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  • John Bush

Indie B-Sides Review #020

Welcome to another Indie B-Sides Review! Today we're bringing you a murder case, a charming story about candy, a destruction derby, a tactical fight in space, and a roguelike fantasy platformer. See what our reviewers thought of this installment's selections below!

Bohemian Killing (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewer: Robert Krause

Developer: The Moonwalls

Publisher: Ultimate Games

Category: Adventure, Puzzle

Release Date:  3.23.2020

Price: $7.99

How to Get Away with Murder... Maybe.

Walk free or lose your head after Alfred Ethan kills Marie Capet in this murder mystery that tasks you with proving Alfred's innocence. The game begins with you reenacting the murder of Marie Capet before sending you into the 1890s French court house to listen to the prosecution present it's case against Alfred. Once completed, you are given control of the night-in-question's events. Armed with the timeline to remind you where and when you are alleged to be with ZL, the Evidence Board with ZR, and a pocket watch with B, you have to retrace Alfred's steps to work your way to one of the 9 endings available. Frame, admit guilt, prove your innocence, or even try to escape after you travel through a small neighborhood area finding evidence to support your case.

You have to think carefully on what your next steps are or who you talk to, using the timeline and evidence board to make sure you are in the right place at the right time. Some of this can be challenging, as selecting a piece of evidence in a room will move the storyboard forward even if you haven't checked all the other options. The Judge will pause your play and appear to ask if you are sure with what you are doing or saying. After two playthroughs, I had a good idea of where to go and what to do to prove self defense, only to realize I still had seven other options to unlock, and missed a couple doors I didn't know I had access to. Luckily, you can work through these playthroughs rather quickly once you know what you are doing, which can get a bit repetitive.

Graphically, it isn't the prettiest, and it has a few hiccups, but nothing too jarring. The voice acting is pretty well done, and you get a good sense of ambiance from the sounds in the small area through which you play. Bohemian Killing was a unique experience that I enjoyed playing for a few hours in-between other games. The replay value is very high, and the quick playthrough time makes that easy to do. I really wanted to see the self defense ending and escape from prison, however, after unlocking where most of the evidence was, it started to feel repetitive. I still would recommend the game at the cheap price point it is at, especially if you can get it in a sale.

Score: 6/10

Buy Bohemian Killing from the Nintendo Switch eShop here

Follow The Moonwalls

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*A game code was provided for review purposes.

Syrup and the Ultimate Sweet (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewer: Akio Kahoshi

Developer: NomnomNami

Publisher: Ratalaika Games

Category: Visual Novel

Release Date: 4.4.2020

Price: $4.99

Please Do Not Eat the Cute Candy Girl

Syrup and The Ultimate Sweet immediately catches the eye with it’s cute art. But good art does not make for a good game automatically. Thankfully, Syrup brings more to the table than just adorable characters. The story is not terribly complex, but it carries itself with enough levity that I found myself smiling often.

It must be noted though that the game is not terribly long. A full play through will probably take less than thirty minutes for the first run, and obtaining every ending will take less than two hours. Despite that, the characters manage to grow as the story progresses—or not, depending on what dialog choices are picked. What surprised me most about the game was how drastically a few of the story choices altered some parts of the game. While the overall plot stays the same, character interactions can be very different.

Overall this is a pleasant little adventure with plenty of charm. Most importantly, please do not eat the cute candy girl—even if she is quite tasty.

Score: 8/10

Buy Syrup and the Ultimate Sweet from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

Follow NomnomNami

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Follow Ratalaika Games

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*A game code was provided for review purposes.

Concept Destruction (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewer: John B

Developer: Thinice Games

Publisher: Ratalaika Games

Category: Arcade, Destruction Derby

Release Date: 5.22.2020

Price: $4.99

Appetite for Destruction

Concept Destruction for the Nintendo Switch is a destruction derby sim with a twist – you’re not driving cars, you’re controlling miniature cardboard models of concept cars. Somehow this is done for science, supposedly; it’s a cardboard car crash test to see which car is safest. Somehow, I don’t think that’s how it’s done in real life, but I’m willing to look past that because the game is pretty fun and it’s not story-driven in any way. As long as you skip the opening movie, you don’t even have to think about the game’s premise at all since it never comes up in any of the game modes.

The gameplay is smooth and simple; you’ve got your car, and you can go forward and in reverse, in addition to a handbrake for tighter turns and a boost ability. Your car has a damage gauge for its overall body and all four wheels; you can lose a wheel and keep going, but if your car’s chassis goes it’s game over. You’ve also got a battery that drains as you drive around; if it dies, so do you. Battery charges drop on the map as cars are eliminated from contention. You’ve got three modes, championship, single event, and multiplayer. Championship takes you through all of the available maps in a ten-way destruction derby while normal lets you play one-off contests. You can only unlock new cars via championship mode, though, so I played that the most. Multiplayer seems to be disabled as of writing; don’t know what’s up there. The option is greyed out on the title screen.

