Switch Re:Port Review #49: Terraria, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, Red Faction: Guerrilla Re-MARS-tered, Blazing Chrome
This week’s Switch Re:Port Review features reviews of some big third party ports that finally arrived on Nintendo’s hybrid console. If you’re new to the Switch Re:Port Reviews on the Geek, I (with the help of the fine folk here) look at the Switch ports of games that have been released on other platforms. These reviews aren’t just to talk about the game but to look at how the games run and play on the Switch and how they use the Switch features. Today’s Re:Port Review has reviews from Adam, Nicola, and Mick F.
Originally released on basically every platform by now and finally available on Nintendo Switch and scored 8.5/10 on Xbox One
I’ve been a long time fan of Terraria having played it originally back on the 360 and then again more recently on PS4. To finally have it on Nintendo Switch which gives me the option of playing in handheld mode in addition to on TV, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.
For the uninitiated, Terraria is a 2D sandbox adventure game with survival and crafting elements. You can build structures and mine for resources which you can then use to make your equipment more powerful until you eventually take on some of the games extremely demanding bosses. It is a game I have sunk many, many hours into on console thanks in large part to some fairly regular updates that have added new biomes, bosses, items and resources, as well as some quality of life improvements in terms of controller mapping and a UI overhaul.
Personally, I am not a fan of the new UI that was introduced to console to create parity between the PC and console versions, however since I last played I am pleased to see that some of the opacity issues I had have been resolved. The inventory and crafting menus are now much easier to see thanks to some marginal changes made for the Switch, and surprisingly function very well even on the significantly smaller screen that the Switch has in handheld mode.
In docked mode Terraria runs wells and will be familiar for players who have played on any other version before, however the features added to utilise the Switch’s touchscreen arguably make this the definitive version. The team at Pipeworks Studios has done a superb job of maximising the unique features of the Switch. On the smaller screen, where precision could be an issue, you can zoom in or out with a simple pinch of your fingers, and that combined with the ability to toggle the build mode whereby a grid is overlaid for exact placement makes building and mining relatively straight-forward. The touchscreen features don’t end there either as you can use your finger for item placement either by tapping or dragging your finger across the screen.
Terraria is a game with a ton of content with a seemingly endless list of things to do, items to collect, and bosses to prepare for. It ships with hundreds of items to collect, fifteen main bosses, and multiplayer for up to eight players. It has an absorbing gameplay loop and playing again I was reminded of my frequent need to refer to the excellent wikis available to find out how to craft certain gear and set myself my next objectives, but ultimately Terraria is about the joy of exploration and discovery. For players who have never played Terraria before, this Switch version is an excellent port, but for those players who have experienced and loved Terraria on other platforms I’d argue that this version is still essential. The ability to play on the go in handheld is a huge draw and thanks to the excellent work to utilise the Switch’s unique features makes this challenging game an utter joy to play again.
Red Faction Guerrilla Re-Mars-tered
Originally released on PS4, Xbox One, and PC platforms and scored 7.5/10 on PS4
There are a few things that still surprise me at the ripe old age of 38. I’m surprised my wife still wants to sleep with me after hearing me quote the entire script of the Princess Bride because someone said the word “marriage” in the immediate vicinity. I’m surprised at how shocked people get when a politician says something that turns out to not be quite true. I’m surprised that it’s 2019 and I still don’t own a flying car, personal laser gun or a bio-engineered talking dog. And I’m also surprised that so few games on current gen systems allow you to blow the shit out of literally anything you catch giving you the awkward eye.
When a franchise like Just Cause is flying the flag for a particular convention or trope, you have to forgive other developers for not jumping on the bandwagon with both arms outstretched and nothing but a rose clutched between their teeth, but really this strikes me as the sort of thing people would pay good money for. We like breaking stuff. Hell, some of us (and by “us” I don’t mean “me”, I mean “unnamed friends of mine, thank you very much”) sometimes play games exclusively to kill and destroy, as though the wanton disassembly of all those little pixels will somehow excise the overbearing pain and shame of yet another balls-hard day racing against the other rats in the “real world”.
Back before Just Cause grabbed the only flag going and launched itself to the top of Procedural Destruction Mountain using a series of controlled explosions, we had Red Faction: Guerilla, which upon its release stole the flag from the only other franchise of note to do it, the much-missed Battlefield: Bad Company. And yes, I know Battlefield has still had map-wide destruction to an extent ever since, but its never been at quite the same level. And the difference is this:
In Battlefield, it has a purpose. You blow things up to create cover, remove cover, destroy enemy vehicles or neutralise organised kill squads. In Red Faction, as in Just Cause, you do it because fuck it why not. In Xxxxx third-person shooter, even if you’re given objectives that take you nowhere near buildings, you’ll still pathologically find the closest one, rig its foundations with blast charges and bring it down anyway. It makes you wonder why the authorities can’t find your little group of freedom fighters when all they need to do is take a Google Map of Mars and locate the only structure still standing.
