It’s that time of year when every week or two there’s a new big game demanding your attention–and in 2020, with new consoles on the horizon and a global pandemic relegating so many to their homes, it’s a more intense year than most for games. But if you’re not just interested in the latest AAA blockbuster, or the breakout indie success stories, it’s been a pretty eventful few months–especially for Switch owners. Alongside the likes of Paradise Killer, A Short Hike, Evergate, Moon, and The Last Campfire, lots of interesting smaller titles have been easy to overlook on the Nintendo Eshop. Here are six such games that are worth your time.
Also on: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Metamorphosis is based on Franz Kafka’s work of the same name and casts players as Gregor, a man who wakes up one day to find himself turning into an insect. He’s growing smaller and, pretty soon, skittering over his house, sticking to walls and solving puzzles via some janky-but-fun first-person 3D platforming. It’s up to you to acclimatize to your new bug body and to figure out how to use your sticky little bug feet and long jump to move forward and exonerate your friend, who is being blamed for your disappearance.
It’s not a very long adventure–it wraps up within a few hours–and the graphics can be muddy on Switch, with simple textures making some screens indistinct. But Metamorphosis is such a strange and off-beat adventure that it can’t help but stand out, and it’s pretty funny to boot. The only similar title from the last decade or so that springs to mind is the Wii cult classic Deadly Creatures, but Metamorphosis replaces combat with literary allusions. Exploring the world of insects, and skittering around enormous everyday objects, is pretty entertaining.
Jenny LeClue: Detectivu
Also on: PC, Apple Arcade
Jenny LeClue is a tremendous premise for a game. Jenny is presented as the main character in a 37-book series of child detective novels, but as sales are plummeting, the book’s publisher demands that the author takes her next adventure in a darker, more exciting direction. The solution? Make Jenny go on the hunt for a murderer.
This is pure comfort food narrative gaming, an experience that is equally lovely and quirky. It’s not the most mechanically intensive experience, but Jenny LeClue’s smart script, sharp humour, and gorgeous art elevate it above other simple puzzle games. The framing device of the struggling author, haunted by the story he’s putting Jenny through, is fascinating, and the game’s darker turns play well against the more light-hearted tropes established early on. There’s a full choice and consequence system, too, with choices you make impacting the game’s narrative.
Detectivu is the first in a planned series, and it ends on a cliffhanger that we might be waiting a while to see resolved. That’s annoying, but we’d be more than happy to play through another full game with Jenny.
Also on: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Boomerang Fu is a simple premise, well realized. Between one and six players (with AI subbing in the extra numbers) control boomerang-armed avatars, each one shaped like an item of food, trying to kill each other. You can kill with a throw or a close-up slash attack, collect power-ups to give yourself an advantage, or use environmental traps against your enemies.
There’s not a lot else to the game–it’s light on modes and strategic potential–but that means that you can learn the ins-and-outs very fast. There’s something very satisfying and moreish about perfectly aiming a shot at a banana (or eggplant, milk carton, coffee cup, etc.) and watching it split in half as your boomerang connects. There’s a great sense of balance here, where it always feels like there’s the potential to play skillfully, but in reality, someone who just picked up a controller for the first time can probably kill you with a lucky throw or a well-timed activation of an environmental trap.
Boomerang Fu is designed to be a game that you can load up at a party and immediately have fun with. It may not have an extensive single-player mode or any long-term goals to work towards, but it’s a superb party game.
Lair of the Clockwork God
Also on: PC, PS4, Xbox One
The third game in the Ben There, Dan That adventure game trilogy is the first one to make it off of PC, and it’s a blend of platforming and traditional point ‘n click adventure gaming, filtered through a dry British wit. You play as Ben and Dan, both of whom approach the game as though it were a different genre, and finding how to make those two styles mesh is part of the fun.
This is a very funny game. When you load it up, you’re greeted with the option to play through a visual novel prologue, with a completely different art style, called Devil’s Kiss–which introduces the two characters and shows how they met in high school. It (gently) sends up Tomb Raider and Deus Ex across its short half-hour run time; Lair of the Clockwork God is full of jokes about games, right down to the “Store” page on the front menu that perpetually promises skill-boosting items are “coming soon”.
The puzzles in Lair of the Clockwork God are clever, and the platforming is satisfying too–the game might not rise to the highest highs of either genre, but the ways it melds both of them together is very clever. But the thing that will really stick with most players is how clever the comedy writing in Lair of the Clockwork God is.
Raji: An Ancient Epic
Also on: PC, PS4, Xbox One (October 15)
Raji combines mild platforming and a decent combat system with Indian mythology, and the end result is very likable. You play as the titular Raji, a young woman enlisted by the gods to combat the demons that have kidnapped her brother, and you do so with a top-down combat system that is heavy on environmental and area-of-effect attacks.
For all its faults (some bland combat animations, samey enemies, occasionally imprecise platforming), there’s something endearing about Raji that kept pulling me back in. It could be the gorgeous cutscenes, presented as folktales told through puppetry. It could be that, as a game about a young Indian woman, Raji inherently feels different from the usual video game protagonist, and the plot, while not too deep, is well-told.
The combat is also pleasantly complex, with lots of different moves to pull off and the potential for some flashy combos, and that helps. Flipping up a wall to slam back down on the ground, doing major damage, spinning around a pole, hitting everyone around you, flinging your pole at an enemy from a distance while dodging their projectiles like you’re playing a SHUMP–Raji’s combat is engaging and memorable. The environments are frequently gorgeous, and the story, while simple, is well-told.
Raji isn’t the longest or most exciting action game on Switch, but it let me delve into a culture and mythology I wasn’t familiar with, while also taking down an army of demons in style. Sometimes a shorter, more focused experience is exactly what you want.
Moon: RPG Remix Adventure
Also on: PlayStation (Japan only)
Moon first released for the PlayStation in 1997, exclusively in Japan, and has long been lauded as a lost classic–finally being able to play the game with an English translation is a very special experience. The game is a sort-of anti-RPG, in which a small boy is sucked into the TV after playing a stock-standard JRPG, and finds himself trapped in a world that an overpowered hero is tearing through. It’s up to you to seek “love” in the world, which involves not only a lot of obtuse puzzle-solving, but also cleaning up the mess left behind by the hero by reuniting the souls of his vanquished foes with their bodies.
Moon shows its age in some ways, but in others it feels like something brand new. The gorgeous graphics still look fantastic thanks to some upscaling efforts, and the game, which is essentially an adventure game set in an RPG world, is reminiscent of numerous modern indies that have played with genre conventions. Some of the puzzle solutions are a bit esoteric, but as you wander around the game world, taking in all the sights, meeting its colorful cast, and reading through the game’s hilarious script, it’s hard not to fall in love with Moon.
The game’s full manual has been released online, which is helpful when you’re wrapping your head around how it plays (only 90s kids will remember needing to read the manual). Your character has a stamina meter that increases as they gain more love, meaning you can stay out longer, and travel further from home. You need to go to bed every night before the meter dries up and you pass out, otherwise you lose the progress made since you last slept–an interesting mechanic, one that gives the game a real sense of rhythm. Moon took a long time to come out in English, but it has lost none of its charm since the original release–it”s a sweet, weird, totally singular experience.
Have you picked up any fantastic Switch games recently? Let us know about them in the comments below.