Fire ‘n Ice Review


It’s always fun when the Nintendo Switch Online adds some more games to the service. It’s at a pretty slow feed at the moment but each new game tells a story. This one is apparently a prequel/sequel (Seems to be debates on this) to Solomon’s Key which is neat. I’m not sure why the name was changed for the American version. Needless to say the gameplay is pretty much the same as the original only this time there is an emphasis on a fire vs ice theme. This was pretty nice to see as those two elements are naturally polar opposites and work well against each other.

The game starts with the kingdom calling you in need of some services. Every capable warrior in the kingdom answers the summons but ultimately they choose a magician in training as their chosen fighter. You will have to use your magic scepter to conjure up ice blocks and vanquish the fire monsters in your path. Doing so will allow you to ascend to the next limit of your abilities. More importantly, it will keep the kingdom safe. That’s the general formula of the game. There are 9-10 worlds which each have 10 levels in them. Clearing them all will result in your clearing the game.

The controls are very simple. You can move from left to right and conjure up ice blocks that are one square down and to the left/right of you. You can also cause them to vanish. Additionally you can push individual ice cubes into the enemies in order to take them down. The goal of each level is to take down all of the fireballs. The initial levels are a walk in the park of course but then the difficulty really expands. I was able to beat all of the levels to the first two worlds with ease but world 3 got tricky. I beat around half of those levels and then settled for beating the first level of the remaining worlds. I didn’t go any farther than that.

The difficulty is certainly real and that means if you decide to play this game to the end you will really have to think each puzzle through. There are no easy answers here. You must have a great amount of determination and fire to get to the end. If you can pull this off then my hat’s definitely off to you. The fact that the controls are so simple is also what makes the game impressive because these puzzles are crafted really well in spite of this. It never feels unfair because you know the full extent of the controls from the start. There are no hidden secrets or anything. You just have to think things through rationally in order to proceed.

Graphically the game holds up well. I was happy to see that we had some real cutscenes here. I don’t believe the original game had anything like that so this was cool. Additionally the hub world is great. You have the tree from the Kirby games and the Power Star from Mario. It made you feel like this game was actually part of some secret crossover. The main villain also has a pretty decent design. Ultimately this game looks a whole lot more like a SNES title than a NES one so major kudos to the developers on this. The soundtrack is more on the bland side though. You may even forget it is there while playing through the game because of how subtle it is. That may be intentional but I’d like for the game to have had a little more pop personally.

It’s hard to say how long the game is since it heavily depends on how well you do at the puzzles. With roughly 100 puzzles in the game I went to say this should take you around 3-4 hors to clear the whole thing. If you do 1 world an hour then I guess it would be 10 which would also be very impressive to be sure. Most NES games can’t even come close to touching that level of time. I’m not always a big fan of puzzle games as I tend to have my qualms with the execution but I have nothing bad to say about this one’s. My only thing is it can be a bit repetitive and without a stronger plot it would be hard to incentivize me to play through the whole thing.

Overall, Fire n Ice is definitely a good game. With the entire game being focused on the puzzles it is possible that you could grow bored at some points through. It’s impassive the way the game was developed and the difficulty is legitimate, however you may find yourself just wanting something more by the end. Keeping yourself to 1 world a batch would probably be the easiest way to get through this. If you already have the Switch Online then this is a good title to add to your collection. You’ll be one step closer to having played all of the games on the collection. Hopefully soon we get either some bigger games (If there are any left) or we finally enter the next console. I think it’s about time Game Boy and Gamecube get to jump in.

Overall 6/10

Mighty Switch Force! Collection Review


It’s time to look at a collection of platformers that now have a physical release all bundled together. I’ve seen images of Switch Force before very briefly but I can’t say I knew the first thing about it. Well, now that I’ve played all of the games I can say I’m a seasoned pro. It goes in on the puzzle genre and mixes platforming into it pretty seamlessly. It’s a fun bundle of games to play through. You should be able to complete them all pretty quickly although the last levels get pretty difficult so you don’t want to take them lightly. Each game ends with a final level or two and a big boss that definitely isn’t playing around.

