Well Ghosties, here we are- super close to the Nintendo Switch’s third birthday. Before it came out I hadn’t touched a video game in YEARS and now I can’t STOP touching them. Kinda like Catholic priests and…….communion wafers. You thought I was going to go for the obvious and much darker joke there, didn’t you? Ha! Your brain did it, not me!
It’s OK, my mind lives in the gutter.
It’s an astounding little machine, especially for grown-ups with busy lives and kids, of which I have both. I’m lucky that I get the time that I do to write, play games, listen to music, do interviews, etc. because life can be tough enough to balance BEFORE you add all that shit in. It’s a constant tightrope act, so if playing & writing about video games is going to fit into the equation it has to be in a way that fits my life.
Being constantly glued to a television just doesn’t work for me, so the versatility of the Switch is HUGE for me. It goes where I go and when I CAN sit down in front of a television it’s there too. It’s not the most powerful console out there, but I don’t give a shit, so that doesn’t sway me in any way. Most of the games I love aren’t blockbuster AAA affairs anyway, so I’m not concerned with having the most extreme processing power available. What I’m interested in are good games that fit into my life and with the Switch that’s what I get.
I’m no brand loyalist, but Nintendo does fucking RULE.
Don’t get me wrong, the other consoles are fantastic machines, I’m not arguing that. It’s just that, if I look back on the times that a video game console has brought me extreme joy- it’s always been Nintendo. Game Boy was my first, then NES, then SNES, N64, GameCube (and I briefly had a GBA and Wii at some point in there) and all of them have been incredible. The Switch was a no-brainer, and I’m obviously not the only one that feels that way!
So, as you guys know, every now and again I do one of these multi-game feature articles so I can share some rad new games with you guys. I’d probably get more traffic posting them individually on launch days, but I like doing it this way so I don’t care. I’m a busy guy with a family so when I get review codes I like to make sure I spend a good amount of time with each game and that takes time. Trying to scramble content out to hit an arbitrary deadline would result in rushed writing, and that shit’s a no-go for me. Instead, I take my time with each game and then throw them all together into a blender so that all you OTHER super-busy folks can check out some rad stuff for your Switch in a super-efficient and lovingly written fashion.
Yes, I AM going to shut up and get to it.
This time around we have a big one, SIX games that have released this month that all most certainly deserve your attention. Let’s get to it Ghosties, and like I’ve said before- I apologize to your wallet in advance for the flogging it is about to experience. You don’t NEED new shoes anyway, the holes in your old ones are kinda like breathing holes for your feet. Yep.
Skellboy is awesome. Skellboy is one of those games that you just KNOW is going to be awesome before you even play it in fact, and the developers (Umaiki Games) and the publishers (Fabraz, of Slime-San fame) have REALLY got something to be proud of here. Skellboy is as fun to play as it LOOKS like it will be and in this age of diminished returns and unjustified hype it is RAD to have a game come out and be just as good as you wanted it to be.
It was all bunnies and rainbows in the Cubold Kingdom until one day when the princess decided to dump the court magician, who happened to be not-so-nice as it turns out. As revenge for his newly acquired broken heart he decides to resurrect the dead to wreak havok upon the kingdom and in doing so he unknowingly resurrects Skippy. Skippy is our skeletal protagonist and the hero who is to make all of this shit turn up roses once more.
Skippy kicks ass. Skippy can swap out body parts with the enemies he defeats thus imparting new abilities/stats unto himself, and it is AWESOME. Some of these abilities help you solve puzzles, some of them make you stronger, but all of them are fantastic fun to use in their own way. Between all the different body parts and weapons there’s a ton of stuff to discover and it never gets old discovering how it all interacts with each other. Combat is basic but super fun, and SUPER addictive too. I could walk around these areas hacking away at enemies for DAYS and not get sick of it.
We’re gonna need to talk about that art style NOW.
Yeah, it doesn’t take an eagle eye to see that Skellboy is GORGEOUS. It’s all big, chunky, pixel-y, voxel-y goodness and every single frame is like a living diorama in full 3D glory. There’s not one single bad thing to say about the presentation here, it a stunner and the music/sounds back it up too. I noticed a few framerate drops here and there but I didn’t care, the game is undeniably fun and I’m not gonna ding them for a tiny tech issue.
