It’s been a while since I wrote my last Bait and Switch piece. The world has since been devastated by the COVID-19 virus leaving people scavenging for goods, unemployed, and even death. Luckily, games such as Doom Eternal, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and Final Fantasy VII Remake have released giving people something to do during the quarantine. I also figured I may as well grab a couple of cheap Switch games too from the Nintendo eShop.

For those uninitiated or don’t recall, let me explain what Bait and Switch aims to do. The Nintendo eShop sales feature games for under $2.00 at and around 90% discount. I pick a few out and give them a try to see if they are good games at a discount, or cheap shovel-ware luring buyers in with a low price. This week I have two games to discuss: Ink and Ascendance.

Ascendance

  • Developer: ONEVISION GAMES
  • Publisher: ONEVISION GAMES
  • Original Price: $5.99
  • Discounted Price: $0.59

Last year I played a game called Refunct in my Backlog to the Front quest. I praised it and had a good time, but as similar as Ascendance is, it’s not quite on the same level. It’s an overall bummer that instead makes me want to replay Refunct.

Much like Refunct, Ascendance is a minimalistic first-person platformer. The goal is traversing the level to reach a checkpoint of sorts. As each checkpoint is reached, more platforms are generated with a new point to gravitate to. Usually, these locations are at high areas leading to risky leaps and hopes of hitting the right platforms. The player will run into some assistance or obstacles from moving platforms or bounce plates, but for the most part, it’s all on the player.

The biggest problem is movement. It’s more sluggish in both speed and jumps than Refunct. I found myself less confident getting around and really needing to push the limits of jump distance. There is also no wall jump leading to less interesting ways of reaching great heights. The speed was initially jarring because the run button was tied to the L Bumper on the Nintendo Switch, a button I apparently never thought to try for running. So until the second level, I never knew there was a run option.

But unfortunately, that’s not it. A big deterrent is the frame rate. Ascendance begins to chug as the level loads in more structures. Jump pads, in particular, felt like single-digit frame rates as I levitated upward and have to give the game a second before moving. In a platformer like this, a drop in frame rate can kill momentum in travel leading to death. While resurrection is immediate, it also means starting back at the last checkpoint. If that checkpoint is on the other side of the map, interest wanes more and more after each attempt.

With that negativity out of the way, Ascendance is a real stunning game in the same way as Refunct. The placement of platforms leads to a great visual by the end and the colors and simple geometry make it stand out as well. Also, like Refunct, Ascendance also features some chill and relaxing music for a game meant to be played with the same mindset.

I know I keep bringing up Refunct in this mini-review of Ascendance. It’s clear they are cut from the same cloth. Though Ascendance features more levels and similar gameplay, Refunct feels more polished and less troublesome to play. Also, unlike Ascendance, my game didn’t crash while playing. So please note that while I do suggest playing this game (I did still have fun), I would recommend playing Refunct before playing Ascendance.

DID I HAVE FUN?

Ink

  • Developer: ZackBellGames
  • Publisher: Digerati
  • Original Price: $8.99
  • Discounted Price: $1.34

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from Ink when I grabbed it. It was clearly a platformer but had a minimalism look of Thomas Was Alone and a level discovery aspect similar to The Unfinished Swan. I’m glad that I gave it a shot though because it was both fun and challenging while still looking amazing and feeling different from other platformers.

Ink includes 75 levels for players to leap and dodge through with differing clear conditions. Before the goal will show a rainbow allowing the exit, there can be a number of things to accomplish. Keys may need to be collected. A boss may need to be defeated. Simply reaching the end. Hopping on all the “enemy” squares. Each level is something different to try and achieve, and with how this game plays, it’s never dull.

Each level typically starts in the darkness outside of the main controllable square. The square is essentially a paint-filled sponge. The ground it touches will change colors as it moves which is good since that’s the way you are able to locate the platforms. Leaping in the air and doing a double jump causes the square to explode causing blots of color to fly off and paint the surroundings. So what was once pure darkness now may have outlines of where platformers or level ending spikes lay. It’s not uncommon to die as you try and paint an entire level to see the layout. However, with the quick respawn and the ink remaining even after death, the game becomes more manageable with every resurrection.

As much fun as I had though playing Ink, there was something off about the jumping I just couldn’t like. There is a floatiness to the jumps where landing on the platform would become frustrating. I would often overshoot platforms or not be able to course-correct if I know a little too far. Being able to wall-jump solves a few problems here, but once projectiles to kill you are added in, it becomes a huge detriment.

There is also the music which, while not bad, doesn’t quite fit the mood. Ink‘s soundtrack is that of soft calming music that would work well in a game more soothing than a tough platformer. Both the platforming and the bright bold colors of the ink splattering throughout the game scream for something more industrial or synth. Some beat to get you moving your head as you die repeatedly suits the game much better.

Ink is a perfect game to pick up and play for short bursts. The unique simplicity behind it mixed with the beautiful colors and challenging gameplay makes it a game worth playing. If you are in the market to find a good platformer to try out at a cheap price, pick up Ink next time it’s on sale.

DID I HAVE FUN?

With that, another few games for Bait and Switch in the bag. I hope you all are staying safe and social distancing when needed. Take care of yourselves and hopefully, we can continue to find ways to keep your interest in these trying times.

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