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Hidden Nindies Vol. 3 - Just Shapes & Beats, West of Loathing, The Banner Saga, Minit
September 07, 2018, 17:42
Welcome to Hidden Nindies, a new feature where we put the spotlight on some of the lesser known indie games on current Nintendo platforms! We donít have a strict line drawn for determining which games meet this criteria, but the spirit of the feature is to both expose Nintendo gamers to neat games that they may not have heard much about and to help indie game developers gain some attention for the quality games that they have built which may have fallen a bit under the radar on the Nintendo platforms (even if they were more successful elsewhere.) These are not reviews per se, and the writers may not even have finished the games, but something about them stood out enough to warrant a recommendation.

Just Shapes & Beats
Developer/s: Berzerk Studio
Nintendo Platform/s released on: Switch
Platform/s played on: Switch
Played by: Andrew N

Iím a sucker for music games, so Just Shapes & Beats was a no brainer for me. Itís basically a bullet hell game where you dodge wellÖ pretty much everything on the screen, all to the beat of the current song. Your only controls are analog movement and a single button for a dash (which lets you move through objects without taking damage.) Itís a simple concept but it is very compelling, and it can get darn hard at times.

Music games live and die based on the soundtrack, so Iím happy to say that he soundtrack is an excellent mix of electronic / chiptunes music, with tracks by Chipzel (Super Hexagon), Danimal Cannon (Metroid Metal), Sabrepulse (worked with Anamanaguchi) and more! They even got the license to the Mortal Kombat movie song, somehow (you know the one: MORTALLLLL KOMBATTTTTTTT) and threw it in a stage where youíre dodging silhouettes trying to punch and kick you. Neat.

The visual presentation is top notch too, with a very unique aesthetic and great (if limited) color choices. Just Shapes & Beats contains a variety of ways to play, including a story mode, couch co-op, and even an online mode (which I put considerable time and itís surprisingly polished and a lot of fun.) If you like good music and bullet hell gameplay, check it out!

West of Loathing
Developer/s: Asymmetric
Nintendo Platform/s released on: Switch
Platform/s played on: Switch
Played by: Andrew N

One of my favorite things about the rise of indie gaming is that we now have bite-sized RPGs, something that we rarely saw in the past from major developers. West of Loathing is one such example, a nice little package that clocks in around 10 hours (more for completionists) but still feels like a fulfilling whole.

At the center of this game is comedy, and West of Loathing does comedy well. I think this is one of the funniest games that I have ever played, and Iím not just talking about the dialog, but the goofy art and animation, the various over-the-top scenarios, how much the game trolls the player, pretty much on every level the game is ridiculous, in a good way. This, combined with a simple yet compelling two character battle system almost makes it feel a bit like a Paper Mario game, though it really is its own beast.

And itís not one of those games you get a few laughs from and nothing else, there is a great game behind the stick figures and the silliness. I was especially impressed by how many truly unique gameplay scenarios it sets up over the course of the game, how well the progression works (a main path + a ton of sidequests), how you often have multiple ways to accomplish your task, how well-paced the overall experience is (no overlong areas, everything is short and to the point), how the stat-based character development affects more than just the battles, etc. Itís well worth checking out if a short, funny, and ultimately just plain fun RPG sounds interesting to you.

The Banner Saga (1-3)
Developer/s: Stoic Studio
Nintendo Platform/s released on: Switch
Platform/s played on: Switch
Played by: Ricky G

The Banner Saga is a trilogy of strategy games with health/attack mechanics straight from Advance Wars (wherein your HP IS your attack). Banner Saga adds in a separate defensive armor stat that can be chipped away at to leave your opponent vulnerable to more HP damage. So the strategy of the series comes from managing these two stats (HP and Armor). Unlike similar games, there is no permadeath tied to falling in battle. Instead, units are injured going forward, decreasing their hp/attack until they've had enough time to heal. The permanent loss of characters can only occur during story segments, which are the star of the show.

Most of your time in The Banner Saga is spent engaging with the story. The narrative centers on a caravan of survivors trying to endure a journey through what might just be the end of the world. Resource management and morally grey choices are the focus of this tale. The game doesn't establish any sort of "correct" answer for its choices, leaving the player to decide for themselves if they've done the right thing. This encourages replays, as there are points in the story where dramatically different events can occur (which are acknowledged up until the end of the trilogy).

The Banner Saga is a fantastic series about struggling in the face of destruction, clinging to your ideals in hopeless situations, and pulling through impossible scenarios.

Developer/s: Jan Willem Nijman, Kitty Calis, Jukio Kallio, Dominik Johann
Nintendo Platform/s released on: Switch
Platform/s played on: Switch
Played by: Andrew N

Minit is the Malay spelling of the English word minute, and one minute is exactly how long you have in this game until you die. Oh, donít worry, you will be instantly revived. And then you get another minute before you die again, and the cycle continues over and over and over.