There are 4 games here but effectively 3 when you consider that the first game is here twice in its normal state as well as an enhanced version. Each game uses a different mechanic to keep things fresh to Switch Force lives up to its name in switching up the experience each time. Lets tackle the first game to start with. You play as a police officer trying to put a lot of criminals back in jail. Each level has 5-6 prisoners who have escaped and you have to navigate through the level and save them. The gameplay is that of a 2D platformer but the levels aren’t linear. The prisoners are scattered in random places so you have to solve puzzles to find them.

You have a blaster that you can use to help you here. Aside from running and jumping you also have the unique ability to get the blocks to fall out of alignment. For example, you’ll cross a bridge that has 3 red blocks and 3 blue blocks. Every time you activate your skill, the red blocks will become intangible while the blue ones appear and vice versa. That’s a very basic example, the game definitely goes all in with the strategy here. Your reaction times will be especially key since you often have to make the switches rapidly and without delay. The last few levels of each game always get very difficult with this. It’s a fun take on the puzzle approach. Some of the Mario games have a similar gimmick with blocks appearing and disappearing but you could never control them. Since you have full control here that really lets you experiment.

The second game has you play as a firefighter. The gameplay itself is the same though with the difference being that instead of blasting enemies you are using your water hose to hit them with water or put out fire. The boxes remain your main obstacle as you try to weave in and out of the levels without letting yourself get caught in the trap. It’s a difficult endeavor but not one that is impossible if you tackle it calmly. I should mention that you have 3 health points in each level. If you lose them all then you are sent to the start. I can’t say that it happened to me very often but it’s still something to be aware of. Make the most of the health packs the enemies drop so you are always prepared.

Finally the last adventure has you playing as a cadet in what is seemingly a simulation for most of it. It’s like the first game but the main difference is that this time the screen is super zoomed out. The walls are also like some of the classic NES games where instead of dying if you fall through the ground you’ll come out of the sky. Likewise you can go off screen from either side and pop out the other. This gives you a lot of new variations to the puzzle as you have to use this to your advantage. The game also uses more of the cannons in a DK sort of way so you’ll need to incorporate that into your platforming.

I definitely enjoyed going through these puzzles. Switch Force shows us how games should present the puzzles. You’re never wondering if you’re going the right way or doing what you’re supposed to. The answer itself is made obvious but the path to getting there is what will likely trip you up. You can’t let your guard down but also don’t overthink what you should do. A lot of times the best way forward is to just give your plan a shot and if it doesn’t work out then you’ll only have lost one health point. The toughest level in the game involved doing a double jump with two switches in the air. At one point I wasn’t sure if I should maybe be trying a different tactic but in the end it worked out. You just really needed perfect platforming.

The graphics for all of the games are definitely pretty solid. They’ve definitely got a very modern look to them and have that Mega Man sci-fi vibe. Everything is very futuristic after all which isn’t really a surprise. These guys are future cops and firefighters tackling next generation’s issues with their blasters and other tech. I’m always up for a future setting so I was definitely on board with this. If you ask me it’s the best setting the game could have possibly chosen here. The soundtrack is pretty solid. It’s got a quick beast and is meant to be solid background music so it’s not really distracting. You’ll be totally focused on the actual puzzles after all so you won’t be noticing the music quite as much.

Overall, Mighty Switch Force is definitely a fun collection. I can definitely see why the games would have all gotten their fans and been well enjoyed by the players. The level designs are on point and there’s enough variety where you always feel like you’re in for a new experience. The puzzles can be difficult but they’re never unfair. Since the controls are fairly simple it all comes down to your hand eye coordination at the end of the day. Once you have that on point then you should be just fine. Fortunately in the boss levels you have a checkpoint since solving the puzzle and surviving would be a difficult ordeal. In the final game in particular I died quite a few times. If you enjoy platformers and trying to reason your way through a level then this is definitely a game you should be checking out.

Overall 7/10

Mario’s Super Picross Review


It’s time to look at a puzzle game Nintendo released a very long time ago. Thanks to Nintendo releasing a bunch of these old games for free if you have the Nintendo Switch Online package, I’ve now gotten to try it out. It’s definitely fun. I’ve always enjoyed Picross and find it to be a whole lot like Sudoku. The idea behind it is the same at least and I wonder if it’s actually meant to be the same game. Either way you better make sure you know your numbers.

