Here at The Ghost Generation we’ve been extremely fortunate to fairly quickly build some great relationships in the video game industry. We’ve gotten some phenomenal opportunities to review some truly excellent games and I’m excited to say that this looks to be continuing for the foreseeable future. It ain’t easy, but if you’re tenacious, and not an asshole, you can get yourself established pretty well with a little old fashioned elbow grease and determination.
I enjoy playing and reviewing games very VERY much. The playing part is fun, it’s engaging, and it’s where I get to appreciate the art of video games. The reviewing side allows me a window into the creative process, provides a glimpse at the business of things, and it gives me a chance to look at games through a completely different set of lenses than I do as a player. It’s like a full brain massage and I love it. Especially when the games are fantastic, that’s even better!
They say it’s rare for lightning to strike twice, so one would assume it’s even LESS likely to strike three times, and yet- here we are. I’ve recently gotten the opportunity to play and review three games that have COMPLETELY blown me away. Yeah, that’s right- all three of them are utterly amazing, I should note that all three are also in my “fave zone” as they are all shooters of the twin-stick and/or roguelike variety, so I was in a particularly lucky position to get the opportunity to deep-dive into these.
Most of my reviews are fairly long-form, I like to really dig in there and give you guys the full picture. Sometimes though, games come along that don’t require as much out of a review- they do a small handful of things and they do it VERY well (Like Pig Eat Ball for example). Since all three of these games fall into that fantastic category, I thought I’d do a feature article and share these three games with you because, in my eyes, they are three absolutely essential purchases for your Switch indie collection if you’re a fan of super-awesome shooters. Let’s dig in!
SUBLEVEL ZERO REDUX
Sublevel Zero Redux falls into two fairly distinct categories: it is a roguelike/procedurally generated shooter that ALSO happens to be a “Six Degrees of Freedom” shooter too. This means you can fly and attack from any angle, and so can your enemies. Old-school games like Descent are the reference point here and it’s refreshing to see this style of game back on the forefront.
Procedurally generated awesomeness ensues.
The universe has been falling apart for a VERY long time, entire universes regularly disappear and materialize in different places, and human technology is essentially forgotten except for what is controlled by warlords and not-so-nice people. Humanity is strewn about and fragmented, and you’re on a mission to figure out just what the hell is going on out there. While on this mission, you come across a facility that appears to be the cause of all this chaos and you alert your team that you need some back up. Before much else can happen you, and the facility, get sucked into a black hole and your mission is now twofold. You gotta figure out what’s causing all this “universal Russian Roulette” and you also gotta find a way out of the precarious situation in which you’ve found yourself.
Procedurally-generated awesomeness ensues. Each level is randomly generated each playthrough so it never gets stale, and the levels are an absolute joy to navigate due to the aforementioned six degrees of freedom. The Switch version also has motion controlled aiming if you want it and it’s a fantastic addition to the control scheme. You’ve got two weapons at your disposal at all times, one is a missile-launcher type and the other is a more rapid-fire or energy burst type. Ammo isn’t infinite but there are fairly plentiful drops, and you also need to keep a watchful eye on your energy meter cause when that hits 0 your run does too. You’ll find datalogs scattered throughout that give you lore in bits and pieces, keys to access new sections, and weapon/health/ammo stashes as well. Each level will see you fighting your way through challenging groups of enemies to find the core of the level and once you destroy that you move on to the next level.
Delivers on ALL counts.
It’s a fantastic, engaging, and absolutely wonderful to look at experience and the voxel- based artstyle REALLY works here. Audio is excellent, controls are easy to learn and honestly not TOO hard to master, and every time I die I want to immediately jump back in for another run. That’s the hallmark of excellence in roguelikes and this game delivers on ALL counts. Sublevel Zero Redux stands out because it takes something we haven’t seen much of in a LONG time, brings it back, and adds a whole new dimension to make a unique and completely “must-buy” indie title on Switch. Seriously, why are you not on the eShop right now?
I’ll say it loud and I’ll say it proud: Super Smash TV is one of the raddest video games of all time. It was one of my first exposures to what would eventually become twin-stick shooters, which would become my absolute favorite genre later on in life. It was over-the-top, it was challenging as hell, and most importantly- it was absurdly fun.
Since that game a LOT of time has passed, and the genre has grown and morphed into something absolutely wonderful. Quite a few have tried to recapture the spirit of Super Smash TV but most of them have lacked something. Either it doesn’t properly capture the spirit, it doesn’t add anything fresh, or both. And then there was Xeno Crisis. Sweet, sweet Xeno Crisis.
A new modern classic.
This absolutely stunning game started life as a Mega Drive release (physical cart and everything) and the wonderful wizards at Bitmap Bureau decided to do the world a fantastic service by porting it over to Switch. I’m having a hard time containing myself on this one, because they NAILED IT. Home run, out of the park, 100% nailed it. That Super Smash TV feeling is here but that’s a very small part of the equation. They’re taken their inspiration and done the one of the rarest feats in video games- they’ve transcended tribute and created a new modern classic at the same time.
