from realistic as you can imagine.

The controls worked well enough, although it took a while to get used to flicking the analogue sticks in the right direction to give a speed boost to the katamari, something that is vital to master and is crucial in helping pick up objects faster when you’re against the clock!

The music is catchy enough, with a kind of bouncy note to it, and an at times bombastic theme tune, but the voice of the King will get on your nerves after a while. That said, it’s in keeping with the game’s off-the-wall aspect and you can always do what I did: Turn the volume down a little.

Overally, Katamari Damacy Re-roll is perfect for the Nintendo Switch, especially if you’re after something that definitely doesn’t take itself seriously and is something so mind-bendingly weird that you can’t help but smile, something especially apt during what is now commonly called the Silly Season.

A big thank you to Bandai Namco’s Australia PR man for providing a review code for Katamari Damacy Re-roll.

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