Hello gentle readers, and welcome to the SwitchArcade Round-Up for December 26th, 2023. In today’s article, we’ve got a few reviews of recent releases for you to enjoy. Born of Bread, Fearmonium, and Hammerwatch 2 are up this time around, and things are in a rather rough state all around I’m afraid. After that, we’ve got a couple of decent new releases and a pile of junk, plus the usual lists of new and outgoing sales. Let’s get to the games!
Reviews & Mini-Views
Born of Bread ($29.99)
Homage is tricky. There’s of course nothing wrong with building on the ideas of others; human civilization wouldn’t have made it very far if we had to reinvent everything from scratch each time. But inspiration can take many forms, and some are more desirable than others. Naked clones are annoying and offer very little artistic merit. Games like Undertale that manage to build a work that feels fully its own thing despite drawing from the work of another person are perhaps the ideal. And then there’s something in between those two, a sincere piece of work that is perhaps a little too in love with its source and can’t quite escape from its orbit. Born of Bread falls into that category, I think.
Born of Bread really loves the Mario RPGs, particularly the first two Paper Mario games. I think it loves them more than any game I’ve seen outside of maybe Bug Fables. It imitates many of the mechanics of those games, and even to an extent the presentation of them. I do not doubt at all the sincerity of its passion. But gosh, it cuts close a little too often. At no point in my time with this game did I feel like I was playing a distinctive work. It’s derivative, and I believe intentionally so. Whether that is a negative or positive is going to depend on what you’re looking for from a game. There are certainly worse games to borrow notes from.
Less ambiguous is the technical state of affairs. I’ll be frank: this game feels like it needed more time before releasing. It’s really buggy, sometimes in ways where you have to close out the game and restart. The areas you explore are too big for what they contain, leaving a lot of weird empty dead ends and such. The game balance also feels off to me. It’s incredibly easy, and the game’s efforts to carefully pace how often it doles out new skills are ultimately meaningless as a result. The writing quality is good, full of welcome humor, but the actual story itself doesn’t reach its proper potential.
Still, there’s something to Born of Bread. Even with all of its problems, there’s a certain pure affection and charm to how it’s put together. Similar its doughy protagonist, this game has a good heart that makes you want to like it. As long as you don’t mind dealing with some rough edges, you might find yourself really liking this game. That goes particularly so if you’re a big fan of the first two Paper Mario games. I think this developer has a good future ahead of it in this genre, even if this particular game has a few lumps in it.
SwitchArcade Score: 3.5/5
If I were scoring a game solely based on its premise, Fearmonium would be having a very good day indeed. You play as a minor phobia inside of the mind of a child, and your goal is to become strong enough to be his main phobia. You are his fear of clowns, and that is used to add a lot of spice to the otherwise mechanically rote series of Metroidvania power-ups. Since you’re exploring the boy’s mind and battling his other fears and mental defenses, there’s a ton of creativity here in terms of area themes and boss fights.
Unfortunately, the execution bites this game and it bites it hard. The actual map designs just don’t flow the way you’d like to see in a game of this genre, and the story really didn’t click for me. Fearmonium wants me to be invested in Max’s struggles, but the writing didn’t endear me to Max or any of the oddballs living in his head. At least, it didn’t as far as I could play. There’s an unavoidable progression-stopping bug in the game at the moment, so I don’t know if it pulls its nose up in the second half. The publisher of this version is aware of the issue and apparently a patch is on the way, but I’ve waited as long as I felt comfortable before posting this review. The game is on the shop, people can buy it, I’m reviewing it. Once the bug is fixed, feel free to mentally add another half point to the score.
Fearmonium‘s creative premise and interesting themes help it stand out in the crowded sea of Metroidvania-style action-adventure games on the Switch. In practice, however, it’s never as cool to play as it is to describe. In isolation I could forgive its awkward writing, somewhat clumsy gameplay mechanics, or troublesome bugs. But taken all together, it hamstrings what would otherwise be a genuinely fascinating game. I feel confident a patch will fix the bugs, but the rest of it will proably have to lay as-is. A little disappointing given how much it got its claws into me with its set-up.
SwitchArcade Score: 3/5
Hammerwatch 2 ($24.99)
For a sequel, Hammerwatch 2 takes some mighty big swings. The first game was a fairly by-the-numbers dungeon crawling action-RPG, but this sequel makes it feel tiny by presenting you with a decent-sized open world to explore instead of just one castle. In many ways, it feels similar in scope to the move from Diablo to Diablo 2. That adds up to a lot of new features, like a day-night cycle, a more extensive NPC and quest system, and tons of optional places to explore. It’s a big step, and one that hasn’t been taken as smoothly as it could have been. There are a lot of inconveniences in this game added in for the sake of a more realized world, and some players may not appreciate that.