The premise of Red Faction sets up an almost Ubisoft-esque world and mission structure. As Alex Mason, you’re visit to Mars and resultant reunion with younger brother Dan is somewhat scuppered on your first day when the Red Planet’s oppressive military regime put some free holes in him. You then join up with the freedom fighters who, for some inexplicable reason, immediately begin giving you, a relative stranger, all their most important missions and a small trailer load of explosive devices to go nuts with.
The story is creaky and wafer-thin, opting to send you from map node to map node, taking part in a multitude of activities that essentially boil down to shoot those fellas and bring down that building. Sometimes it’s either, sometimes it’s both, and sometimes there’s driving involved.
And that might sound like I’m knocking Red Faction: Guerilla, but I’m not. I genuinely really like it. I liked the original and I like this version, but honestly there’s not much here to warrant it’s existence on the Switch unless these publishers are just testing the water to gauge interest. Like Saints Row: The Third and Sniper Elite: V2, this is not the latest iteration in its respective series, though it is arguably the best.
Still, with no extra content, no Switch-specific controls or features and little to offer those who missed it first time round, Red Faction: Guerilla Re-MARS-tered (sorry, that’s the actual title) has little reason to really be. I’d recommend it to you if you like blowing stuff up and shooting things, as it’s still a very playable and cathartic adventure even if the busy work gets a bit much, but I wouldn’t go into expecting any kind of revolution.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
Originally released on PS4 and PC before seeing an Xbox One port and scored 9/10 on PS4
It’s impossible not to be blown away by Hellblade on Switch. There is no way this game should be able to run on Nintendo’s hybrid console. I’ve played it on PS4 and Xbox One and the visuals are utterly breathtaking. Moreover, the true star of the game; the audio, is intact for the Switch version, though you truly will want to wear headphones to get the ultimate experience out of it.
Played in docked mode, as you’d expect, the image quality isn’t amazing, but it is certainly not terrible. In handheld mode, though, you’d expect massive frame-rate drops and terrible visuals and, well, frankly, that’s not the case. The draw distance takes the biggest hit, but again, it’s not that bad, and if you haven’t played the game on other consoles (and really, it’s not the kind of game you’re going to double-dip on), you’re not going to come away anything other than shocked at how good it looks.
There’s little to report in specific Switch functionality, but truly, the fact Ninja Theory has got the game running at a good 30fps (with a few frame pacing issues) – even in combat – and looking as good as it does on a console that is clearly less powerful is borderline voodoo magic. It’s a huge download, just shy of 20GB, but it really shows with the high quality audio and surprising visuals. Much of the visual fidelity is because the mixture of “in-game” and “CGI” is done so cleverly.
When you think you’re seeing a render in-game that looks too good for Switch, that’s because essentially a video is playing. Yes, the actual game part is lower resolution, and yes, of course if you can play it on PS4, Xbox One, or PC, you’ll get the better looking experience, but if you are a Switch-only console household then you’re getting a great looking game that sounds amazing, and tells a story with one of the best takes on mental health in a long time. Play it on handheld with headphones and you’ll be shocked, just don’t be surprised if it looks blurry (and sub-HD) on the big screen.
Simultaneously released on PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC and scored 7/10 on PS4
Playing, essentially, a new Contra game on Nintendo Switch is a delight. We’ll get that out of the way now. In the manner in which Bloodstained is a “homage” to Castlevania, Blazing Chrome may as well be made by the original dev-team of Contra, because it’s fantastic, balls-hard, and a terrific reminder that, while games may have gotten easier, it’s not just FromSoftware that can make a challenging experience. We’re talking bullets everywhere, enemies that kill you with one hit (and jump awkwardly, too), and just carnage everywhere.
The sprite based aesthetic means that in handheld mode, you’re missing out on none of the real estate, and in fact, playing docked the screen is almost too big. We didn’t play these games on big televisions back in the 80s and 90s because they didn’t exist. The HD rumble in handheld is enough to add to the sweaty palm nature of the difficulty, yet despite being available on other platforms, it feels utterly at home on Switch. There’s no slowdown, you’re missing nothing buying this on Switch – nothing at all.
That is, except co-op, which isn’t missing per-say, but I’m not sure you’d want to experience the bullet-hell gameplay with masses of enemies rushing you holding a Joy-Con each and sharing a 6.2 inch screen. I mentioned we didn’t play on huge TVs back in the day, but we also didn’t play on tablets, because they didn’t exist.
A cracking version of a cool game, then, and one that benefits from being on Switch. Play solo in handheld and get your face right in the screen to react to the high-octane gameplay, and dock your console to play co-op (and make sure you get the mech suit because it’s badass). A glorious retro side-scrolling action-shooter, with tight controls, a great look, and excellent boss fights. It’d be nice if it were a bit longer, and many newcomers to the style will be struggling even on easy mode, but hey, you can’t have everything, I suppose.