Sphinx is doing that action-platformer simple-puzzles thing of a lot of the games from this original era. He runs, jumps, swings a sword, gets a bunch of items, all that jazz. Meanwhile, the Mummy(of a young prince Tutankhamen, to be precise), being already dead, has this Wario Land style going on. He can face everything from electrocutuion to crushing, and endure all of it as it puts him into crazy specific states for more complicated puzzles. It's an interesting mix of setups, that keeps either one from overstaying its welcome too badly. Just when you tire of figuring out a complex puzzle for the Mummy, you get to switch back to Sphinx and do something more straightforward and punchy, and vice versa.
Before we go deeper into my thoughts on gameplay, a quick thing you should know: This is one of those "premium mobile game ported to Switch" situations. Now, like a lot of the ones of these I've actually sat down and played, this is a pretty solid port, with solid graphics, and with all of the microtransaction stuff chopped off. This doesn't leave a perfect situation, with some of the seams of old mobile-focused content still showing, but it holds together quite well...and quite frankly, almost certainly ends up working better and less expensively than the original free-to-play form.
What can we talk about, then? Well, even without giving spoilers, quite a few things. Let's start with the most standout of the gimmicks and tricks 428 has, and one you probably already noticed. The graphics. They're not 3D rendered, they're photographs and video clips. Even at a glance, this makes the game stand out sharply in an era where this hasn't been done unironically in years.
The 2nd Runner, as a sequel, builds a lot on its predecessor...But perhaps the simplest place it builds from is in sheer content. The first Zone of the Enders game is, in all honesty, practically a tech demo, with a very short story across only a few areas that mostly look similar. The 2nd Runner, meanwhile, does a lot to improve on that, with more actual story, more things to do, and more places to do them in. It's still a lean game without a lot of sprawl, but it feels like it's actually complete.
First, let's cover the broad spectrum, before we start dialing in on some of these actual titles. Right out the gate, I can tell you the presentation here is amazing. Every last game comes with just about every variant the original release exists in. American and Japanese arcade variants, contemporary console ports, it's all here. Not only do you have all of these variants, all of them superbly emulated, but you also have all of the extras. How would you like a ton of soundtracks to listen to, of classic SNK tunes? Done. Posters, samplings of vintage magazines, concept art? You've got it. There's tons of these little details and careful touches all throughout.
So, a strongly presented idea with Felix is his love of music. He slaps on a pair of headphones at the start of every level, his boss admonishes him for it in the first cut-scene of the game, and his every step is done dancing to the beat of the game's BGM. There's even a track list in the pause menu, letting you skip or replay tracks just as Felix might do.
So what's the actual premise to lead to this? Why, it's simple. Your poor sad little dude starts the game without this time limit. ...And then the first thing you do is pick up a cursed sword that kills you in sixty seconds and it all goes to shit. Every time you come back to life, a good chunk of your progress holds. The big stuff. But all the little things reset. It's kind of like a compressed Majora's Mask, except that reset a lot more than this does.
This game is just fun. It's a big smashy explody mess of a game that's willing to do things like hand you over twenty jumps and just see what you do with them. I went through one stage with four shotguns, which actually was pretty damn effective. There's a ton to like here, and quite a bit of character and charm for such a simple setup and loop.
The actual premise is simple, set in a comical fantasy land where a vaguely-English royal army faces down an invading Viking horde. The royal army has to, of course, defend itself with all means available, though not everything is as it first seems... So all of this is fairly well-treaded ground. It's the execution where things get interesting. Because CastleStorm basically has three separate mechanical layers going on at once in a given stage, and each of them presents something very different.
So where's that leave us? Is it good, is it bad? I mean, for me, here's the thing. The funny replays and the odd fit of the graphical style don't take away from the core fun of the gameplay. Gameplay is always the thing. And the gameplay here works. The timeline based system, while not the first time I've ever seen it, is a real rarity in the tactics space. And the specific touches done in this game, really make it sing when all the pieces come together.
What really seals the deal, when I boil it down, is charm. Charm and vision. Trying to do something interesting, different, and with your own spin on it goes a long way for me. And Steam Tactics is doing that left and right. From the positioning-focused dog-fighting tactics, to the delightful animal people, to the puzzle-like way you have to untangle the enemy formations at times to get a target in position, it just...It's trying something really cool, and I have to respect that.
So where's that leave us? I mean, overall, I had a really good time with Crown Trick! It's a classic style roguelike with some solid modernizations. I love the art style, and while its permanent upgrades are all pretty standard stuff (go in with more healing elixirs! Keep some of your currency across runs!), they do a lot to make the genre feel more... achievable by mere mortal man.
So how do you feel about Ghosts & Goblins? It's not a comparison I make lightly. Cast of the Seven Godsends feels like nothing less than a complete and total love-letter to that franchise, borrowing several of its key stylistic elements and core mechanics to form something that is very, very much pulling from the classic arcade franchise...for better and for worse.
Sometimes pulled in two directions by its attempt to balance serious tension with comedy relief, Maize ends up relying heavily on the idea that you'll buy into both sides of the equation. For some, this will be a blessing, but for others it will be a curse that weakens the rest of the package.