There isn’t really a plot of course so right away you can just jump into the levels. After you complete one world you unlock all of the Wario ones to play as well. There seem to be 8 in total. The Mario worlds are played with standard Picross rules. Every time you make a mistake you lose a good amount of time so you have to be careful in what you select. In the Wario game you aren’t told if you made a mistake so if you do manage to trip up then you could be in trouble. It can be very hard to tell where you went wrong, much less getting back on track. It’s better to take as long as you need here and just not make a mistake in the first place.

So how do the rules work? Basically you need to arrange the tiles so that the numbers in each of the rows and columns make sense. For example the first boards have 5 rows and 5 columns. If any of them have a 5 that means you can check off every box in that line. If a row has 0, then cross out everything there. Gradually you will have created a shape. Once you have filled in every square the level is complete and you will see the artwork. As the levels go on the stages get larger and larger which means you have a lot more variables to consider here. I jumped to the final world after a bit and there you have 15 boxes in each row and column. That results in a ton of boxes overall so you really have to tackle this point by point.

That’s what makes the game pretty fun though. There always is a way to solve the puzzles. You may have to look at the stage up and down a few times to really get it, but you will understand the way out eventually. You just gotta keep cracking down on it until you get to the bottom of this journey. Search for rows with the maximum or minimum amounts first. If none of them exist then look for large numbers and you can try to decipher the final areas based on the corresponding numbers. It works a lot like being a detective here. That’s probably glorifying it all quite a bit but it’s enjoyable which is really what I’m getting at. The levels are pretty quick and direct. You should have a good amount of fun here.

The graphics hold up pretty well. The whole game is in Japanese so you may not be able to read the text but it’s still cool to actually se Mario talking like this. It’s not like it has never happened before but it’s rare enough where it is still very notable. The style used here just holds up very well. The soundtrack is less impressive but I guess for a game like this they were never going to churn out a big soundtrack. That would have been impressive though and I think it’s never a bad idea to throw more themes in there. The bigger the soundtrack the better right?

In terms of replay value I wouldn’t say that there’s much here. The game itself is fairly short. I’d say you can clear around 2 worlds in a hour. So maybe 4 hours would have you completing the whole game and I dare say that you will likely beat it sooner than that. So this is definitely one of those games that you play the whole way through but don’t go back to. That’s just how some games are set up though so nothing wrong with that. I’d say the journey is worth it.

Overall, You don’t really see a lot of games like this anymore. It’s a shame because franchises should dive in and take some chances like this. Who wouldn’t want to play a Mario chess game or something like that right? As long as the game has a good amount of content and maybe even a fun story then you’re in business. If you’ve got the Switch Online then you should definitely check this out. It’s not so major that I would say you need to get the membership just for this game though. If you don’t have it, then I suppose you should hold off.

Overall 7/10

Layton’s Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires’ Conspiracy Deluxe Edition Review


It’s been a while but I finally managed to get a hold of the spinoff which concludes the Professor Layton series. Someday I hope we still get another Layton game though since I don’t want the franchise to end. It’s pretty interesting to be playing as a different character for once. The developers did a good job of making sure that this one also feels very different next to the main games with new mechanics and such. Ultimately the changes aren’t enough to help this game match up to the earlier ones but I did end up liking Katrielle well enough. She isn’t afraid to talk back to the other characters more than the polite Professor Layton would.

This game has more of an episodic plot compared to the main Layton games which had a core story. Still, there is an overarching plot in the background. Katrielle is the head of the Layton Detective Agency although not too many people know about her yet. She has a dedicated assistant named Ernest who is always ready to attend to her every whim. One day she bumps into a dog that she nicknames Sherl. Sherl isn’t pleased about this since he doesn’t think it’s a name for a guy, but Katrielle can’t be bothered with this. She also isn’t particularly impressed with the fact that he can talk. She’ll solve his case at some point but she’s more interested in helping the community with their issues as well as trying to find Layton who vanished many years ago. As Layton’s daughter, Katrielle has dedicated her life to finding him. She’ll have to put that on hold though as she solves various crimes fro theft to murder. Will Katrielle ultimately build an even bigger reputation than Professor Layton?

