If you can overlook the technical challenges – and we could – Outer Wilds remains a wondrous experience on Switch. With almost no gating and a free rein to investigate a rich corner of the universe, it captures the quest for learning in the most direct way possible: the only reward for progress is knowledge. Starting with no information at all, you come to understand the intricacies of this little solar system better than its inhabitants. Having soared through such an epic, introspective, and existentially inquisitive adventure, we probably came to understand ourselves a little more, too.
Murder on the Orient Express is impressive in its ability to breathe new life into a well-trodden story. Microids Studio Lyon has found a cute gap in the story to slide in its new character, Locke, without her getting in the way. Her tense and serious segments free up Poirot for a bit of comic relief, and the whole game sits with a relaxed atmosphere and pleasant presentation. Puzzles are mixed, but there are enough good ones to drive another enjoyable trip through Agatha Christie's classic story of mystery, justice, and moral ambiguity.
Trombone Champ is a game about perfection. Before you play, it asks you to select a stance for your tromboner: 'estudious' or 'jubilant'. Neither of these is appropriate when you know your performance will be as ear-abusive as an excited puppy mauling a bulb horn. Or are they? The true lesson is perhaps to hold your head high anyway. In life, as in Trombone Champ, faced as we all are with certain doom, be estudious if you like, be jubilant, parp like crazy, and be your very best you – no matter how imperfect that invariably is.
The Many Pieces of Mr. Coo is a standout title in its commitment to presenting spectacular, surrealist animation. However, it does so at the expense of having much gameplay to offer. The playtime is short, the interaction is limited, and the puzzles are obtuse. Fortunately, the animation and music are good enough to distract you from those facts and provide an hour or two of great entertainment.
With such a tight run time, Full Void’s ideas don’t have time to wear thin, but neither do they have chance to develop much depth. As a modern game, it’s far more player-friendly than Another World, its main inspiration, and looks and sounds fantastic. It also brings fresh ideas to the table, rather than simply retreading the old for the sake of nostalgia. However, it lacks a compelling narrative arc, which could have made it feel truly cinematic.
Hercule Poirot: The London Case delivers on its promise of a new Agatha Christie-style story in the Poirot universe. While it doesn't have the same level of tricksy, interweaving motives and relationships as Poirot favourites, the story is entirely entertaining nonetheless. However, the game lacks polish to the extent that it's distracting, progress is not always logical and the loading times on Switch are a real problem. For all its charm, you don't have to be a world-class detective to see its flaws.
Crime O’Clock adds a smart twist to the hidden object concept. By showing the characters in its lively scenes going about their business as time passes, Bad Seed has found a way to build masses of detail into the little worlds you explore. However, the minigames are very weak and we never escaped the extremely repetitive gameplay typical of this type of game. As a result, it’s one for genre fans only.
On its trip down the river, some of Dordogne's design ideas feel stodgy, performance is sometimes flaky, and it leans into its clunkiest gameplay elements as it nears the end. But to get hung up on these points is to miss a truly touching story bringing a beautiful world to life in sound and images. There's a lot to reward you here if you can navigate the obstacles and just go with the flow.
With charm and polish and great respect for the player's time and ability, Desta: The Memories Between manages to land a clever and touching concept. The story and voice acting keep the levels ticking by and elevate what could have been a very rote affair. The dodgeball gameplay does let the story do the heavy lifting after about halfway, becoming rather repetitive, but it also provides a realistic touch of conflict and aggression whenever the dialogue leans into super-niceness, and the roguelike strategy plays smoothly enough to be a pleasant delivery mechanism for the tale of Desta unpacking and coming to terms with their emotional conflicts.
The Last Worker is an ambitious project and it sticks the landing when it comes to graphics, performance, and voice acting. However, its central box-shipping game is fiddly and the game's pacing doesn't let you get into the flow. Tricky sections requiring repeated checkpoint loads break the immersion and clash with the long, dawdling sections of exploring the Jüngle facility. It's likeable and well-packaged with plenty of character, but it doesn't always deliver.