There’s no “War and Peace” stuff going on here- a space station has been invaded by aliens and you need to blow them to bits. You pick your marine (male or female, green or blue) and you go to town, that’s it. You have a main weapon and you pick up temporary powerups as you go along. Flame throwers, homing guns, all the requisite firepower is here and it all feels EXCELLENT in action. You can also pick up health drops which are much needed, and grenades too. One hit knocks off a heart and when you go down to zero hearts it’s game over. You get 3 continues and you’ll get quite used to seeing that “game over” screen cause this game isn’t messing around. When you’re not dying and you make it to the end of a level you get to spend the upgrade points you accumulate by collecting dogtags from fallen enemies. You can upgrade your ammo capacity, heath, speed, and quite a few others too which enables you to tailor the experience to your individual playstyle which is a killer modern touch. Performance is superb in docked or handheld mode too by the way, and the pixel art is EXTREMELY well done here. I really don’t need to say much more about it, this is a game that really does speak for itself- loudly. Even just writing about it is making me want to play it now!
One of the BEST modern twin-stick shooters available today.
You can select an easy or a hard difficulty (hard is the default) and from there you blast your way through 7 procedurally generated levels which consists of a series of rooms and then a boss room. I don’t want to give away too much about the bosses but they are all superb and that brings me to the main point of this game I need to make: A lot of the games I go back to never feel the same way I remember them. What is excellent about Xeno Crisis is that it takes what my MEMORIES think games like Super Smash TV feel like and actually makes it feel that way. It is fast, fluid, tough as nails, and that “just one more run” feeling is ever-present. I stayed up til 3 AM one night cause I just didn’t want to stop. I have kids, so that should illustrate just how awesome this game is- I willingly allowed myself to be crazy-tired with children in the morning because I wanted to keep playing this game! I’d sing this game’s praises from a rooftop if I had access to a tall enough building, but alas I do not at the moment so this shall have to serve as my soapbox instead. This is one of the BEST modern twin-stick shooters available today, and it blazes a confident trail forward while also giving us a rad nod to the past too. I’ve been waiting for a game like this a LONG time, and it’s another complete and total MUST HAVE on Switch, period.
Monkey Barrels came COMPLETELY out of nowhere for me. I was up late on Twitter while I was working on a post and I saw this game pop up in my feed. Maybe it was somebody else’s, I don’t even really remember. A lot of the copy wasn’t in English, but I knew the name of the devs (Good Feel) and I watched the trailer. As soon as the trailer was over I messaged them and practically begged for a review key because I KNEW his was going to be RIGHT up my alley.
Man, was I right! Monkey Barrels might be my favorite twin-stick shooter not called NeuroVoider, and having just finished it last night I’m super excited to give you the skinny. Here’s the story, straight from the devs:
Monkeys vs. Crabs: The battle you didn’t realize you needed!
“In a world ruled by the consumer electronics giant Crabbenwold Electro, a pair of brave monkeys set out on a journey to rescue their kidnapped friends from an evil army of robot appliances!”
Yep, it’s as crazy as it sounds and it’s WONDERFUL. This crazy setup takes you through an exhilirating 22-stage story mode and I was legitimately sad when it ended. Every few levels or so they shake up the formula with either a shmup-style level or a tank-driving stage but the bulk of it is twin-stick shooting a metric TON of enemies throughout the levels leading up to some absolutely epic boss battles. This game even throws in a pretty liberal serving of bullet hell too, and though a few of the bosses are reused throughout the game there is enough new stuff being thrown at you that you don’t care too much. It’s not a roguelike either, so you can really get to know the levels which is actually kinda nice given the sheer intensity at play with this one.
You collect bolts and with them you can begin to unlock 98 WEAPONS. You can have 2 main weapons at once, and 2 specials at once too. Withing that, there is a staggering amount of choice once you open up a good selection of them and there is even a training area where you can test everything out as much as you want. This game WANTS you to be good at it and it gives you the tools to get there. All the weapons are fun to use in their own right, and you’ll quickly discover what works for you too. I’m a rapid fire/high capacity kinda guy myself. You also pick up bananas for health (you’re a monkey after all) and every enemy you dispatch helps to fill a meter that, when full, allows you to shoot your main weapons infinitely for a short time. Main ammo needs to be reloaded but doesn’t run out, and special ammo runs out but is found pretty frequently so it never feels like a struggle.
More fun than a…nope, not gonna do it.
The game is gorgeous, sporting a pixelated/voxel style that is a joy to behold. It’s a parade of color and lights, and as close as a video game can feel to a downright party. Sound is fantastic, and everything feels like a celebration of the genre and you can tell it was made with a ton of love and care. Challenge ramps up JUST right, and there isn’t really anything I can fault here. One small thing- when things get intense the performance can dip pretty hard. That’s just a fact, and it applies in handheld AND docked modes. That being said, it never detracted from my enjoyment much at all, and I love this game SO much that I really didn’t care. This is SUPERB twin-stick shooting bliss on Switch and if you’re a fan of the genre, or just someone looking for something wildly fun, this is, yet again another MUST-BUY indie gem for your Switch. I’ll be playing this one for a long time to come, and you should be too. I’ll save you the “more fun than a barrel full of monkeys” pun and leave it at that. You’re welcome.
That’s a wrap folks, all three of these games NEED to be on your Switch- now. Endless fun is on tap here and what you have is three sterling examples of the modern shooter. Each game does its own thing and each one is truly what I would consider a modern classic. The Ghost Generation FULLY recommends these games and you’ll find links below to find everything you need to know!
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