As with the rest of the series the main gameplay revolves around puzzles. As you go through the campaign the characters will often have various puzzles to challenge you with. There is a lot of variety with the missions as some will be solving a maze, math problems, logic questions, etc. It’s always a pretty fun way to test your mettle. There are well over 100 puzzles but to clear the game you only need to clear around 67. That leaves a lot of room for replay value after you complete the game. You are bale to warp between the various cases and the game even tells you exactly how many puzzles and hint coins are left in each section. I appreciate how thorough the game is in its reporting.

There is one thing that holds this game back compared to the other Layton titles aside from the story though. That’s the puzzles themselves. The movements in the puzzles ask you to be way too specific at times. That’s my main issue, the very first puzzle took me a while to complete as it is. I think they needed to allow for a bit more movements here. I think it may have been something about the transition from 3DS to Switch I imagine. The puzzles occasionally have an issue like that but for the most part the rest are all solid so I would hardly call this a big issue or anything like that.

Katrielle’s mission to find her father is probably the most engaging part of the story so the whole time you’ll be waiting for that to come back. It ties into the ending pretty well with a rather massive twist. It definitely makes you double think everything that has happened previously. If you’ve played River City Girls then you’ll understand the effect. She’s definitely a solid lead even if it feels like she may be taking advantage of Ernest quite a bit. They’re really close friends but she certainly must realize that Ernest doesn’t quite see it that way. I imagine that plot will likely move a bit if we ever get a sequel.

As for the talking dog Sherl, I’m not totally sure how that’ll work out. My personal theory is still that he is Layton because that would be pretty cool. His personality will certainly have changed quite a bit but memory loss will do that to you. Meanwhile Ernest is a solid side character. He’s a little older than Luke so you can take him a little more seriously but puzzles definitely isn’t quite his thing. He’s more helpful to Katrielle in daily tasks and such than with his puzzle skills. Another supporting character is Inspector Hastings who is pretty solid. You do feel like he should have more confidence in Katrielle after a while though since she’s always saving his career and reputation. Without her he would be quite doomed.

The various cases are pretty fun. In general the rest of the supporting cast is a bit on the weak side but since the core characters are good that’s the important thing for the cast. Meanwhile the graphics are definitely really good. I was glad to see the full anime cutscenes make a return here. Level 5 has been very consistent with including those. It always helps to give the game a bit more of a cinematic feel to it and I’m always going to give this kind of thing a thumbs up. The soundtrack has some new tunes and some returning ones. The music is pretty fitting with the game’s setting and keeps things rather peaceful.

The main campaign should take you around 15 hours or so and I think you could probably add another 6-7 in order to complete everything in the game. There’s definitely a lot of content here. Even outside the puzzles and main story experience you have a ton of different minigames. I didn’t really try them out but there are many options. I think there are more in this game than in any of the others which is pretty impressive. Every bit adds up after all.

Overall, This Mystery Journey makes for a pretty solid adventure. The title is a bit surprising since it gives you information on a plot point that you don’t otherwise learn about (or even hinted at) until the final chapter. I suppose it’s always good to have some foreshadowing though. At the end of the day this is a pretty pleasant story with solid characters and good gameplay. I’m not usually much of a fan of puzzles in games but I’ve found that games built around the premise tend to be better. You can’t even compare something like the Layton adventures to Flip’s Twisted World. Now all we need is a Katrielle and Professor Layton crossover and we’ll be set. If you haven’t gotten this game yet then you should definitely check it out.

Overall 7/10

Double Dragon Review


It’s time to look at an old beat em up game for the NES. I’m pretty familiar at least with the title because this was a pretty popular game back in the day. Who doesn’t like a good 2D beat em up right? The only thing holding this game back is that it randomly decides to throw an infinitely looping level at you during the campaign. Why would a game even add that? I feel like there is no real benefit to doing so and it just throws you out of your rhythm. Still, the game is definitely fun and it has an actual plot which is always nice.