With its encyclopaedia of over 125 fish, Dredge's bounty is a boundless as the sea, its action RPG upgrade compulsion loop as deep. That said, you get out what you put in – during the first couple of hours, anyway. Once you achieve the sweet spot of an upgraded boat, manageable difficulty and a story in full flow, it's magical. The excellent presentation of a terrifying ocean really hits home. The need to stretch the limits of safety to reach your next catch leads to edge-of-the-seat moments, while the slapping rain and eerie creaks of the sound design hardly help you to peace out. Interspersed with confidence-building angling in the sunshine and the fun of slotting oddly shaped creatures into your tight inventory, there's just enough encouragement to keep enjoying the horrors. A wonderful first effort from Black Salt, Dredge is absolutely the kind of game you mount over the mantelpiece rather than throw back into the water.
Backbeat stands out among puzzle games for its attractive graphics and constantly pulsing, funky soundscape, but most of all for its impressive depth of mechanics. Juggling phrase lengths, bar markers, alignment, stagger, solos, and special moves – all in interactive levels full of moving parts – is like having a wah-wah pedal hooked up to your brain. Apart from a sometimes-fiddly interface and limited replayability, Ichigoichie has hit all the right notes.
Brok the Investigator is a true original. It's a hodge-podge of point-and-click, side-scrolling beat-'em-up, visual novel, and find-the-object. Most of the time, these disparate ideas sit slightly awkwardly alongside one another, but despite a slow start we did eventually feel a little spark and the whole thing became more than the sum of its parts. It's all the more impressive given that it's just the second game from a one-person studio. Graphic adventure fans should absolutely consider thoughtfully pointing and clicking it onto their wishlist – or just drop-kicking the heck out of the buy button.
Like its own mysterious underground complex, Colossal Cave is obscure and unfriendly, trickily hiding some scarce but valuable treasure. If it wasn't for the fascinating source material, it would be jaw-droppingly bad. However, the source material is fascinating, and this remake is one way to engage with it. If, for that reason, you are willing to overlook both the outdated design elements you would expect and the bad design decisions and sloppy implementation you wouldn't, there could be something here to enjoy. We certainly wouldn't judge anyone who discovered an egg-sized emerald of fun in Colossal Cave, but neither can we seriously recommend it.
The Pathless does one thing extremely well, which is to create a sense of racing – almost dancing – through its huge open world. The player's journey is mainly one of getting to know that sensation and learning to harness it to traverse epic environments. However, the protagonist's journey has little to do with that feeling, which is perhaps why the story doesn't land. The game sounds exceptional and looks great in this impressive port. However, the puzzles rarely stimulate the imagination and are fussy to play, while boss encounters are overlong and repetitive. Although it has its significant successes, The Pathless unfortunately doesn't manage to become more than the sum of its parts.
At just a handful of hours, Trek to Yomi sadly still manages to outstay its welcome. It asks its visuals to carry the gameplay, but their novelty wears off before the final act. This is particularly true on Switch, where dropped resolution and simplified scenery steal some of the magic and ugly character close-ups blemish the overall aesthetic. As imaginatively as Yomi is realised, the game still feels like a trek.
At its best, The Excavation of Hob's Barrow feels like the halcyon point-and-click days of LucasArts. Some of its puzzle chains are compelling, immersive, and pitched just right difficulty-wise. It gets a bit messy in the third act, but not enough to undo the excellent scene-setting and plot-thickening that precedes it. Hob's Barrow could have been hobbled by its muted setting; instead it brings a barrowload of supernatural chills.
Papetura is a million miles away from being a blockbuster movie, yet it shares the same sense of intense energy and craft, which it distils into each second of its game time. Every crease and scrunch of its scenery and characters is shining with Ostafin’s passion. Its rudimentary and vague story, very brief running time, and control niggles do hold it back slightly, but nothing can completely overshadow its captivating presentation.
It's hard to talk about the specifics of Inscryption without diluting some of its magic. However, its ingenuity is mind-boggling, its mood is devilishly haunting and its presentation is first-rate. As a deck builder, it's stretched about as far as it can go, and by jumping around between concepts it sometimes asks for a lot of from the player. The pay-off, however, is one of the most impressive feats of video game storytelling there is. If you're new to Daniel Mullins Games then you're in for even more of a treat, but existing fans, too, shouldn't think they have the measure of what awaits on Inscryption's dusty old floppy disk.