Skellboy is a single-player action RPG with a really fantastic interconnected world and the game is packed full of stuff to do. It’s not overly long, and not too short either. They really did a great job of making a robust package that’s full of fun without a ton of filler and I applaud them for that. There’s a great sense of humor about the whole thing, some really cool boss battles, and it all leaves me with a big dumb smile on my face so PLEASE- don’t sleep on Skellboy, it’s fantastic and an absolutely stellar effort from Umaiki Games and Fabraz.
ODDWORLD: STRANGER’S WRATH HD
A brief history of Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD- the game was originally released in 2005 as an XBox exclusive. It was re-released on Steam (as part of the Oddbox package) in 2010, and the HD remake we have here has been on PS3, Vita, PC, mobile, almost the Wii U and now on Switch. The team at Oddworld Inhabitants created a vibrant and super-weird universe with the Oddworld series and since I never got to play this one back in the day I was stoked to check it out on Switch
Most of you probably already know the story but here’s the short version: The Stranger is a bounty hunter with a secret medical condition nobody knows about. Not just an enthusiastic hunter of criminals, this guy is trying to raise enough Moolah to pay for surgery to cure his affliction and he does so by-you guessed it- hunting down bad guys, bringing them to town, and collecting the bounty. The story takes a darker turn at some point and I won’t spoil it here for those of you who haven’t played it like I hadn’t.
The game is a strange beast indeed, combining third-person action/platforming with first-person shooting to pretty damn good effect. It never quite “knocks it out of the park” with those elements individually but the whole thing does kinda gel together to make it’s OWN thing and I like that about it. The coolest thing on display here is the “live ammo” system, and it’s exactly what it sounds like. The ammo for your super-bad ass crossbow comes in the form of live creatures, and each one has a different ability/effect that it provides. Some of them are explosives, some of them turn your crossbow into a virtual machine gun, and some of them are used to immobilize your enemies. All of them are super-fun to use though, and it’s probably the most fully-realized gameplay element in the game. It’s the one part that feels TOTALLY unique and it really is great fun to discover a new creature to shoot our of your crossbow.
You’re going to be going on missions through this surreal world to hunt down your bounties and their cronies are going to do everything they can to make sure you don’t meet your objective. While you’re never gonna get totally SWARMED by baddies they definitely gang up and put up a fight so luckily you have the firepower to deal with them, and there’s the stealth angle too BUT- I’m not a huge fan of stealth so for me it was guns-blazing whenever possible. It’s a hell of a lot of fun to sneak up on a bunch of enemies and them unleash your creature-bullets on them in a dizzying display of…I don’t even know what you’d CALL it. It’s awesome stuff, I just wish the stealth stuff wasn’t a thing cause I just don’t dig it much myself.
On the presentation front, there’s no getting around the fact that the game looks like a game from 2005. That being said though, the HD remastering has done a SUPERB job of bringing the game a little further up to modern generation standards and it IS a very pretty game to look at. I also know that the frame rate is super solid cause I got dizzy a couple times, which is when I know something is all good on that front.
Move over, Digital Foundry. The “dizzy test” is here to stay.
I’m not here to analyze the tech, cause I honestly don’t care. Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD is a great revitalization of a game that was considered pretty innovative for 2005 and it looks great, sounds great, and play pretty great most of the time. Honestly? Like I said earlier, I could do without the stealth element myself, the voice acting is well-done but a LITTLE much for my tastes, and some parts ARE on the frustrating side. Or as I like to call it, the “bite your controller in a fit of rage” side. Yes, I AM well adjusted. That’s the thing though, that’s what you’re gonna get with pretty much ANY remastered game from 15 years ago, but what’s here IS fantastic and completely worth your time. There’s a pretty decent amount of content here so you’re getting your money’s worth, and it takes a classic game and kicks it up a couple notches.
My goal with my reviews/articles is to show you guys games from MY perspective, for other people who might be in the same position- busy lives, kids, marriage, bills and shit- all of the above. I want to show you games that will make you happy, cause they make ME happy. Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD isn’t perfect, but it definitely made me happy and THAT’S why it’s here.
Willy Jetman is fucking awesome, let’s just start there. There’s no “Terms of Endearment” level emotional story going on here, there’s no ray traced eyebrow hair, and your “hero” is a space garbageman essentially. You know what? The game is ALL the better for it. Last Chicken Games and BadLand Publishing have an absolutely FANTASTIC retro-style metroidvania/shooter/platformer here and it’s one of the few games that have come out recently that I can honestly say channels the feeling I got when I as a kid playing shit like Blaster Master for the first time.