The game starts with a girl being kidnapped by a gang of thugs. The main character decides to save her, but to do so he will have to travel across cities and mountains to their base. He is also up against an entire city’s worth of thugs who are out to get him. It won’t be easy to stop all of them, but that’s fine. The main character is ready to do whatever it takes in order to win and he is clearly not opposed to getting into some fights. If anything he looks forward to the action.

The controls are pretty simple. You can punch, kick, and do a flying kick. You can also grab the opponent to get some extra pummel damage in which is pretty handy. To continue to going through the level you have to defeat all of the enemies you currently see. After a few waves of this you will make it to the next level. Most of the enemies are pretty easy to dispatch. I recommend kicking over punching as it has a longer range so it’s just a lot more efficient. They will have a hard time landing a counter hit on you.

The toughest enemies are the big dudes who show up to smash your health away. The trick to beating them is to kick when they are the maximum distance away from you. That way you can unleash all 3 kicks in time to knock them down. That’s absolutely your best bet here and if you do that then you will certainly be in a great spot. It’s easier said than done though so you will likely need to work on the timing a bit. A lot of times enemies show up out of nowhere too and throw things at you which are hard to react to in time. These items take a lot of health away so you’ll likely need a few restarts. Still, eventually you will have beaten the game. There are only 4 levels if I recall correctly so that won’t take you very long at all.

The gameplay is straight forward as I mentioned, but the one thing holding it back is level 3. I don’t see why a level loop was necessary. It’s really just penalizing the player for going ahead and kicking everyone around. There’s no reason you should be looking for a secret exit because you haven’t needed one throughout the game. Up til now all you had to do was just beat people up and that worked really well. I feel like this was just to extent the game a bit and it didn’t really age well.

The graphics are pretty solid though. I like the various level backgrounds. You can use quite a few objects throughout the game and it’s always easy to tell what you’re using. The character models are good and the main music theme is pretty solid as well. I definitely didn’t have any complaints with this. There isn’t much replay value since the game is so short and there is no post game content to try and tackle so this is definitely a game that you just play through once and call it a day.

Overall, Double Dragon is a pretty fun game. It may not be the game of the year material you may expect it to be, but you’ll have a good time. It’s fairly short but should still last you for around 30 minutes. Maybe even longer if you get tricked into the infinite level for a while before realizing what is going on. The levels all have time limits which is the main indicator that something is wrong. The time limit is around 2-3 minutes so if you’re still running and there isn’t much time left then you know that something isn’t adding up. If you have the Nintendo Switch Online then there is no reason not to check this one out. The Switch Online even has Double Dragon II already so then you can see if that one does a good job of following up the original.

Overall 6/10

Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy Review


It’s time to take a look at the final Professor Layton game. This one’s been on my list to buy for a very long time so it’s nice to finally have it. It’s a nice conclusion to the series and I hope to see more games come out at some point. I’ll need to get the spinoff for the Switch soon. The Azran Legacy hits all the right notes that you’ve come to expect from the Layton series and it even added some platforming puzzles which was pretty cool. Throw in a lot of twists and turns and you’re in for a fun ride.

The heroes receive a letter from Sycamore asking for their help in solving the Azran legacy. The heroes need to find out what the ancient civilization left for the modern generation and if this is a good thing or not. Unfortunately there is a villain group known as Targent which is after the Azran legacy as well. Layton manages to save a girl named Aurora from their clutches. She has been in stasis for hundreds of years and is the Azran messenger although most of her memories are gone. Perhaps they will return as the heroes collect more of the Azran relics. If the heroes gain them all they will be able to open the door to the future. Time is not on their side though.

This game definitely goes more into fantasy/sci-fi territory than the previous ones. The Azran have technology that is quite advanced including lasers, robots, and the ability to keep people alive for hundreds of years. You can reasonably say that this is technology we will have in the future though. The Azran don’t seem like the nicest people out there even if they may have a lot of good points about how humans are still corrupt in the present. The Targent officials don’t paint the brightest picture of humanity. There are two main members of the group who function like Team Rocket. They’re not really a threat to Layton, but they always get up for another go at things.

