Thursday, 12 April 2018

Shoppe Keep (Xbox One) - Review

Shoppe Keep is available now on the Xbox One and is priced at £10.39.

When I saw Shoppe Keep appear in the Xbox One Store I was pretty damn excited - I love a good management game! I have whiled away many, many hours on games that have allowed me to manage hospitals, restaurants, malls, game dev studios, vets, hair salons, supermarkets, you get the idea. I guess I like being in control more than I realised.

Shoppe Keep is unlike any management game I have played before. My time as a manager of all the types listed above was spent in a more passive position I guess. You know, a view from above, a few neat little screens that allow me to micro manage every aspect of my budding business. Shoppe Keep literally puts you on the shop floor. You embody the shop keeper and oh wow it's harder than it looks. You will have to physically restock your shelves (until you can afford to buy a bot for it anyway) with times that you've had to wait to be delivered. It's a difficult balancing act that I have to admit I hadn't envisioned.

Worse still you have to deal with the people who decide they just don't want to pay for your beautifully crafted sword or cuirass. Some will rather childishly knock the item off the shelf and leave, but others will turn to crime. They'll swipe it and run, leaving you to either take the loss on the chin, or chase them down and kill them. There's no in-between. If you do choose to kill them don't forget to take the item back from their cold, dead body. I thought it would do it automatically upon their death but it doesn't, meaning that the first few times I was robbed I literally chased them down for revenge and left the item for the homeless. Bit pointless of me!

All of this would be much easier to deal with if the controls were easier to handle though. Shoppe Keep was originally released into Early Access on Steam quite a while ago and it shows. The controls are unintuitive at best and actually obstructive at worst. There is no active tutorial -  just a few screens of text to search through to learn even the most basic parts of the game like building your shelves, or unsheathing your weapons. It is less than ideal, this game would have really benefitted from including a small beginner store that showed you the basics of the day-to-day running.

I've had a lot of fun with Shoppe Keep but it really annoys me that after a number of hours it is still the control system that I struggle against the most.

ACORN Tactics (Switch) - Review

ACORN Tactics is available now on the Nintendo Switch and is priced at £8.99.

Strategy games feel so natural on the Nintendo Switch. I think we can all say that we have enjoyed a good little strategy game from time to time, even if it isn't the genre of game you generally turn to when you want a few hours of entertainment. I have put countless hours into Defense Grid 1 and 2 on the Xbox in the past, I just find that gameplay loop completely addictive. But I have to admit that - on the Xbox One anyway - seeing games like Defense Grid next to the big AAA titles I often found my head turned. I mean, if I'm getting to use the TV for anything other than a kids' TV show then I want to make the most of it!

I think we all suffer from something I like to call "backlog guilt" from time to time. You know you have those big releases queued up, and in some cases you bought them on release day, intending to play them straight away. Now though you can pick it up for a tenner and your £40 copy is still in the shrink wrap on the shelf because you kept getting distracted by newer games, or by the gems you had forgotten you owned. It's a struggle I'm sure we're all too familiar with. There are so many games released these days and we all typically have less time to play. The Switch changed that for me and I'm SO incredibly grateful for it.

You see now I can jump into a casual little game in handheld mode, whilst my kids are playing Minecraft. One that I used to feel guilty about playing after I'd got my kids to bed and I could have been playing a more cinematic game. I love that my Switch library offers huge variance in the type of games I can play without making me feel guilty about abandoning other games.

Anyway, I've digressed a little. ACORN Tactics is a neat little strategy RPG that sets you in a post-apocalyptic world where humans live on man-made islands in the sea. These little islands are now being invaded by aliens and it is up to you to save us. It's a fun little story set across 25 missions.

If you've ever played a SRPG before then you will know what you're doing from the off. You move your battalion of mechs around the island board and kill the aliens. Each turn your mech can move and shoot - if an enemy is in range, of course. You create your mechs in your garage but there isn't as much room for customisation as I had originally thought. You basically pick the size of the mech, which dictates which weapons it can carry and you can choose a colour and a name for your creation. It's all very standard fare - snipers, shotguns etc.

There are perks you can pay for along the way, but I have to admit to finding purchasing these tiresome. You always unlock a new perk when you have ample coin available for it and I never found myself having to make a tough choice between upgrades because I didn't have enough for both, so it just kinda felt like extra button presses for the sake of it.

If you lose your mech in a battle they are gone, which can hurt. They are easily replaced in the garage though so it is easy to brush yourself and get back into the battle. Your mechs level up with their kill score though, so you do lose some of those perks when you let your mech fall in battle.

ACORN Tactics is a fun little game but it does play it safe. It's cheap though and kept me interested whilst I was playing through it, I just wish that there had been something a little different about it.