Yeah, it’s THAT good.
There’s been an accident in the orbit of the planet Gravos and Willy is tasked with cleaning up the wreckage of a cargo ship that crash landed there. He ends up stumbling into a quest to save the universe and I’m not going to ruin the joy of uncovering the humorous and touching story for those of you that haven’t had the please of playing it yet. It’s just SO fun to discover the game for yourself, you’ll thank me later- I promise.
The gameplay sees you running, jumping, and zooming around with your trusty jetpack. It all feels fantastic too, the jetpack takes a LTTLE getting used to but once you get the hang of it you’ll be flying around with ease. That’s where the hybrid nature of this game comes into play too- you’re collecting parts of the crashed ship to place into recycling kiosks, shooting baddies galore, and uncovering secrets. There’s some REALLY fun boss fights too, and the difficulty balance is spot on so you always feel challenged but never pushed into game rage mode. The backtracking element common to metroidvanias is here but it never annoys because the damn game is just so much FUN to play. Nothing is a chore and there’s a wealth of time to be spent with this game.
It’s all done in retro-style pixel art to great effect, I don’t recall ANY framerate issues, the sound design is excellent, and the world that unfolds around you is fun of life, humor, and more heft than you’ll initially expect. If Amy part of you enjoys retro games, pixel art, or action/platformers in ANY respect you’re gonna need to get on board with Willy Jetman ASAP. I’m SO happy it got on my radar because it’s an absolute must-have. I should mention too, that it also manages to be a pretty relaxing game and that’s not because there’s a lack of action. Quite the opposite, but maybe it’s all the flying around with the jetpack, I found myself feeling all zen-like while I played this game which is a nice change of pace from the usual anxiety-riddled mess going on up there.
Willy Jetman is a straight up JOY, and it accomplishes that rare feat of feeling awesomely retro AND modern at the same time. Don’t sleep on this one guys, hit that eShop button and get to it!
It’s pretty rare for a game to come out that can accomplish the following 3 things for me all at once:
- Convincing me to play it even though it’s super short.
- Having multiple genres in one game and all of them are fantastic.
- Managing to do all of the above AND providing an impactful story.
Hi-Bit Studios‘ 198X does all of these things and places itself VERY high in the upper-echelon of Switch indies in the process. It tells the story of The Kid, who grew up pretty similarly to myself and who is dissatisfied with their suburban surroundings. There’s obviously some themes of loss and growing up in there too and it all resonated with me pretty deeply. The Kid stumbles onto an old arcade and- well, I’ll let the game do the rest of the talking. Listen, I’ve seen some of the chatter in the comments section from other articles about this game and I think people are just fucking jaded. I don’t think the story is weak or cheesy at all, but this kind of thing really works for me so to each their own-just don’t pay attention to what the trolls have to say cause they’re full of shit. I’m an honest guy who loves stuff like this and I give it the FULL endorsement.
The game plays out in beautfully done pixel art, it really is just another example of much the pixel art medium grows every year and I’m loving that trend. Story is told in cutscenes and the rest is done in arcade games that are EXTREMELY loving tributes to some of the most classic arcade games of all time. There’s a beat-em-up, a shooter, a racing game, a SUPER rad ninja game, and a dungeon-crawler RPG too. They’re all fantastic but for me it was ALL about the ninja game and the RPG, the RPG really goes heavy on the emotional themes presented throughout the game and it’s really powerful in action. None of them are too long, I think I beat the whole game in just under 2 hours, but I assure you it is worth your time to experience this game. If you were around for the glory days of the arcade then this has you written all over it for sure, but even if not- I bet fans of Stranger Things, John Carpenter and/or Steven Spielberg movies, and fans of synthwave would eat this one UP too.
It’s an 80’s homage in all the RIGHT ways. Not in that “She’s Only 17” kind of way. Winger. 🙂
Speaking of synthwave- holy crap the soundtrack is STUNNING. My two favorite soundtracks of the last few years have been every note of music in Stranger Things, and the Dan Terminus soundtrack from NeuroVoider. Synthwave is my SHIT and 198X is one of the raddest synthwave soundtracks around. Oh yeah, AND there’s contributions from the legendary Yuzo Koshiro who did one of my favorite soundtracks EVER (ActRaiser) so you’re really getting something special here.
