As the Nintendo Switch continues to be a success, its library fills slowly but surely with new titles- some official Nintendo IP installments, some third parties, and more often, independent games! Indie developers taking their projects to mainstream consoles isn’t by any means unheard of, but more often than not we only hear of the smash hits that secure big business deals; such examples being Toby Fox’s Undertale, which released on Steam September 2015 and made its way into the hearts of millions and eventually onto the PS4 and PSVita, and Yacht Club Games’ Shovel Knight, which started out on Steam in June 2014 and later found itself not only released onto Xbox One, PS3/4, Nintendo 3DS and WiiU, and even FireTV, but the game got its very own amiibos! This was the first of its kind, an indie title getting Nintendo-licensed collectable figures with in-game goodies attached.
These days, however, more and more indie developers are putting their content on the Nintendo Switch, a console that, according to Polygon’s Ben Kuchera, has eclipsed its predecessor’s entire lifetime of hardware sales. I personally have now found two strong independent titles I knew prior come onto Nintendo’s handheld-home console mashup…
1. Night in the Woods
This quirky, queer-friendly 2D platformer focuses on Mae Borowski, a troubled feline college dropout that returns to her sleepy hometown to find everything is changing, friends are growing out of her old shenanigans, and some crytic signs say terrible things are on the horizon.
A dear friend of mine became absolutely enthralled by this game; so I was not only intrigued by the solid art design, but by how it managed to capture the heart of one of the only people I know who hardly touches video games, much less has interest in them. I myself play and enjoy games based on the following, starting with the most important elements: Story, art, primary gameplay, mechanical creativity, and technical options. Somewhere in that mix I want to see love and/or effort poured into it and Night in the Woods definitely has that. Quite frankly, it’s the perfect title to give someone who might just be getting started with video games! The gameplay itself is challenging, but so far it seems to me that even if you’re terrible at the Guitat-Hero-esque band segments or tossing pierogis into a fox’s mouth, the game won’t withhold anything; or at least nothing you notice. The platforming is a must, but with a bit of practice it’s a fun little challenge. Additionally, this story does a good job at being relatable, even if you haven’t had all the same experiences.
Even if you’ve just been good friends with someone from a small town or that has depression or isn’t quite straight and they’re the tiniest minority, you really feel for these characters. They each do crummy things that aren’t justified by their emotions, but those emotions are valid and the feelings/actions are, ironically, very humanizing to this work of fiction. Furthermore, there’s a slow-building intrigue throughout with a mystery that makes the entire game give me a Gravity Falls vibe, although this story is much darker and swearing is used frequently. So it’s almost a more grown up version of Alex Hirsch’s heartfelt mystery series. With animal people. (Another friend of mine likes to describe Night In The Woods as “Animal Crossing” with depression, but there’s much more going on here than that, trust me.)
Full disclosure: I haven’t finished this game yet. Additionally, there has been an issue reported with some Switch consoles in which the left joycon does not properly lock into the console, resulting in easy dislodging and the system to occasionally act as though you’re lightly holding the joystick to the right, resulting in player characters to walk to the right. I have experienced this a number of times with both Night In The Woods and Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, however it does not impede my gameplay or enjoyment of either one. (I strongly recommend both, in fact!)
Here we have a much more… violent indie title. Crawl is, as you might have guested, a co-op dungeon crawler, but there’s a great twist- Up to four people can play, but only one can be the sole survivor. A single human in the insidious caverns, plagued by the spirits of his former comrades. In short, it’s a horror-themed beat-’em-up version of tag. Whoever reaches the dungeon exit as the survivor wins the round… but not without engorging the wrath of the spirits that follow him; literally. The more Wrath Points you earn, the more you can upgrade your dungeon monsters. It’s a fairly simple model that doesn’t quite have a story, but it’s absolutely dripping with detail and character. There’s a deep, unsettling urgency about it all, especially when you find yourself resurrected as the survivor. Your very goal, once achieved, then turns around to be your greatest danger.
The game is perfect for the Switch as, whether you’re going through standard dungeon modes, fighting big bosses, or just challenging monsters in the bonus section, you only have two buttons and a joystick. It’s a very easy gameplay style to pick up, so it’s great for parties, casual group hangouts, and introducing the less gaming-inclined to a fun, fast-paced trial with a dark, vengeful twist.