Developed By: Petite Games/Ratalaika Games
Published By: Ratalaika Games
Category: Casual Physics-Based Puzzle
Release Date: 03.08.18
Video games are a copycat industry; first there was Doom (OK, first there was Wolfenstein 3D, but stick with me), and then there came tons of Doom clones, and eventually that just became the first-person shooter genre. First we had Warcraft (OK, first there was Dune II: Battle for Arrakis, but stay with me), then came tons of Warcraft clones, and eventually that just became the real-time strategy genre. The point is, when an idea gets copied enough, it eventually becomes a genre unto itself. That’s kind of where we’re at with Angry Birds; it’s been copied enough that the physics-based puzzle format that it helped popularize has become a part of the gaming landscape, particularly in the indie scene. Midnight Deluxe for Nintendo Switch fits neatly into that category; a solid, if unspectacular, physics puzzler with a great sense of atmosphere and a dash of charm.
The premise is simple and familiar; there is a little white square with beady eyes that players have to move into a target area. Players choose an angle of launch, and the shallower the angle you choose the more force is applied on the launch. The little square follows the arc, bouncing off any obstacles in the way. The object is to get the square into the goal area with as few launches as possible, and the player is rewarded with one, two, or three stars based on how many launches it takes to hit the goal. Obstacles include walls, furry monsters that smile wickedly when they get in your way, doors that can be opened by hitting a switch, and numerous spikes, buzz saws, and lasers that restart the level if you hit them (I hit them a lot. I don’t know jack about trajectories).
The game is fun enough; the challenge of figuring out each puzzle is engaging and it feels rewarding to figure one out. The puzzles are of varying difficulty, as one would expect; some took me several dozen tries to finally crack, and others I hit on the first launch (those were my favorites; they made me feel clever). Sometimes I’d be pursuing one strategy, only to realize I was going about it all wrong and getting it right away after changing my approach. And then sometimes I’d just get frustrated, randomly shoot off little square dude (he really needs a name… or she, I guess. Or it. Maybe square people don’t have genders? I try not to judge. This game could use some more worldbuilding. Or I need to relax. Anyway, what was I doing? Oh, yeah), and bam! Puzzle solved.
The game is well-designed from an art standpoint; it relies heavily on dark colors. Blacks, grays, and blues dominate the palette; with the occasional ray of light and the soft glow of little square dude or dudette providing a little dash of brightness in an otherwise dim landscape. Combined with soft, somber background music, the overall effect is moody but calming and makes for a very pleasant experience. The graphics are sharp, if simple, and look equally great on the Switch’s handheld mode or on a TV. The controls are very simple; Midnight Deluxe really only uses one thumbstick and two buttons (A for launch, X for restart the mission), so it doesn’t matter if you use the joycon or a pro controller.
While the game is fun while it lasts, there are 70 missions total, so once you get through them, there’s not much challenge in replaying them. You can go back through all the missions and aim for 3 stars in each one, but, again, once you’ve filled in all the stars, there’s nowhere else to go. That said, there are 70 missions, many of which take some time to figure out, making for a decent amount of time that can be put into the game especially at a price of only four bucks. It’s a perfect game to just pick up and play whenever, wherever; at home on the couch, on the train commuting to work, or at work when your boss isn’t watching (or out in the open if your boss is cool or you are the boss). This easy level of accessibility means that while it looks good on a TV, Midnight Deluxe is definitely recommended for handheld play.
TL;DR: Charming and fun, if limited, casual puzzle game.