The release of Super Mario Odyssey is less than two weeks away, but as October 27th draws closer, time seems to slow down. It's as though video game hype can change your perception of the universe itself! I find the best way to stay occupied in the period before a highly-anticipated game release is to explore other games that you might have otherwise overlooked. The Switch has had plenty of blockbuster releases this year, with Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Mario Kart 8: Deluxe, Splatoon 2, to name a few - but I thought this would be a great opportunity to highlight some of the awesome Indie titles popping up on the console. I believe these games will suit a gamer seeking a more condensed entertainment experience that'll keep them occupied over the next couple of weeks before #Mario's release.
I don't like golf. I don't enjoy watching it, I've never played it (aside from mini golf, which is admittedly very fun), and the idea of playing a golf game is not one that ever particularly appealed to me. However, when I saw the first trailer for Golf Story in a Nintendo Direct earlier this year, I knew it was different. Half-RPG, half-golf sim, with atmosphere and humour containing some strange mixture of contemporary Australian culture and Earthbound, Golf Story is one of the most unique gaming experiences I've played so far this year.
The golfing itself is enjoyable, with a nice introductory difficulty curve for those such as myself who have no idea what they're doing playing golf. The main campaign of the game takes you through various golf clubs, attempting to win the local tournaments to qualify for the pro cup. I found the tournaments themselves to be a pretty big step-up in difficulty, and definitely failed them a few times, but I've heard elsewhere that people found them quite simple so the difficulty of Golf Story probably varies depending on your personal experience in the genre. There's a quick play mode accessible from the menu for those who would rather play golf and try to beat their high scores than worry about wandering about the world completing quests.
The highlight of the game for me, however, was the way Golf Story blends the golfing gameplay with a genuinely funny and entertaining RPG element. While spending time in a club, you will meet a variety of weird and wonderful characters who will give you quests (which normally involve hitting a ball at something, but there is plenty of variety), which will in-turn provide you with exp. Levelling up allows you to increase your skills, such as your strike distance or your ability to spin the ball. I found myself looking forward to completing as many of these quests as possible, partly because I loved the humour in the characters so much. The elitist "Disk Golfers", the speedrunning Mini-Golfers, and the secret society of Geocachers, to name a few, were brilliant.
I beat Golf Story in around 20 hours, which if you've got a couple of hours in an evening to play, should go a long way towards keeping you occupied before Super Mario Odyssey's release. I certainly had a great time playing Golf Story, and would recommend it to RPG fans or golfers alike.
If you don't know about Stardew Valley by now, I assume you've been living under a rock for the past year. This game, inspired by the traditional Harvest Moon gameplay that Natsume seemed to have abandoned over the years, took the gaming world by storm when it released on PC last year. I certainly spent many hours looking after my virtual farm and enjoyed doing so. I always felt that Stardew Valley would be the perfect game for a handheld - the short days make it ideal for a pick-up-and-play style of entertainment - and it seems a lot of people agree with me; there was immense hype for the title on #Nintendo Switch as soon as it was announced for the platform.
Well, it was a long wait but the game finally arrived - and it's essentially what you should expect: Stardew Valley gameplay on a handheld. Not that this is a bad thing, but if you've played the game before you know how it goes. I stopped playing Stardew Valley on the PC when it was announced for the Switch earlier this year so I wasn't burnt out with it by the time it released, and I'm glad I did. Getting back into my farming again is very fun, and as relaxing and rewarding as ever. The handheld nature of the Switch really does suit this type of gameplay, and playing Stardew Valley in bed is a wonderful experience.
In some ways, the gameplay of Stardew Valley reflects the design philosophy of the Nintendo Switch itself: much like you can play the Switch in any way you want - handheld, tabletop, TV, two-player... you can play Stardew Valley as hardcore or relaxed as you like. You can maximise your farm's output with perfect sprinkler placement to embrace the an agricultural industrial machine, or you could forgo the farming altogether in favour of fishing, mining, or animal-raising.
Stardew Valley has never been more accessible than on the Switch, and it's never been a better time to jump into the experience if you're a curious gamer who wishes to play it for themselves. Of course, if you're like me and have already clocked a fair few hours on the PC version, I would still recommend considering double-dipping to give your farm a fresh start on the system where the game feels most at-home.
Yono and the Celestial Elephants
Nintendo added eight new games to the Switch this week, and among them is this adorable adventure game starring an elephant that I wanted to give some attention to ensure it wasn't simply lost among the competition. Yono and the Celestial Elephants is one of the most aesthetically pleasing games I've seen released on the Nintendo Switch: every aspect of the game displays charm and polish. It's clearly a game crafted with love and care.
One of the main inspirations for the gameplay of Yono and the Celestial Elephants are the Legend of Zelda games. Both are adventure games that require you to solve puzzles by utilising your powers correctly to get through the dungeons and defeat enemies. The majority of the gameplay elements come in the form of block puzzles, where Yono has to move boxes into the correct positions, or use water, fire or air to find keys or clear paths. Again, a bit like a Zelda-lite. The experience is undoubtedly simpler than Zelda titles, and would not be suitable for those seeking a tough challenge in their game. But for those who don't mind a more light-hearted adventure, there is a fun experience to be had here. I would say Yono and the Celestial Elephants would serve really well as an introduction to the adventure genre for a younger or less experienced gamer.
The simplicity and cute visuals don't mean the game is 'kiddy' or devoid of depth, however. The story itself contains some interesting philosophical topics that makes the story feel more impactful, and would likely go missed by a younger gamer. Yono the elephant has to rebalance a world populated by conflicting races - humans, undead, and robots - and these societal issues play a key role in the weighty topics addressed in Yono and the Celestial Elephants.
The game is fairly linear and simple, but the surprisingly deep philosophical content, the vibrant atmosphere, and the well-designed gameplay mechanics means this game shouldn't be ignored. It's not long: averaging five hours for most gamers - so perhaps this wouldn't keep you busy for the entire period of time leading to the release of Super Mario Odyssey, but it's a charming game that I wanted to highlight to the world regardless, and it's exciting that the Nintendo Switch is finding itself home to such a wide variety of titles.
These are the games that have been keeping me occupied while waiting for Mario Odyssey - how about you?
I'm looking forward to hearing your responses in the comments!