That day-night cycle often results in needing to kill time until daylight when everything opens up again. The wider array of situations means the character classes are totally unbalanced, particularly if you’re playing solo. Those optional places to explore rarely offer anything of value, which can make it feel like you’ve only wasted your time by doing so. Traveling distances can be tiresome and monotonous thanks to the size of the world. This aspect can be particularly vexing when you’re dealing with time-limited quests. If you like your games polished and tight in their design, Hammerwatch 2 is probably going to irritate you to your last nerve.
If, on the other hand, you have weird nostalgia for old computer RPGs, there are certainly going to be aspects of Hammerwatch 2 that speak to you. Those old days, before loot came with different colored text. Where you would explore and get in battles just for the sake of it. Look, I’m no fool. I know some of why I like this kind of thing comes down to happy memories of days where I didn’t throw out my back picking up a coin off the ground. But I don’t automatically dislike friction, even if it is largely pointless. If you feel the same way, you’re more likely to enjoy Hammerwatch 2 than the average person. There is a considerable amount of pointless friction here.
Alas, in what I can only describe as the theme of the day, Hammerwatch 2‘s Switch version is extremely buggy. It is actually possible to load into solid walls, and that’s the end of your character. Sometimes event flags don’t trigger properly. Characters or monsters who should appear, don’t. I genuinely can’t remember the last time I got soft-locked and forced to start over as frequently as I’ve had to here. And this is not a short game, either. It’s exasperating the game was released in this state.
Hammerwatch 2 is an interesting game that would probably be controversial enough on its own merits, but with frequent bugs of the worst sort and an interface clearly designed for computer users, it crosses the line into something I just can’t recommend in its current state. I actually enjoyed the game when it was working properly, but there are only so many times I can lose a dozen hours of progress before calling it a day. Maybe after a few patches this will be worth spending time with, but for now I’d avoid it.
SwitchArcade Score: 2.5/5
Another adaptation of this classic board game from Marmalade Game Studio. This actually expands on the board game with some new features and content, and whether or not that’s a good thing is an exercise best left to the reader. Do note that it offers up a paid DLC expansion right from the get-go, in case you really want to dive into something new and different.
You play as a double-sided pogo stick creature, and need to make your way through a bunch of tricky platforming challenges to complete each stage. While there is a pre-built stage included here, the meat of the game comes from its procedurally-generated daily challenge stages. If you want more, you can also generate stages by feeding the game seeds. It seems amusing enough if you’re looking for an affordable platformer to get you through the next day or two.
The Bin Bunch
Cat Simulator ($14.99)
XMas Toy Merge ($2.99)
Super Kart Mini Car Race ($9.99)
Human Bowling ($0.99)
Gang Blast ($0.99)
Mystery Box: Escape The Room ($9.99)
Mystery Box: The Journey ($9.99)
Buddy & Friends: Santa’s Workshop Animal Party ($6.90)
(North American eShop, US Prices)
Small lists today, friends. Time Master and Venba are worth considering, and pinball fans with an open mind might enjoy Zombie Rollerz. Over in the outbox, Baba Is You is ending its latest extremely rare sale. Mortal Kombat 1 isn’t a very good time on Switch, but if you want it then you should at least get it discounted. Not much else in there, but give it all a look anyway.
Select New Sales
Time Master ($7.49 from $14.99 until 1/3)
Venba ($11.24 from $14.99 until 1/5)
Divinity: Original Sin 2 ($24.99 from $49.99 until 1/8)
Port Royale 4 ($19.99 from $49.99 until 1/8)
BIT.TRIP Collection ($2.39 from $9.99 until 1/14)
Children of Silentown ($8.99 from $19.99 until 1/15)
Wildcat Gun Machine ($2.24 from $14.99 until 1/15)
Unrailed ($4.79 from $19.99 until 1/15)
Godlike Burger ($4.99 from $19.99 until 1/15)
Warpips ($3.79 from $19.99 until 1/15)
Life of Delta ($7.99 from $19.99 until 1/15)
Zombie Rollerz: Pinball Heroes ($2.84 from $14.99 until 1/15)
Sales Ending Tomorrow, December 27th
Baba Is You ($10.50 from $15.00 until 12/27)
Darkwood ($4.49 from $14.99 until 12/27)
Mortal Kombat 1 ($41.99 from $69.99 until 12/27)
Once Upon a Jester ($5.99 from $14.99 until 12/27)
Q Remastered ($2.72 from $6.80 until 12/27)
RiMS Racing ($4.99 from $49.99 until 12/27)
Super Toy Cars Offroad ($4.99 from $19.99 until 12/27)
Sword of Glory ($1.99 from $14.99 until 12/27)
Winds of Change ($5.99 from $19.99 until 12/27)
That’s all for today, friends. We’ll be back tomorrow with more reviews, some new releases, plus whatever sales and news roll in during the next twenty-four hours. We’re rolling out our end-of-year lists now, starting with Mikhail’s. I recommend checking them out to see if there are any cool games in there that might be to your liking. I hope you all have a terrific Tuesday, and as always, thanks for reading!