For a one-man development team, Concept Destruction looks amazing. The level of detail present in the car models – each with three color palettes – and the tracks - which are designed to look like they’re made out of office supplies - is impressive. There are only a few music tracks, but the aggressive song with plenty of roaring guitars that plays during matches fits the game very well. The game suffers from a lack of variety; smashing cars into each other is fun for a while, but it loses its luster after a couple of tournaments. It would have more life if the multiplayer mode goes active, but as it sits it’s a fun game to play around with for a few hours until you’ve unlocked all the cars, but it doesn’t have much staying power.

Score: 7/10

Buy Concept Destruction from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

Follow Thinice Games

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*A game code was provided for review purposes

Spaceland (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewer: Akio Kahoshi

Developer: Tortuga Team

Publisher: Ellada Games

Category: Strategy

Release Date: 10.30.2019

Price: $19.99

Spaceland is a squad-based tactical game in the same vein as XCOM or Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. There were two things I noticed quickly when diving into it: first that it looked surprisingly good, and second that the writing left much to be desired.

Visually I have no complaints about the game. The assets all look good on the Switch, with a pleasant style to the designs. Each squad mate and enemy are distinct, allowing them to quickly be identified. The game runs smoothly too; I encountered no frame rate issues during my playtime. It likely helps that the stages are fairly small, and the game makes use of fog of war. This adds to the strategy of the game while also limiting the number of assets onscreen at any one time.

Unfortunately the writing is not as good. The story is fine, in terms of getting the character from one mission to another. However I never felt any tension or urgency despite it being a rescue mission with vicious unknown aliens. Part of this is because the actual lines often come off as unnatural. For example, one character having to specify that his fifteen years of service were for the Space Rangers despite the other person being his coworker for a full year. It is clear the exposition is for the audience, and not how the characters would really speak. This awkward dialogue continues throughout the game, falling just short of uncomfortable.

But a mediocre story can be ignored if the game is fun. Mechanically the game is not terrible, rather I found it to just be a bit unbalanced. Enemies do pretty significant damage, though this problem was lessened slightly with a healer on the team. If the combat was more about taking cover and minimizing damage then this would be fine. However, the majority of enemies are melee and the player’s bullets are limited.

These two issues combine to make the combat overall not terribly fun. Hiding behind pillars will not prevent damage as melee enemies swarm them, and moving enough to keep out of range will also prevent them from firing back. Most characters are also almost ineffective at more than a few squares distant from their target. Against ranged opponents, the enemy will take cover and will not move until the cover is destroyed. However it takes several of the precious bullets the player is given to breach cover. This forces the player to rush the enemy to get around the cover. In both cases the player must rush in and likely take damage to deal with enemies.

This does not make the game impossible by any means, but it definitely made the game less interesting than it otherwise could have been. Each character has secondary weapons that do not use bullets, but with the exception of the melee-only sword they did so little damage they were effectively useless. Overall, Spaceland is not a terrible game. It is just one that does not quite live up to the better games in the genre. Even so, fans of squad-based strategy games may still find enough to make this game worth their time.

Score: 6.5/10

Buy Spaceland from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

Tortuga Team

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Ellada Games

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*A game code was provided for review purposes

Thy Sword (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewer: Robert Krause

Developer: GamePhase

Publisher: Ratalaika Games

Category: Adventure, Platformer

Release Date:  3.15.2020

Price: $9.99

There is nothing left but one oath, Thy Sword!

Developer Ratalaika Games releases another inexpensive, fun retro style game with Thy Sword. This hack and slash roguelike with procedurally generated levels gives you all the features you'd want to scratch that roguelike itch. The game is moderately difficult and provides three different difficulty modes, one of which only provides one credit to continue but also gives you the option of bringing a friend with local co-op mode. You begin with 2 heroes, a Barbarian and Valkyrie and unlock new ones during your playthrough. You'll adventure through a world split into sections that have to be conquered in order to unlock the next areas. Each sections has 5 levels or days to advance through, some ending in boss fights to collect one of five gems.

In between travel to these areas you'll have a camp where you can purchase weapons and items, recruit new heroes, and gamble your winnings with the local riff raff in a game of 21. The combat is fast-paced and each hero has a few strong attacks up their sleeves that can be crucial to use at the right moment. The weapons and armor vendor at camp will have items that change each visit that will be of help to do more damage or to give you abilities like double jump. The game takes patience as most in this genre do but after a few hours of getting the hang of what each monster does and powering up, I was more than ready to take out the Dark Overlord.

Thy Sword isn't much different in graphics than most games of this genre being released. You have your basic set of grass, stone, or rock levels that will be procedurally generated. Sprites look decent and there is a fair amount of enemies to give variation. Music-wise it's just your average 8 bit themes that you won't really pay attention too.

I found Thy Sword to be pretty addictive, especially the gambling which is probably a sign, and wanted to take my time to unlock everything I was able to before review as some of the weapon combos like Lightning Sword make the kinda sluggish gameplay more enjoyable. This would probably be a great game to local co-op with a friend for a couple hours. The boss fights are entertaining and some I only got past by the skin of my teeth. If you enjoy roguelike action platformers I recommend this game, especially if you catch it on sale.

Score: 7/10

Buy Thy Sword from the Nintendo Switch eShop here

Follow Gamephase

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Follow Ratalaika Games

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*A game code was provided for review purposes

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