Everything else about the game checks out (it runs perfectly too, BTW), and it stacks up to give you a short but absolutely fantastic package, and if you’re anything like me the story will stay with you long after the credits roll. This is only Part 1 of the 198X saga too, Part 2 is slated to come out sometime later on this year so we’ll definitely be checking that out ASAP for you too! For now, the eShop is calling and you need to answer, 198X is original, inventive, and totally special. Now I want to go play through it again!
Squidlit Ink. set out to accomplish something quite a few other devs have tried recently to less-than-glowing returns- to pull off a game that is an EXACT approximation of an old-school Game Boy game. The others I’ve played just haven’t been much fun, but Squidlit is EXTREMELY fun, so much so that upon finishing it I reached out to them and demanded a sequel. They obliged, as apparently one is already in the works, so I’m thrilled at the prospect because Squidlit is a super-short game.
Seriously, I beat it in an hour. Like 198X above, it’s not a long game BUT I can confidently say that the hour I spent with Squidlit was PURE happiness It’s not too hard, it’s not annoyingly easy- it’s just a fucking BLAST to jump around, squirt ink on baddies, and jump around some more.
I feel like the squid is having QUITE a cultural moment lately. Good for them, it’s high time they rise above being the “sort-of octopus” of the world.
Ink shoots out the bottom of your little squid, you have a double jump (maybe more, I’m tired) and that’s pretty much it. You’re trying to stop an evil wizard from being a dick to all the other squids and that’s all the hell you get! Fine by me, cause I enjoyed the living hell out of this thing and I happen to think it’s super refreshing to come across something that isn’t incredibly difficult and is JUST FUN to play. Everything has to be SOOOOO hard these days and for what? People need to chill, and people need to play Squidlit. It looks like a Game Boy game, it FEELS like a Game Boy game, and I’m SUPER stoked for that sequel they told me about to get onto my Switch. The two-woman team of Squidlit Ink. have made me very happy with this little game and I’m keeping my eye on them for sure. It’s super cheap, and super fun, so just trust me- buy it, smile, and if you don’t agree with me feel free to send an adorable squid to hop on my head and ink me.
A little while back, the wonderful folks at Sometimes You approached me about checking this one out- I’m not much of a rhythm game player so I was apprehensive at first but I decided to check it out nonetheless. Music Racer (developed by Abstract Art) is kind of like what would happen if you threw Guitar Hero, Thumper, and OutRun into a blender and I’m certain it’s awesome- I just suck ASS at it.
Seriously, I’m bad at this one. I can’t even last a few minutes and I’m not happy about it because this thing is all rad electro music and neon colors galore- it’s perfect for me, except for the fact that it’s a rhythm game and for some reason I just suck out loud at them. I’m a fucking MUSICIAN too, but something happens when music leaves “instrument in hand” for me, I lose all sense of sanity and my hands turn to green beans. I’ve tried and tried and tried with Music Racer and I’m just not good at it.
I had pride before I wrote this.
BUT- Since the folks at Sometimes You were kind enough to shoot me a code to check it out, I wanted to at LEAST write about my experience so I could confidently tell you “it’s not the game, it’s me”. I can tell that it’s a fantastic rhythm game and there’s a really great amount of music, content, and game modes here too, so I don’t hesitate to recommend it if you (unlike me) don’t suck at rhythm games! It looks fantastic, it runs SUPER smooth, and there’s a ton of great music to race to. See guys, we’re always honest here at The Ghost Generation, even when it makes us (ok, just me) look like an idiot. You’re welcome, Ghosties.
That was a weird but awesome assemblage of games.
It really was, it was fun to play such a STRANGE and diverse group of games for this article and I love it. Bring it on guys! I like the weird shit, the fiercely independent shit, and the just damn GOOD shit! Thanks to all of the devs/publishers who helped to make this article happen and be sure to get your asses over to the eShop NOW to pick up every single one of these. I even threw in the prices for you cause I’m a neat guy. Stay tuned for more and thanks for reading!
Since Facebook are dicks, I interact with all of these lovely people on the Twitters. Here’s how you can interact with them too:
Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath/Oddworld Inhabitants
Review codes graciously provided by Fabraz, Oddworld Inhabitants, BadLand Publishing, Hi-Bit Studios, Squidlit Ink., and Sometimes You.
A blog/website where these happily married, 30-something parents of 2 little minions rant, rave, and speak in tongues. Raw, honest, and riddled with profanity. Get on board and let’s make The Ghost Generation awesome together! http://theghostgeneration.com Twitter.com/Gh0stGeneration