The gameplay is the same as the other installments. You travel across different lands and gather information on the mystery. Typically people will only give you clues if you solve their mysteries. Once you do that then they become a lot more receptive to your cause. The puzzles come in all shapes and sizes and they’re pretty fair for the most part. On occasion you may see a puzzle that doesn’t make sense from the description, but it makes sense in hindsight after seeing the solution. Trial and error will get you far, but you’ve also got puzzle coins for the ones that really stump you. So long as you activate the coins you are given hints which make the puzzle a lot more manageable.

There are also a lot of minigames and other little features to have fun with. A new addition to this game is the newspaper which you can use to read about various events. The main game should take you around 15 hours or so to complete and the post game content of completing every puzzle will likely extend this to around 20 hours. It’s a pretty good deal for your buck and it could also take over 20 hours depending on how you’re able to handle the final puzzles. Some of them certainly get really difficult by the end.

As always the game doesn’t cheap out on the graphics. We get fully animated cutscenes which is a lot of fun and in general the graphics are quite clear. It all feels very polished which is always a good thing. The soundtrack brings a lot of the familiar tunes back. Although I would have liked some new themes too, these worked well enough for the scenes. It’s all got a very peaceful air to it.

Layton is a very solid protagonist as always. He’s a quick thinker and can usually stay one step ahead of the villains. He can also fight when necessary like when he got into a sword duel with the main villain. He was able to win despite having the inferior weapon. Layton also manages to stay as a gentleman no matter what is thrown at him and that’s absolutely crucial. You can’t break down when the going gets tough. Luke’s a good trainee to have as always. While he isn’t quite old enough to really help Layton out in all of the cases, he does what he can. He’s not the kind of kid to hesitate.

Emmy is a lot of fun and has really helped the group’s dynamic in this trilogy. She’s always upbeat and ready for a good puzzle. She has a bit of a rivalry going with Luke as she likes to mess with him quite a bit. As Layton’s official assistant she is also quite adept at puzzles and her martial arts are second to none. Then you’ve got Sycamore who is a puzzle genius like Layton. The guy is rich and resourceful so he is quite helpful in this game as well. He seems to have a solid honor code and is always ready to put the mission on hold to save people in trouble. He may have shown up out of nowhere, but is very important to the game’s plot.

Aurora has been in stasis for a long time so she doesn’t know a whole lot about human culture. Fortunately the game doesn’t play that up to a crazy extent so she’s not a bad character. I felt bad for her near the end when everyone just watches as someone gets ready to stab her. Couldn’t someone have manned up to stop this from happening? If I were Aurora I’d be pretty sore at this whole chain of events. She took the situation well and didn’t take things personally…even if perhaps she should have. Then we have the main villain Bronev. He’s a fun villain leader although his screen time is incredibly short despite being the head honcho. I think adding in some more scenes would have helped to make him more memorable. It’s hard to have any sympathy for him even when he gets his origin story though. His actions make 0 sense and so I’m glad that Layton shut him down even if he wasn’t as merciless as he could have been. I’d have had Layton end with his first line and not say the last few.

The game is a mystery so we have a few twists and turns. There are 2 main ones. One of them you’ll likely have figured out from the opening level depending on how you’ve been watching the patterns. You may not guess the exact twist, but it’s one that the series has already used 2-3 times so you’re almost expecting it. The second twist was a lot more unexpected though and worked pretty well. The game really put Layton through the ringer having to deal with all of this. The twist does hurt the second character a lot though. The first character was never truly changed so that’s one thing, but for this character it’s a 180. It’s just hard to come back from something like that and it’s probably why the character got written out. (And because the series ended)

Overall, Layton and the Azran Legacy is a very solid installment in the series which can hold its own against the others. My favorite is still the time travel adventure but after that most of them are pretty neck and neck. One thing I’ve liked about the prequel trilogy is how all of the games tie into each other pretty well. The Azran were referenced quite early on in the prior games. Emmy also adds a lot to the dynamic so it’s hard to go back to just Luke and Layton in the present timeline games. Layton can fight, but usually chooses not to so having someone like Emmy who isn’t afraid to throw down definitely helps the group quite a bit. If you haven’t played this game yet then you can change that. The games work well as stand alone adventures so you don’t need to play the previous 5 games to understand this one although it would certainly help you know the characters more.

Overall 8/10