A few months ago I went to PAX West with couple of friends. We made the mistake of waiting three hours for a line at the Nintendo booth that leads to the demos for Pokemon: Let’s Go and various other titles coming to the Switch. Fortunately, things picked up when we actually managed to to make it to the entrance of this part of the booth. There was a lot more to play on this side of Nintendo’s booth, including third-party games like Starlink and SNK Heroines and indie titles like Treasure Stack and well, Zarvot. Zarvot stuck out to me because even though it was a game I had no expectations of (since I didn’t even know about it until I saw it at the event), its identity quickly resonated with me.
That was before I realized Zarvot actually has a story mode! While the build I played at PAX was a multiplayer-centric demo, Zarvot offers a single-player experience that focuses on characters identified by their colors. You play as a blue cube who is accompanied by a yellow cube that defies all sense of punctuation in his text dialogue during cutscenes. The goal is to put together a present for a red cube that hasn’t been feeling all that well as of late.
Humanized (and sometimes witty) as the writing may be, things take a weird turn when the time you spend in between cutscenes is spent killing all sorts of sentient shapes. There are even cases where the very objects you need for the present are used as individual boss fights. There’s a glaring dissonance between the gameplay and story; the latter doesn’t do anything to lampshade it. I think if the narrative was completely different, it could better mesh with what’s actually going on.
Still, I was attracted aplenty by the game’s presentation. Zarvot is a delight for the eyes, especially when the camera focuses on the characters talking. The places the duo travel to have remarkable amounts of detail put into them. It helps make the game feel that much more like you’re traveling within them than just going across glorified hallways (even if in the grand scheme of things that’s basically what it is). The isometric view is a little off-putting because there are moments where you’d have to judge your platforming carefully. Zarvot also has a good amount of punchy effects to make the action feel gratifying.
The soundtrack for the game suits the mood whenever necessary. When it focuses more on the characters than the gameplay, it decides to be mellow. When the combat takes place, the music ups the tension. You hear little “pew pew” noises come out from the cubes and a nice crunch occurs when you land a shot. It’s nothing I’d remember much in the long run but for the time people play the game it is as pronounced as it needed to be.
Zarvot is a top-down arcade shooter that revolves itself around its moment-to-moment combat sequences. The battles you have are reminiscent of the glory days of arcades. If you see guys moving on the screen, you blast ’em until they’re gone! The single-player levels have you face off against enemies with various attack strategies; boss battles take this up to eleven and can get quite challenging.
The game can also double as a local multiplayer roundabout in a similar manner to Heavy Burger. Whichever way you play it, Zarvot‘s mechanics are simple enough to understand but they are ultimately fun to master. Granted, I agree with other reviewers when it comes to the game’s need to be more cohesive. The lack of focus in some areas does show when it throws together ideas that don’t seem to mesh as well as the developers probably had in mind.
Overall, I say Zarvot is a very good addition to the Nintendo Switch’s ever growing lineup of indies. It might seem like it has an identity crisis in certain aspects but I’d be lying if I said there is no charm to it. Get it if you’re looking for a shoot ’em up that has a dazzle of personality.