Intrigued? I sure was! Minit is a black and white top-down adventure game, reminiscent a bit of a small-scale old-school Zelda, but the only a minute until death twist defines the experience. Anything you accomplish in that minute remains accomplished, but once you die you will be sent back to your home (which can be shifted at various points in the game). As you surely can assume, this makes for a very frantic experience, but itís certainly a unique one, especially when it comes to trying to solve puzzles with the clock ticking down.

Minit is a very short game. It took me about 80 minutes to finish it the first time through. There is a new game plus which supposedly remixes the areas and puzzles to keep it fresh, admittedly I have not tried it but I imagine it adds another 80 minutes or so. Whether this is worth the price tag or not is up to you, but I was pleased with my purchase.

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Posted: 09/07/18, 17:42  - Edit:  09/06/18, 21:25
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Too many good things to play! Thanks for the heads up on these, I had forgotten about a few.

Posted by 
 on: 09/07/18, 19:34
Watched some footage of West of Loathing when it was about to hit Limited Run, but I felt like the most boring person in the world. Everyone says it's one of the funniest games ever, and I just don't get it. I can see that there are jokes and absurdity, but I didn't find it funny. Does it get better as you go along or am I just a bore?

Minit's really interesting. Been thinking of getting that somehow ever since I saw Jim Sterling play it. Seems very interesting.
EDIT: Have I mentioned how interesting the game is yet?

Posted by 
 on: 09/07/18, 19:39  - Edit:  09/08/18, 11:34
@r_hjort I think it took a half hour or so for the humor of West of Loathing to hit me. But like I was trying to say and probably failed to word well, it's more than just the jokey dialog. A lot of the humor comes from the sort of ridiculous situations you end up in and some of the bizarre ways you end up solving them.

Posted by 
 on: 09/07/18, 22:22  - Edit:  09/07/18, 22:22
I watched a longplay up until the main character's gotten the sheriff's door back from the bandits in the cave, or whatever. Saw some amusing bits, like the ability to have your character walk in all sorts of ridiculous ways, and the line about donating a book on escape artistry or something to an orphanage, but nothing really clicked with me up to that point.

Posted by 
 on: 09/08/18, 00:50

I watched something like that as well. The guy playing was having a super fun time, laughing his head off. That part made me laugh too, it was infectious. But the game itself wasn't clicking for me either. Maybe it's one of those "need to be the one controlling it" or something, dunno.

It's probable that I went in cynical because I hate their terrible stick-figure art. So that might have been my issue.

Posted by 
 on: 09/08/18, 01:57
@J.K. Riki
I think I might have seen the same video. Comedy is about as subjective as porn and horror, so perhaps I just have to realize the game isn't for me.

Posted by 
 on: 09/08/18, 11:36  - Edit:  09/08/18, 11:36
It's possible the game just isn't for you guys. The great (but also difficult to accept) thing about indies on the Switch right now is that there are SO MANY good ones so you will never play them all.

I will say this though, I didn't think I'd get into it nearly as much as I did. I mostly just bought it because it was an indie RPG getting good reviews. But the stick figures, the seemingly juvenile humor, all of that initially worked against my interest. But like I said, I found a very high quality game behind it that honestly, I think would still be pretty interesting even if you don't get into the humor side. It does a lot of things right.

With that said come on tell me this isn't hilarious. And it's pretty smart too, I mean smart in the sense that it includes a lot of real references (I suspect someone working on the game has a background in philosophy or at least did some research...)

Posted by 
 on: 09/08/18, 20:44  - Edit:  09/08/18, 21:24

Yeah, I don't think it's for me. Which is fine, and it's even kind of good since I've got a pretty huge backlog on the Switch right now anyway. I've got, like, five retail games I haven't even started, and a list of dozens of games that I'd like to get.

Posted by 
 on: 09/08/18, 20:49
But what other games reference The Meaning of Meaning: A Study of the Influence of Language upon Thought and of the Science of Symbolism?!?!?!

Nah it's cool, not everything is for everyone! Diversity is our strength!

Posted by 
 on: 09/08/18, 21:25
I hope I'm not coming across as a downer here, 'cause between the MM11 demo, this and some minor plot nitpicks in the Octopath Traveler thread I do an awful lot of complaining at the moment. West of Loathing seems like a good game, and I don't mean to diss it.

Posted by 
 on: 09/08/18, 21:35
Count me as someone who wrote off West of Loathing due to its art style, in my case because I've never cared for minimalistic styles. It can be rare to find a genuinely funny game though so perhaps I should give it a second look.

Posted by 
 on: 09/09/18, 01:16
Iíve wanted to play Minit since it launched on PS4/XBone earlier this year, and the fact you cleared it in a little over an hour kind of cements a purchase from me sooner or later. I do like old school adventure games but I tend to... not finish them lol.

Also have the collectorís edition of West of Loathing pre-ordered from Limited Run, a laid-back & funny rpg sounds like it was my jam, I just never got around to buying it for one reason or another (probably other ĎNindiesí tbh) and I just happened to have some extra dough when it went up for pre-order, so itís good to hear you dig it

Posted by 
 on: 09/11/18, 06:55
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